Peak vs. Peek vs. Pique

How to use "peak," "peek," and "pique" correctly

This is an entry on my list of Common Errors in English Usage. Visit the main page for direct links to additional entries.

All three of these words have the same pronunciation. The first two (peak and peek) should be fairly easy to distinguish from each other; the last one tends to cause problems because many people are unfamiliar with its written form. Pique means “to stimulate, arouse, excite” or “to annoy.” Thus, something that is stimulating or provocative is piquant. Think of the picador in a bullfight, the man who jabs the bull with a lance. (Or don’t think about that, because it’s extremely cruel.)

an advertisement that peaked my interest
an advertisement that piqued my interest

piqued by his constant disobedience

Related Resources

Common Errors in English Usage: Errors in diction and idiom commonly made by native speakers of English

List of Common Errors in English Usage (PDF): Printable version of the complete list

Common Grammar Errors: A list of common errors in grammar (topics like subject-verb agreement and parallelism) as distinct from usage

List of Common Errors in English Usage: PDF version

© 2006, 2008, and 2019 C. Brantley Collins, Jr.