\ ˈpēk \

Definition of peak

 (Entry 1 of 5)

1 : a pointed or projecting part of a garment especially : the visor of a cap or hat The cap's peak shades his eyes.
2 : promontory a steep rocky peak
3 : a sharp or pointed end the peak of a roof
4a(1) : the top of a hill or mountain ending in a point the fog hung … heavily on the peak of the hill— H. D. Skidmore
(2) : a prominent mountain usually having a well-defined summit
b : something resembling a mountain peak Beat the cream until it forms stiff peaks.
5a : the upper aftermost corner of a fore-and-aft sail
b : the narrow part of a ship's bow or stern or the part of the hold in it
6a : the highest level or greatest degree a singer at the peak of her popularity
b : a high point in a course of development especially as represented on a graph The graph shows that murders in the city reached a peak two years ago.


verb (1)
peaked; peaking; peaks

Definition of peak (Entry 2 of 5)

intransitive verb

: to reach a maximum (as of capacity, value, or activity) often used with out

transitive verb

: to cause to come to a peak, point, or maximum



Definition of peak (Entry 3 of 5)

: being at or reaching the maximum peak levels peak output also : of, relating to, or being a period of maximum intensity or activity peak business hours


verb (2)
peaked; peaking; peaks

Definition of peak (Entry 4 of 5)

intransitive verb

1 : to grow thin or sickly
2 : to dwindle away


verb (3)
peaked; peaking; peaks

Definition of peak (Entry 5 of 5)

transitive verb

1 nautical : to set (a gaff, a yard, etc.) nearer the perpendicular
2 rowing : to hold (oars) with blades well raised

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Synonyms for peak

Synonyms: Noun

alp, hump, mount, mountain

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Choose the Right Synonym for peak


summit, peak, pinnacle, climax, apex, acme, culmination mean the highest point attained or attainable. summit implies the topmost level attainable. at the summit of the Victorian social scene peak suggests the highest among other high points. an artist working at the peak of her powers pinnacle suggests a dizzying and often insecure height. the pinnacle of worldly success climax implies the highest point in an ascending series. the war was the climax to a series of hostile actions apex implies the point where all ascending lines converge. the apex of Dutch culture acme implies a level of quality representing the perfection of a thing. a statue that was once deemed the acme of beauty culmination suggests the outcome of a growth or development representing an attained objective. the culmination of years of effort

Peek vs. Peak vs. Pique

Peek, peak, and pique: they sound the same but mean very different things.

The first one we learn is peek: it has to do with looking, especially furtively or quickly or through a small space, as in "open the box and peek inside." It's both a noun and a verb; when you peek, you take a peek. Our advice for remembering this one is to keep in mind that you peek in order to see.

Peak is the verb you use to talk about reaching a maximum, or coming to a highest point, literally or figuratively, as in "The meteor shower will last for several days but will peak on Sunday." Its noun counterpart, which refers to various pointed or projecting parts, is more common: something that peaks reaches a peak. Just as every mountain has a peak, thinking of the peak—the highest point—is the way to remember that peak is the choice for reaching the highest levels. Associating the "a" in peak with the "a" in maximum or with a capital "A" (the most mountain-like of letters) can be helpful.

Pique is the oddball of this trio. We know the "ique" spelling from the likes of technique, antique, and unique, but pique nonetheless looks a little exotic. It comes from a French word meaning literally "to prick," but its earliest English use was as a noun. The noun is still used: a pique is a transient feeling of wounded vanity—a kind of resentment. As a verb, pique was (and still is, especially in British English) used to mean "to arouse anger or resentment in," as in "Their rudeness piqued me." Now, however, it's most often our interest or curiosity that gets piqued—that is to say, our interest or curiosity is aroused, as in "The large key hanging next on the wall piqued my curiosity."

Pique has another meaning too, though it's less common than any of those already mentioned. Pique sometimes is used to mean "to take pride in (oneself)," as in "She piques herself on her editing skills."

Master this trio, and you can pique yourself on your word skills.

Examples of peak in a Sentence


a line of rocky peaks the peak of the roof The recipe says to beat the cream until it forms soft peaks. At her peak she was writing a new novel every year. Violence reached a peak just before the election. The graph shows that murders in the city declined from a peak of 173 in 2004.


