Confusing words: peek, peak, pique

one freaky peekaboo

Here’s another set of troublesome words: peek, peak, and pique. To make things more difficult, peek and peak can be both nouns and verbs. (Pique can also be a noun and verb, but since pique as a verb is much more common, I only included that.)

Let’s take a look at their definitions and some examples. Then test your understanding with a quiz at the end of the post.

peek (noun): a brief look
—Merriam-Webster[1]

Example:

Gene took a peek at what was behind door number two.

peek (verb): to peer through a crack or hole or from a place of concealment; to take a brief look
—Merriam-Webster[2]

Examples:

Gene peeked through a crack in the door.
Gene didn’t look at the whole magazine. He just peeked at it.

peak (noun): the top of a hill or mountain ending in a point; the highest level or greatest degree
—Merriam-Webster[3]

Examples:

It took Gene four days to climb to the peak of the mountain.
Gene thought his vacation had reached its peak, but then he saw a mountain lion do the foxtrot.

peak (verb): to reach a maximum (as of capacity, value, or activity)
—Merriam-Webster[4]

Example:

Gene peaked after hour three of the dance off.

pique (verb): to excite or arouse especially by a provocation, challenge, or rebuff
—Merriam-Webster[5]

Example:

When Gene’s friend brought up the subject of physics, his interest piqued.

Quiz
Test your skills with this quiz. Fill in the blank with either peek, peak, or pique.

1. Gene reached the _______ of his high school career when he beat his math teacher at chess.
2. Gene had a _______ at the test before it was time to start.
3. “Let me _______ your curiosity,” Gene said as he pulled a magic box from his purse.
4. Gene painted the _______ of the mountain for his art class.
5. Gene _______ed, in terms of accomplishments, when he won the first prize in debate class.
6. Gene hid behind a big rock, then he _______ed around it.
7. Gene decided to _______ at the cookies while they were still in the oven.

1. peak (noun) 2. peek (noun) 3. pique 4. peak (noun) 5. peak (verb) 6. peek (verb) 7. peek (verb)

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