pi·​quant ˈpē-kənt How to pronounce piquant (audio)
ˈpi-kwənt How to pronounce piquant (audio)
: engagingly provocative
also : having a lively arch charm
: agreeably stimulating to the taste
especially : spicy
piquantly adverb
piquantness noun

Did you know?

Piquant flavors "sting" the tongue and piquant words "prick" the intellect, arousing interest. These varying senses reflect the etymology of the word piquant, which first appeared in English in the 17th century and which derives from the Middle French verb piquer, meaning "to sting" or "to prick." Though first used to describe foods with spicy flavors, the word is now often used to describe things that are spicy in other ways, such as engaging conversation. Have we piqued your curiosity about another piquer offspring? If you’ve already guessed that the verb pique, meaning "to offend" or "to arouse by provocation," comes from piquer, too, you’ve got a sharp mind.

Choose the Right Synonym for piquant

pungent, piquant, poignant, racy mean sharp and stimulating to the mind or the senses.

pungent implies a sharp, stinging, or biting quality especially of odors.

a cheese with a pungent odor

piquant suggests a power to whet the appetite or interest through tartness or mild pungency.

a piquant sauce

poignant suggests something is sharply or piercingly effective in stirring one's emotions.

felt a poignant sense of loss

racy implies having a strongly characteristic natural quality fresh and unimpaired.

spontaneous, racy prose

Examples of piquant in a Sentence

piquant vegetables seasoned with pepper He served the fish with a piquant sauce. a piquant bit of gossip
Recent Examples on the Web Attention to detail shows in everything from the stylish labels on the stout glass sauce bottles to the piquant array of housemade pickled vegetables that garnish the trays. Robert F. Moss, Southern Living, 12 Sep. 2023 But the musical, despite piquant songs by Harold Rome, one of which earned the 19-year-old Barbra Streisand a Tony nomination, was only a moderate success 25 years later. Jesse Green, New York Times, 5 Sep. 2023 The creamy, cheesy chicken base is loaded with texture and flavor from hearty broccoli, crispy bacon, and piquant, pickled peppers. Patricia Shannon, Southern Living, 4 Sep. 2023 These herbal notes can be found in the new wellness fragrance from Louis Vuitton, Pacific Chill, which combines piquant mint with earthy basil and black currant. Brian Underwood, Women's Health, 4 Sep. 2023 There’s a piquant quality reminiscent of clustered berries balancing out peppery undertones in a prolonged finish. Brad Japhe, Forbes, 13 Aug. 2023 Some find the taste mildly off-putting, although others actually prefer the piquant taste. Christopher Michel, Country Living, 12 Aug. 2023 Season 2 sees the pair mending fences and securing a wealthy investor in the form of Elizabeth Perkins (wonderfully piquant as a grand dame of business) and the magazine’s prospects look more promising than ever. Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune, 20 July 2023 But the Goings On ethos remains the same: astute, snappy previews and critical reviews, offering an arts primer, a piquant snapshot of the day’s cultural scene, and, perhaps, ideas for your after-work or weekend plans. The New Yorker, 31 July 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'piquant.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle French, from present participle of piquer

First Known Use

1616, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of piquant was in 1616


Dictionary Entries Near piquant

Cite this Entry

“Piquant.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/piquant. Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


pi·​quant ˈpē-kənt How to pronounce piquant (audio) -ˌkänt How to pronounce piquant (audio)
: agreeably stimulating to the taste
especially : spicy sense 1
: pleasingly exciting
a piquant bit of gossip
piquantly adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on piquant

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