\ ˈpēk How to pronounce pique (audio) \
piqued; piquing

Definition of pique

 (Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

1a : to excite or arouse especially by a provocation, challenge, or rebuff sly remarks to pique their curiosity
b : pride he piques himself on his skill as a cook
2 : to arouse anger or resentment in : irritate what piques linguistic conservatives— T. H. Middleton


noun (1)
\ ˈpēk How to pronounce pique (audio) \

Definition of pique (Entry 2 of 3)

: a transient feeling of wounded vanity : resentment a fit of pique


noun (2)
pi·​qué | \ pi-ˈkā How to pronounce piqué (audio) , ˈpē-ˌkā \
variants: or pique

Definition of piqué (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : a durable ribbed clothing fabric of cotton, rayon, or silk
2 : decoration of a tortoiseshell or ivory object with inlaid fragments of gold or silver

Choose the Right Synonym for pique


provoke, excite, stimulate, pique, quicken mean to arouse as if by pricking. provoke directs attention to the response called forth. my stories usually provoke laughter excite implies a stirring up or moving profoundly. news that excited anger and frustration stimulate suggests a rousing out of lethargy, quiescence, or indifference. stimulating conversation pique suggests stimulating by mild irritation or challenge. that remark piqued my interest quicken implies beneficially stimulating and making active or lively. the high salary quickened her desire to have the job

Noun (1)

offense, resentment, umbrage, pique, dudgeon, huff mean an emotional response to or an emotional state resulting from a slight or indignity. offense implies hurt displeasure. takes deep offense at racial slurs resentment suggests lasting indignation or ill will. harbored a lifelong resentment of his brother umbrage may suggest hurt pride, resentment, or suspicion of another's motives. took umbrage at the offer of advice pique applies to a transient feeling of wounded vanity. in a pique I foolishly declined the invitation dudgeon suggests an angry fit of indignation. stormed out of the meeting in high dudgeon huff implies a peevish short-lived spell of anger usually at a petty cause. in a huff he slammed the door

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 pique in a Sentence

Verb The first chorus … stirred my heart, the second piqued my sense of camp and the rest of them had me checking my watch. — David Gates, Newsweek, 4 Mar. 2002 The posthumous revelation of Cheever's alcoholism, numerous infidelities and bisexuality may have piqued interest precisely because he presented himself so earnestly as the Man in the Brooks Brothers Suit. — Mary Gordon, New York Times Book Review, 6 Oct. 1991 Some environmentalists worry that the natural behavior patterns of whales are being altered by tourist boats that pique the animals' curiosity. — Jack McCallum, Sports Illustrated, 21 Aug. 1989 In case your interest is being piqued just an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny … bit, the Davis Cup will confuse you totally by calling every competition between contending teams a "tie." — Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated, 11 Apr. 1988 Brightly colored objects pique a baby's interest. her seat companion piqued her by repeatedly poking her in the ribs Noun (1) And yet the democracy flourishing in Taiwan has been greeted in other parts of the Chinese-speaking world with a certain pique, and even with hostility. — Ian Buruma, New Republic, 3 Apr. 2000 … when a beast that weighs 1,200 pounds goes crazy with some kind of stupid pique or jealousy in a room not much bigger than the handicapped stall in the Denver airport men's room, bad things will happen … — Hunter S. Thompson, Rolling Stone, 15 Dec. 1994 He hit balls toward the umpire's chair and out of the stadium: he spat water toward the umpire on changeovers; and in still greater fits of pique, he broke three rackets. — Jamie Diaz, Sports Illustrated, 2 Mar. 1987 After a moment of pique, the senator responded calmly to his accusers. He slammed the door in a fit of pique. See More

First Known Use of pique


1669, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Noun (1)

1551, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1852, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pique

Verb and Noun (1)

French piquer, literally, to prick — more at pike

Noun (2)

French piqué, from past participle of piquer to prick, quilt

Learn More About pique

Dictionary Entries Near pique

piquant sauce



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Cite this Entry

“Pique.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pique. Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for pique


\ ˈpēk How to pronounce pique (audio) \
piqued; piquing

Kids Definition of pique

1 : to stir up : excite The package piqued my curiosity.
2 : to make annoyed or angry

More from Merriam-Webster on pique

Nglish: Translation of pique for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pique for Arabic Speakers


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