Peak vs. Peek vs. Pique: What’s the Difference?

Here we have another confusing set of English homophones, words that sound exactly the same when pronounced but have different spellings and meanings. Since these words sound the same when spoken, they are often confused by writers when adding them onto paper. It also doesn’t help that two of today’s words are separated by only a single letter.

Today I want to highlight the differences between these words, go over their definitions, and give you some example sentences using them. After reading this post, you shouldn’t ever confuse peak vs. peek vs. pique again.

When to Use Peak

how to use peak and peek in a sentencePeak is most commonly used as a noun and means “a tapering, projecting point; a pointed extremity.” For example,

  • He climbed all the way to the peak of Mt. Everest.
  • The carpenter’s perfect joint gave the roof a symmetrical peak.

Peak has a figurative meaning as well, “the point in greatest development, value, or intensity.” For example,

  • Michael Jordan was past his peak during the 1998 playoffs.
  • I wrote that column at the peak of my career.

While it’s most common to see peak used as a noun, it can also be used as a verb and an adjective. For example,

  • Mix the whipping cream until it peaks. (verb)
  • The stock market peaks during the Christmas season. (verb)
  • We have streamlined our processes and are now operating at peak efficiency. (adjective)

When to Use Peek

what is the grammar behind pique and peekPeek is most commonly used as a verb and means “to glance quickly; to look or peer furtively, as from a place of concealment; or to be only partially visible” For example,

  • He peeked around the corner to see if anyone was coming.
  • Their faces peeked from behind the curtains.
  • The holes in his socks allowed his toes to peek through.

Peek can also be used as a noun but is used as such much less frequently. For example,

  • A quick peek at the Christmas presents won’t hurt anyone.

When to Use Pique

Pique, from a French word meaning “prick,” means “to provoke or to arouse.” It has a few other meanings, but this is by far the most common of them. For example,

  • You piqued my interest when you mentioned pizza.
  • The sculpture piqued her curiosity.

When you pique something, you are exciting it. In this use, pique is acting as a transitive verb and therefore will take an object.

Remember the Difference

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

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

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

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

Summary

The words peek vs. peak vs. pique can be confusing at times, but they all have very different meanings, so it’s important to keep them straight.

Peak means a tapering, projecting point or a figurative high point.

Peek means to glance quickly.

Pique means to arouse someone’s interest.