Peek vs. Peak vs. Pique

Ever heard of two (or three) words that sound precisely the same but have different meanings? Especially when you’re first learning English, this can be a difficult obstacle to overcome, but the solution lies in understanding what the word means and recognizing the correct usage based on the context of the statement. So can we differentiate between peak, pique, and peek? These three homophones are often confused and used interchangeably. Sound just the same when read, but they have different spellings and different meanings. So when you are writing, you should be careful to select the correct spelling, or else you will not say what you mean. Peek is spelt with two e’s, usually means a quick look; peak spelt with ‘ea’ is generally the top or maximum level. Peak and peek are frequently confused with each other – and then pique is repeatedly used incorrectly altogether! So, what do they indicate? Here is a bamboozle sheet for you:

Peek: a quick glance

Peak: the highest point, top of a mountain

Pique: to upset or excite

When you go to the early screening of a movie, it’s a “sneak peek,” not a “sneak peak.” It means that you’re getting a special look at the movie. While you want to become skilled at everything you can about the latest iPhone, the device has “piqued your interest,” not “peaked your interest,” because it thrilled you and made you curious. When you’ve reached the sky-high level of achievement in your career, you’ve reached your “career peak,” i.e. the top. Now it’s time for a break so you can go climb a mountain.

Let’s dig deep!!

If we dip deep into the roots of English grammar we can understand the differences better. So let’s discuss the usage of each of them.

Let’s Take a Peek

You must be familiar with the spelling of ‘peek’ if you have ever played a round of peek-a-boo with a toddler. The word peek is used when relating to the act of looking at something secretly. You can moreover use the term to refer to something that shows only partially or is vaguely visible.

Peek is a word which can be used as a noun (a person, place, or thing) or as a verb, an action word. When peek is a noun, it means a quick glimpse or gaze. Think of peek-a-boo: you take a sudden look behind your hands. However when peek is used as a verb, it explains the action of taking a quick look at something. It even has two synonyms or words with very alike meanings that are as well spelled almost the same: peep and peer.

Peek used as a noun:

  • Sam took a quick peek around the corner before he jumped out and surprised his sister.
  • Tina’s boss peeks in on her office to see what is happening.

Peek as a verb:

  • John was so frightened throughout the movie that all he could do was peek through his fingers.
  • The doors were locked so I took a peekin the house though windows.

When you consider peek, think of the two eyes that you require looking at something. Those two e’s in eyes will help you remember to spell this ‘peek’ with two e’s.

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Have You Reached the Peak?

The pronunciation of Peak is just the same as peek, but it has a very different meaning. It can be used as three different parts of speech: noun, verb or adjective, and it has several different meanings. Keep in mind that an adjective is a word that describes or tells more about a noun.

Peak as a Noun

As a noun, peak can mean:

  • My fitness is at peak and ready for the marathon.
  • The climber reached the peak of Mount Everest.
  • The highest level of something, like a career:
  • When he was named the president of the company, he felt as if he was at the peak of his career.
  • The time of day or year when usage or volume is at its highest:
  • Evening rush hour is the peak on highways.

Peak as a Verb

To reach the highest point of activity or achievement:

  • Many athletes peak in their twenties.

Peak as an Adjective

The busiest, highest, or maximum level:

  • Oil was at its peakprice in 2012. 
  • Jessica planned to be at his peakfitness by next summer.

Pique your Interest

To source interest: “Her curiosity was piqued.” Or to feel irritated: “After a moment of pique, I was able to catch my breath and respond in a steady voice.” In both instances, what I came up with as a kid and still pops to the front of my brain today is this is “fancy pique.” Use the fancy way of spelling it! Completely lame, I know. Yet it worked for me then and still does today. Another one would be to imagine when curiosity or interest is piqued, I wish to ask a question, and “pique” ends with “que,” which begins with “question.” Someone told me this way along, and it’s a good one, as well.

How to use it:

  • The photo piqued her curiosity.
  • The loud music from the pub next door always piques my roommate.

 Remember the Difference

There are a few excellent memory tools that can help you keep track of these words.

First, if you think about the word “peAk” as having a capital “A,” it kind of looks like a mountain peak. The two sides of the “A” look alike to that of a mountainside.

Second, peek has to do with seeing. You can memorize this because both words have two “e’s” in them. You can also suppose of the two “e’s” as being two eyes peeking at you.

And the third is the fancy one, which Piqued your curiosity and you ask a question. So remember that “que”

If you can remember these tricks, you should be able to use Peek, peak or pique correctly by process of elimination.

Mistakes to Avoid

We’re all guilty of it – myself included. It’s that second when you recognize that your 9 year old son/daughter/niece/nephew/etc. may in fact be smarter than you

It is rude to peek at my curiosity like an exhibition exhibit, or to turn up at the peak of my curiosity by climbing it like a mountain. However, if you would like to pique, or arouse, my curiosity, than you have my rapt attention.

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