The factory has been running at peak capacity for the past year. the peak season for fishing
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Bear-O-Meter Global indexes; a bear market is often defined as a 20% decline from a peak, based on the market close. Kosaku Narioka, WSJ, "Japan Stocks Drop 5%, Land in Bear Territory," 25 Dec. 2018 By the summer of 2011, the one-year moving average and median home size had matched pre-crisis peaks, and the next four years saw home sizes reach new all-time highs. Jeff Andrews, Curbed, "Why shrinking U.S. homes may be a boost to homebuyers," 29 Nov. 2018 There’s a pretty easy 2.5 mile loop trail that that takes you through big sharp rocky peaks, dense forest, walls of azalea and mountain laurel, and over a high-elevation, crystal clear stream. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "An Insider’s Guide to Asheville, the Arts-Filled City Where Pottery Is Thriving," 23 Nov. 2018 The difference is easy to spot: A cosmic ray peaks early on in ultraviolet energy, then diminishes as its air shower dies out. Adam Hadhazy, Discover Magazine, "Scientists Hunt for A Seeming Paradox: A Magnet With Only One Pole," 13 Nov. 2018 The shower peaks on Oct. 21, but the meteors may be visible as early as today after midnight, according to the National Weather Service. The phenomenon will stay active until Nov. 7, according to NASA. Paige Cornwell, The Seattle Times, "Look up: Meteor shower to light up Seattle’s unusually cloudless night skies," 16 Oct. 2018 There are 360-degree views of the valley, the undulating fjords, the craggy peaks of the Troll Wall to the north, stabbing the sky. Nick Heil, Outside Online, "Are Kilian Jornet's Speed Records Too Good to Be True?," 12 July 2018 Very gradually beat in sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture forms shiny, nearly stiff peaks, about 4 minutes depending on the power of your mixer. Jeanmarie Brownson,, "When Eton mess gives you extra yolks, whip them up into ice cream," 10 July 2018 Media mentions and Google searches reached a crescendo that almost exactly mirrored bitcoin’s peak. Spencer Jakab, WSJ, "Bitcoin Wasn’t a Bubble Until It Was," 14 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Janney Montgomery Scott recently said the Fed is likely to pause and may halt rate increases, the credit cycle is turning and intermediate to longer-term interest rates have likely peaked. Daniel Kruger, WSJ, "Goldman Sachs Lowers Forecasts for Yields, Fed," 9 Jan. 2019 While 4,000 evacuees found protection in North Carolina shelters during Matthew, that number during Florence peaked at over 20,000. Fox News, "'Up in the air': If displaced by storm, where to call home?," 19 Sep. 2018 The number of suicides during that period peaked in 2014, when the state saw 606 suicides, the CDC reported. Sarah Meehan,, "Suicide rates are on the rise in Maryland. Here's where to find help.," 8 June 2018 Verizon promises typical speeds of around 300Mbps, peaking to 1Gbps during periods of low use. Martyn Williams, PCWorld, "Verizon could provide the first 5G home Internet service in the United States, coming in October," 12 Sep. 2018 The population peaked at about 100, after federal protections were implemented, then began to decline again, with around 75 whales left today. Laura Yan, Popular Mechanics, "Grieving Orca Mom Has Been Carrying Her Dead Calf for Days," 29 July 2018 Ye released four multi-platinum albums between 2004 and 2009, three of which peaked at No. 1. Stereo Williams, Billboard, "Drake's 2018 Has Been Huge. But Is He the Biggest Rapper Ever?," 13 July 2018 In India and central Asia, the moon will start passing into Earth’s shadow at 10:44 p.m. local time, and the eclipse will peak at around midnight. Denise Chow /, NBC News, "Total lunar eclipse will turn the moon blood red later this month," 13 July 2018 According to the study, people in Montana are the first to experience their sleepless night, with that combination of factors peaking on July 5. Weldon B. Johnson, azcentral, "Sleepless in Arizona? It's that time of year," 13 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Just in time for the ecstasy—and the skin agony—of peak ski season. Celia Ellenberg, Vogue, "Meet the Powerful Natural Skin-Care Line That’s Making “Wildcrafted in Wyoming” a Thing," 29 Nov. 2018 The agreement prevents what would have been the company’s first work stoppage since 1997 and provides a measure of labor peace ahead of the busy peak shipping season. Paul Ziobro, WSJ, "UPS Averts Freight Strike as Teamsters Ratify New Contract," 11 Nov. 2018 Advocating for renovating a midcentury, peak corporate-modern skyscraper in New York City—designed in part by an underrecognized SOM associate, Natalie de Blois. Curbed, "Critical Eye: A year in review," 20 Dec. 2018 Canned or frozen veggies, fruit, and lower-sodium beans, lentils, chickpeas and peas all retain their peak nutritional quality and cost a lot less. Jaclyn London, Ms, Rd, Cdn, Good Housekeeping, "Why "Clean Eating" Is Total B.S., According to a Nutritionist," 29 Nov. 2018 The whole show served as a reminder that this kind of sincere positivity is peak holiday entertainment. Liz Arcury, Marie Claire, "The 8 Best Celebrity Holiday Specials Ever," 29 Nov. 2018 Pro tip: Whale sharks frequent the waters of Isla Mujeres from mid-May through September, although peak season is July and August. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Best Islands in the World: 2018 Readers' Choice Awards," 9 Oct. 2018 All this data helps create a forecast that can help travelers see what's believed to be peak fall. Taysha Murtaugh, Country Living, "This Fall Foliage Map Predicts When the Leaves Will Change Near You," 29 Aug. 2018 That would equal about one-seventh of India’s total annual energy load today, but the real threat is peak-time usage. Russell Gold, WSJ, "Can India Afford to Cool Down?," 21 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'peak.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of peak


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Verb (1)

1887, in the meaning defined at transitive sense


1903, in the meaning defined above

Verb (2)

1605, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (3)

1626, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for peak

Noun, Verb (1), and Adjective

perhaps alteration of pike

Verb (2)

origin unknown

Verb (3)

from apeak held vertically

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Learn More about peak

Dictionary Entries near peak

pea huller


pea jacket


peak arch

peak crest


Statistics for peak

Last Updated

11 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for peak

The first known use of peak was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for peak



English Language Learners Definition of peak

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the pointed top of a mountain

: a tall mountain with a pointed or narrow top

: something that looks like a pointed top of a mountain



English Language Learners Definition of peak (Entry 2 of 2)

: at the highest point or level

: filled with the most activity


\ ˈpēk \

Kids Definition of peak

1 : a prominent mountain We saw a snowy peak rising from the plain.
2 : the pointed top of a hill or mountain I climbed all the way to the peak.
3 : a sharp or pointed end The roof rises to a peak.
4 : the highest point of development He is at the peak of his career.

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More from Merriam-Webster on peak

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with peak

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for peak

Spanish Central: Translation of peak

Nglish: Translation of peak for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of peak for Arabic Speakers

Comments on peak

What made you want to look up peak? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to gather or build up little by little

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