Commonly Confused Words: Peek, peak and pique

Have you ever caught yourself making the mistake of using peak when you meant peek? (It’s ok – I won’t tell!) It’s an easy mistake to make, but sometimes misusuing words can be embarrassing. 

Which peek/peak/pique is it? And what about all those other homophones (words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings and uses)?

Of course, many word processing programs will have dictionaries and grammar checkers which can catch errors but many will skip over misused homophones.  Our advice is to either memorize the difference or avoid the words altogether. 

Following is a primer for peek, peak and pique.  Make a list of other words that confuse you and make a pledge to memorize the difference (or avoid them!). 

Peek is a verb, meaning to look – often secretively or quickly; for example, “I took a peek at your work.”  I use the old tip that since you use your eyes to see, or peek, there are two es in see or eyes, as there are in peek.

Peak denotes “the highest amount” or something that is “optimal” (“he is in peak physical health.”) When I’m trying to remember which peek/peak to use, I think of Pike’s Peak. Since peak typically involves climbing – or ascending – which has an e and an a, just as peak.

Pique is often associated with emotions, such as irritation or curiosity. Of these three homophones, pique is the only one spelled with the letter I – as is irritation or curiosity (and emotion).

Yes, amazing programs like Grammarly exist that can help you improve your writing tremendously, but homophones continue to be challenging. Remember, you can memorize it or avoid it – the choice is yours!

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