Peek vs. Peak vs. Pique: A Look at How They're Different

When faced with choosing among peek vs. peak vs. pique, it's easy to get overwhelmed. These three words have identical pronunciations (pēk), yet are not spelled the same and do not mean the same thing. Learn the meaning of each term so you'll be clear on how to interpret texts that include these terms and be able to choose the correct word to use in your own writing.

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What Does Peek Mean?

The word peek can be a noun or a verb. Both forms involve looking at something. The verb refers to the action of looking while the noun form refers to the look itself.

Verb Usage of Peek

The verb peek means to look at something quickly, either in a furtive or sneaky way or simply to briefly skim before looking away. One might peek in order to avoid being seen, or simply to get a general sense of something without really focusing on it.

  • Peek in the window to see if any of the store employees have arrived yet.
  • The next time the doorbell rings, peek through the curtain to see who is here.
  • I saw the answer key sitting on her desk, but I didn't peek at the answers.

Noun Usage of Peek

The noun form of the word peek refers to a brief look or glance. It's not the action of looking or glancing (that would be the verb form) but the look or glance itself. Paired with the word sneak to form sneak peek, it forms a phrase that refers to an advance showing.

  • I took a peek at the last chapter before I started reading, so I already know how the book ends.
  • I am looking forward to taking a peek at your ideas for redecorating the living room.
  • It was so much fun to get a sneak peek of the play by attending the dress rehearsal.

What Does Peak Mean?

The word peak can be a noun, adjective or verb. With each part of speech, the meaning is to the top or pinnacle. The lies with whether the word is used for an action, object or to describe an object.

Verb Usage of Peak

Used as a verb, the word peak refers to the action of moving toward or causing to reaching the highest possible state. In this context, the word peak can be used in reference to a physical location, highest point or maximum value.

  • I believe that the value of this stock will peak at $3,000 per share.
  • She will continue to add layers to the cake until it peaks at five levels.
  • He is seeking to peak out the promotion by setting a new all-time sales record.

Noun Usage of Peak

Used as a noun, the word peak refers to the top or highest point of something. It generally refers to something that has a pointy shape though it can simply refer to being at the highest location or state one can achieve.

  • Many mountain climbers dream of reaching the peak of Mount Everest.
  • If I am recognized as employee of the year, I will feel like I have reached the peak of my career.
  • There is a yarn ball attached to the peak of my ski cap.

Adjective Usage of Peak

When used as an adjective, the word peak describes a noun as having reached its maximum state.

  • The airplane climbed to peak altitude before leveling off.
  • Building a strong leadership team is critical for an organization that wants to reach peak performance.
  • During peak hours, people who drive or deliver food via ride-sharing services can earn good money.

What Does Pique Mean?

The word pique can be a noun or a verb. There are a few different meanings within each usage.

Verb Usage of Pique

When used as a verb, pique can refer to arousing or stimulating interest or curiosity. It can also mean to arouse or provoke anger or resentment.

  • I'm hoping to pique your interest in joining a new special project team.
  • Can I pique your interest in going on a spa retreat with me?
  • If you suggest she is not being truthful, it will likely pique an angry response.

Noun Usage of Pique

When used as a noun, the word pique refers to a feeling of irritation, resentment, or of having one's pride wounded via an insult or slight. This word can be a countable or uncountable noun. When written as piqué (with an accent mark above the "e"), this word refers to a ribbed fabric. The fabric version is pronounced differently (pē-kā).

  • He experiences pique whenever he doesn't get his way.
  • Bob had a temper tantrum and stormed out in a fit of pique.
  • Grandma gave me a lovely piqué sweater for Christmas.

Memory Tips: Peek vs. Peak vs. Pique

Reviewing definitions and example sentences is a great way to learn key differences between peek, peak, pique, and piqué. It can also be helpful to discover some simple memory tips and tricks that can help you quickly recall what each word means.

  • peek - Peek has two "e"s. Remember that peeking is done with the eyes. People have two eyes and peek has two "e"s.
  • peak - Peak has an "a" in it. The word peak refers to the top or maximum, which is a type of accomplishment. The word accomplishment starts with "a" and peak has an "a."
  • pique - Pique and provoke both start with "p" and end with "e." Pique can be the result of provoke, so associating the first and last letters of both words can help you remember which term to use.
  • piqué - Since this term applies to fabric, associate the accent mark with fashion. Think about the accent mark as being a bit of flair that adds emphasis to the word, which is exactly what fashion can do to your style.

Differentiate Between Homophones and Homographs

The words peek, peak and pique are homophones, which means they sound the same but do not have the same spelling or meaning. Now that you know how these words differ from each other, explore other commonly confused words. Start by exploring more examples of homophones. Then, review some examples of homographs. The more you learn, the stronger your vocabulary and language arts skills will be!