Word Confusion: Peak vs Peek vs Peke vs Pique

Posted October 21, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 28 September 2017

This word confusion is another one of my major peeves, in fact I’m piqued at the number of times I’ve run across this confusion. Yep, I’m feeling downright peaky when I consider the peak aggregate of confused peakiness. I just might set my Peke to bite someone…grrrr…

Sigh…I gotta sit down, ’cause I’m gettin’ a bit peaky after all that peeking…

I had to amend this Word Confusion when I realized, in a fit of pique, that this cute little Peke wouldn’t be coming home with me. All that excitement that had peaked in me? Yep, down the drain. In fact, I peeked in that drain and saw it all swirling away.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Peak Peek Peke Pique
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: peak, pique; WordReference.com: peak

A view down a city street looking right up at Pike's Peak

“Downtown Colorado Springs” by David Shankbone is under the GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 licenses, via Wikimedia Commons

A great view of Pike’s Peak.

Dog peeking through opening in wooden fence

“Peek-a-Boo Benji” courtesy of NetReacher Imagery is under the CC BY-ND license, via VisualHunt

Profile of a peke

“Pekingese” by Lilly M (za zgodą mojej znajomej – wikipedystki) is under the GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 licenses, via Wikimedia Commons

Awww, a peke.

Cartoon graphic of a penguin with steam rising from his beak

“Angry Penguin” by Swantje Hess and Jannis Pohlmann under the GNU Free Documentation or CC-BY-3.0 licenses, via Wikimedia Commons

Looks like a fit of pique to me.

Part of Grammar:
Noun 1;
Verb, intransitive & transitive 2

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: peaks
Past tense or past participle: peaked
Gerund or present participle: peaking

Noun; Verb, intransitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: peeks
Past tense or past participle: peeked
Gerund or present participle: peeking

Noun, informal
Can be capitalized or not; be consistent
Noun 3;
Verb, intransitive & transitive 3, 4

Third person present verb: piques
Past tense or past participle: piqued
Gerund or present participle: piquing

Greatest, maximum

Pointed top of a mountain

A projecting pointed part or shape

A point in a curve or on a graph, or a value of a physical quantity higher than those around it

The point of highest activity, quality, or achievement

The maximum point, degree, or volume of anything

[Nautical] Narrow part of a ship’s hold at the bow or stern

[Nautical] Upper, outer corner of a sail extended by a gaff

[British] A Stiff brim at the front of a cap

Verb, intransitive:
Reach a highest point, either of a specified value or at a specified time

[Archaic] Decline in health and spirits

Waste away

Verb, transitive:
[Nautical] To raise the after end of a yard, gaff, etc., to or toward an angle above the horizontal

  • To set a gaff
  • To tilt oars vertically
A quick, typically furtive look

Verb, intransitive:
Look quickly, typically in a furtive manner

To be just visible

Abbreviation for Pekingese dog Noun:
A feeling of irritation or resentment resulting from a slight to one’s pride 3

[Piquet] Scoring of 30 points on declarations and play before one’s opponent scores anything 4

Verb, intransitive:
To arouse pique in someone

Verb, transitive:
To affect with sharp irritation and resentment, especially by some wound to pride

To wound (the pride, vanity, etc.)

To excite (interest, curiosity, etc.)

To arouse an emotion or provoke to action

[Archaic] To pride (oneself) (usually followed by on or upon)

[Piquet] Score a pique against one’s opponent 4

At peak traffic hours, the level of smog increases dramatically.

He did not expect to be anywhere near peak fitness by Christmas.

That’s nuts! It’s peak travel time then.

At peak hours, traffic speeds are reduced considerably.

Whisk two egg whites to stiff peaks.

Jones was at his peak in the 1984 Olympics.

She’s reached the peak of her political career already.

Oil prices reached their peak last year.

Verb, intransitive:
His popularity peaked after the convention.

Verb, transitive:
The Beatles peaked in 1967 when Brian Epstein died.

A peek through the window showed that it was snowing.

Aww, c’mon…just a sneak peek??

Verb, intransitive:
Anyone who peeks through someone’s window is a peeping Tom!

A number of curtains were twitching as it seemed the whole town was peeking through their windows.

The cheeks of her ass were just peeking out of those tiny shorts.

My aunt raises pekes.

Oh, he’s just the cutest little Peke!

He left in a fit of pique.

Lord Melbourne scored a pique against me.

Verb, intransitive:
It was an action that piqued when it was meant to soothe.

Verb, transitive:
She was greatly piqued when they refused her invitation.

Her curiosity was piqued by the gossip.

You have piqued my curiosity about the book.

Gads, I’ve been piqued!

Adjective: peakish, peakyNoun: peakiness Adjective: peekaboo
Noun: peekaboo
Adjective: unpiqued
Noun: repique
History of the Word:
1 Mid-16th century and probably a back-formation from peaked, a variant of dialect picked meaning pointed.

2 Early 17th century is of unknown origin. The phrase peak and pine derives its currency from Shakespeare.

Late Middle English pike or pyke is of unknown origin. First known use: 1910

Early 20th century abbreviation.

3Mid-16th century from the from French piquer meaning prick, irritate and denoting animosity between two or more people.

4 Mid-17th century from the French pic, which is from the Old French sense, stabbing blow, which is of unknown ultimate origin.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits

Credit to: Great pencil drawing courtesy of Shevi Arnold demonstrating the differences between peak, peek, and pique; I added the peke myself, so no blame to Shevi.

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