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Today, we’ve got something for you that’s especially tricky (or enlightening, depending on whether you’re a “glass half full” or “glass half empty” kind of person). In most of our previous posts on commonly misused words, we talk about the difference between two words that are similar in some sort of way. However, in some cases, we’re faced with three words that are hard to tell apart. One of these cases is when we’re talking about the difference between “peak,” “peek,” and “pique.”

Why is it so hard to figure out the difference between “peak,” “peek,” and “pique”? Because these words are homonyms – they sound the same but mean different things. They also don’t look very different, especially “peak” vs. “peek.” That’s why even when you know what they mean, it isn’t always easy to remember the difference between “peak,” “peek,” and “pique.”

To help you set the record about these three words straight, we’re going to use this post to talk about the difference between “peak,” “peek,” and “pique.” We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get started.

What does “peak” mean?

“Peak” is most well known for being a noun that describes the top of a mountain. You would use it in sentences like these:

  • “Angelo looked across the valley at the snowy mountain peaks.”
  • “Talia was so desperate to capture the snowy peaks in her selfie that she dropped her phone into the lake.”
  • “Their office window looks out toward the snowy peaks.” (Lucky them!)

Although you may be used to thinking of “peak” as a noun, it’s also a verb and an adjective. This word really gets around, doesn’t it?

When it’s used as a verb, “peak” means “to reach a maximum value” or “to come to a point.” You would use it in sentences like this:

  • “Darko peaked as an athlete at the age of 19.”
  • “Traffic on our website peaked in 2014.”
  • “Amelia hopes that her profits haven’t already peaked for the year.”

And when it’s used as an adjective, “peak” means “the highest point or level.” Here’s how you would use it in a sentence:

  • “She’s functioning at her peak performance level.”
  • “I usually avoid driving during peak rush hour.”
  • “Transit fares are higher during peak travel times.”

What does “peek” mean?

So now you know what “peak” means, but how does it differ from “peek”?

Most people know “peek” as a verb that describes how someone might look out at something secretly. You would use it in sentences like these:

  • “She peeked out the window to see if the guest of honour had arrived at the surprise party.”
  • “He peeked through the peephole to see if anyone was standing outside the front door.”
  • “They hid behind the bushes and peeked through the leaves.”

“Peek” isn’t just a verb, though. It does double duty and functions as a noun too.

As a noun, “peek” refers to “a furtive look.” It’s the thing you do when you look out at something secretly or discretely. Here’s how you would use it in a sentence:

  • “Take a peek out the window.”
  • “Wait here; I’m going to take a peek at the hallway.”
  • “I haven’t finished your makeup yet, but I’ll let you take a quick peek.”

What does “pique” mean?

And last but not least, we have “pique.” We usually think of “pique” as a verb that means “to raise someone’s interest or curiosity” or “to make someone angry.” If you wanted to use it in a sentence, you would do it like this:

  • “The photos in the article piqued my interest as I was flipping through the magazine.”
  • “The mistake in the document really piqued me.”
  • “We need to come up with a strategy that will pique people’s interest.”

Summary of the difference between “peak,” “peek,” and “pique”

The next time that you’re wondering what the difference between “peak,” “peek,” and “pique” is, remember this: these words may look and sound similar, but they mean different things. “Peak” usually has something to do with a “high point” (whether it’s physical or metaphorical). “Peek” usually has something to do with looking at something discretely. And “pique” usually refers to triggering an emotional response in someone.

You can remember the difference between “peak” and “peek” (the two that you’re probably most likely to confuse) with this trick: When you’re playing hide and seek, you might peek out from your hiding spot to find out how close the seeker is to finding you.

If you have any good tips for remembering the difference between “peak,” “peek,” and “pique,” leave us a note in our comments section below.
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Want to read about other commonly confused words? Check out our post on the difference between “capital” and “capitol.”
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What’s the difference between “peak,” “peek,” and “pique”?
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