- The harvesting of cotton
- 1859 Opportunities for Industry and the Safe Investment of Capital
- The season of cotton-picking commences in the latter part of July, and continues without intermission to the Christmas holidays.
- (US, idiomatic, colloquial) An intensifier, like "darn", used for emphasis or to signify that something is of little value.
1959, U.S. Army Aviation Center, U.S. Army Aviation School, United States Army aviation digest, pages 31:
- "Now hold up here just a cotton-picking minute,"
- 1967, Howard Fast. The Hunter and the Trap, page 14:
- "Oh, wait one damn cotton-picking minute," Andy said.
- (US, idiomatic, pejorative, colloquial) Describes a person who tends to become involved in matters outside of his area of concern.
1975, Richard M Nixon - Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President:
- I think the President's Adviser on Domestic Affairs should keep his cotton-picking hands off the economic policy for a change.
1965, “American law reports annotated. second series”, volume 76, page 1276:
- "...are not entitled to anything, Mrs. Wright, (referring to one of the appellees), because your son (referring to the deceased, F.A. Wright, Jr.), was a cotton picking Negro."
- Often used with hands, as in "keep your cotton-picking hands off" (something or someone).
- Also commonly used with minute, especially the phrase "wait just a cotton-picking minute".
- Originally referred to slaves and other low status workers in the southern United States who picked cotton in fields by hand.