Peak Vs. Pique — What’s the Difference?

Peak and pique appear and sound so similar that writers often mix them up. Let’s sort out the confusion.

Peak Vs. Pique Key Takeaways

Each of these words can be a noun and a verb. 

Peak — Like a mountain peak

A peak, as a noun, is a high point and to peak, the verb form, means “to reach the height of something.” As an adjective, peak means top or utmost.

Pique — Anger or excitement. 

Meanwhile, pique (noun) is a feeling of anger, resentment, or irritation and to pique (verb) means to arouse or excite, often used in the phrase, “pique one’s interest.”

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But let’s do more than just take a peek at these words. (The third “peek.” See this article for more on that.) 

Let’s climb this mountain to reach peak understanding.

When to Use Peak

All the common uses of the word peak relate to the same idea: a point.

Definitions of Peak

  • Peak as a noun: a summit, a high point, a projecting point.
  • Peak as a verb: to rise, to bring to a peak or maximum.
  • Peak as an adjective: maximum, greatest, characterized by a peak.

Examples of Peak

In the first example, peak is used in its most literal context, referring to the high points of mountains:

“In the mountains, the shortest way is from peak to peak: but for that you must have long legs.” 

Friedrich Nietzsche

In the next example, peak is used as both a noun and as a verb:

“I want to go out in my peak. That’s my goal. 

But have I peaked yet?”

Serena Williams

Ms. Williams uses the noun peak more figuratively, referring to a high point of her career. When she asks, “But have I peaked yet?”, we see her using the verb form, as in, “Have I reached that high point?”

When to Use Pique

Pique comes to English from the Old French word piquer (“peek-ay”), which means “to pierce with the end of a sword.” 

Uses of the word pique refer to anger, arousal, or excitement. 

Definitions of Pique

  • Pique as a verb: to anger, arouse, or excite.
  • Pique as a noun: anger, resentment, a feeling of being wounded.

Examples of Pique

Here’s pique used as a verb:

“I think the thing that I always try to do — because it piques my interest — is to play really different parts all the time.”

Christina Ricci

The actress uses pique to mean arouse or excite.

Here’s pique as a noun:

“There occurred one of the little skirmishes which it is almost impossible to avoid, when some five-and-twenty women, old and young, with all their private piques and prejudices, try to work together.”

Louisa May Alcott

In this example, the author of Little Women uses pique to refer to resentment.

Putting It All Together

Peak and Pique Used Together

Let’s see these words used in the same sentence:

“The old mountain climber had thought he was done climbing forever, but the idea of scaling his tallest peak yet piqued his interest.”

Okay, so now you know what the differences between peak and pique are, but how do you remember them?

Remembering the Difference between Peak and Pique 

A simple mnemonic, or memory trick, will help you keep these words straight:

  • The word peak has the letter a in it, and the capital version, A, comes to a point — a peak!
  • Pique, with the letter ie, begins like the word “pick.” And if someone were being picked at, they’d be annoyed — they’d probably feel some pique!

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