Word Confusion: Eek versus Eke

Posted March 31, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 13 October 2017

Eek! Someone was eeking out an existence in a story I read recently. I felt so bad for her, as her throat must be incredibly raw from all that screeching. Now, if she’d been eking out an existence, I’d’ve known she might be having money problems.

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.

Eek Eke
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: eek and eke

A man whose hair is standing on end is typing on a computer

“Write It Right Eke and Lo” courtesy of Jurgen Wolf, A Time to Write

Eek! A writer!

Homestead and farm in Texas County, Oklahoma, USA, during Dust Bowl.

“Dust Bowl in Texas County, Oklahoma” by USDA is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It was impossible to eke out a living in the Dust Bowl.

Part of Grammar:
Abbreviation; Exclamation 1 Adverb 2; Verb, transitive

Third person present verb: ekes
Past tense or past participle: eked
Gerund or present participle: eking

[Currency] A kroon is the standard monetary unit of Estonia

[Informal] Used as an expression of alarm, horror, or surprise

[Archaic] Also

[Archaic] Moreover

Verb, transitive:
Manage to support oneself or make a living with difficulty

  • Make an amount or supply of something last longer by using or consuming it frugally
  • Obtain or create, but just barely

[Archaic] To increase, enlarge, or lengthen

That’ll be 45 EEK.

Eek!! There’s a mouse!

Eek! He’s got a gun.

“And eek it is, &c., and moreover it is not likely that ever in all thy life thou wilt stand in her favour.” – Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales

“Tis false: for Arthur wore in hall / Round-table like a farthingal, / On which, with shirt pull’d out behind, / And eke before, his good knights dined.” – Samuel Butler (1663), Hudibras, part 1, canto 1

“John Gilpin was a citizen / of credit and renown / A train-band captain eke was he / of famous London town.” – William Cowper (1782), The Diverting History of John Gilpin

Verb, transitive:
We’ll have to tighten our belts and eke something out.

They eked out their livelihoods from the soil.

The remains of yesterday’s stew could be eked out to make another meal.

Tennessee eked out a 74–73 overtime victory.

You can eke out your income by taking a second job, but you can’t eke out your existence.

History of the Word:
1 1940, sound of a squeak of fear. From Old English eac, cognate with Old Saxon, Old Dutch ok, Old Norse and Gothic auk, Old Frisian ak, Old High German ouh, German auch meaning also. It’s probably related to eke 3.

Old English, c. 1200, eken meaning to increase, lengthen. It’s a north England and E. Midlands variant of echen from Old English ecan, eacan, or eacian meaning to increase, which is probably from eaca meaning an increase from the Proto-Germanic aukan (compare to the Old Norse auka, Old Frisian aka, Old High German ouhhon, and Gothic aukan), from the Proto-Indo-European aug- meaning to increase.

In the 1590s, the phrase to eke out meaning to make something go further or last longer.

Return to top

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

Pinterest Photo Credits

House Mouse by Axel Boldt and this photo from Associated Press, Seven Year Itch: Marilyn Monroe Pose, which was published by Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Both are in the public domain. The Egg Chair by Scott Anderson from Jakarta, Indonesia, is under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license. All three are via Wikimedia Commons.

Kathy's signature