• 3-minute read
  • 16th January 2019

Word Choice: Peak, Peek, or Pique?

Homophones are problematic enough when we’re dealing with two words that sound the same. But with “peak,” “peek,” and “pique,” we have a tricky homophonic threesome to deal with. But what do these words mean? And how can you avoid errors in your written work? Let us explain.

Peak (Highest Point)

A “peak” is typically the highest point of something. This might be a physical high point, such as the highest point on a mountain:

The peak of Mount Everest is 29,029 feet above sea level.

However, a “peak” can also be the high point of an activity or quality:

Most athletes achieve hit their peak between 26 and 28 years old.

In this case, we’re talking about the age at which athletes perform best.

And while “peak” is often a noun, it can be used as a verb or an adjective:

Viewing figures peaked one hour into the program.

I’ve been in peak condition since I started working out.

In the first sentence above, we use “peak” as a verb to mean “hit its highest point.” In the second sentence, meanwhile, “peak” is modifying the noun “condition” (meaning “top condition”).

Take a peek at this peak.
Take a peek at this peak.

Peek (A Quick or Secretive Glance)

“Peek” can be either a verb or a noun. In either case, it refers to taking a quick or furtive look at something. Using it as a verb, for example, we might say:

He peeked around the corner to see if we were being followed.

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Or if we wanted to use it as a noun, we could say:

I only took a peek at your email last night, but I’ll read it in full tomorrow.

Whether used as a verb or a noun, then, “peek” is always related to looking at something briefly or from a hidden position.

Pique (Irritation or Interest)

“Pique” is a much rarer term than the other words here. However, it is used in some common phrases, so it is useful to know what it means. One of these phrases is “fit of pique,” which we use when someone does something suddenly because they are annoyed:

He left the restaurant in a fit of pique when the waiter laughed at him.

Other than this, you may hear someone say that something “piqued” their curiosity or interest. This sense of “pique” is a verb that means “arouse interest or curiosity”:

The letter piqued my curiosity, so I wrote back straight away.

One common error is to write “peak my curiosity,” as some people think it means “raise my curiosity to its highest point.” And while this makes some sense, it is not the correct phrase!

Summary: Peak, Peek, or Pique?

“Peak,” “peek,” and “pique” sound the same, but each has its own meaning:

  • A peak is the highest point of something.
  • To peek is usually to take a quick or furtive look at something.
  • Pique can mean “irritation” or “arouse interest.” It is most commonly used in phrases such as “a fit of pique” or “to pique curiosity.”

Make sure not to confuse these terms! If you’d like help ensuring your writing is error free, moreover, a bit of proofreading can go a long way.

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