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What are the differences between 'peek', 'peak' and 'pique'?

Episode 191105 / 05 Nov 2019

This week's question

What are the differences between 'peek', 'peak' and 'pique'? - Farshid on YouTube

Answer this

Which of these words has more limited use these days?

Language points

Peek can mean 'take a quick look, often in a sneaky way'. It's common to talk about peek at something, over something, through something or into something.

Peek also means 'protrude' - that's when something partially shows from behind something else.

  • She peeked at him over her textbook.
  • I peeked into the shop through the window.
  • I can see your phone peeking from your pocket.
  • The robber's shoes could be seen peeking from under the curtain.

A peak is the highest, strongest or most extreme point of something. Common contexts are  - the highest point in a graph, the top of a mountain and the busiest time for a service, place or business.

Peak can also be a verb meaning 'reach the highest point.'

  • The peak of this graph shows that you shouldn't travel to the peak of the mountain during peak times.
  • We peaked the mountain at 4 o'clock.
  • "I've peaked" said the actor collecting his Oscar.

Pique is mostly used in two common expressions: To be in a fit of pique is to become irritated because someone was rude or your pride was insulted. 

You can also pique someone's interest or curiosity. This means 'to make someone interested or curious in something.' 

  • She left in a fit of pique when they insulted her work.
  • These new inventions have really piqued my interest.

The answer

Pique. It's mostly used in two fixed expressions.

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