verb \ ˈpēk \
|Updated on: 21 Aug 2018

Definition of pique

piqued; piquing
1 a : 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

Examples of pique in a Sentence

  1. The first chorus … stirred my heart, the second piqued my sense of camp and the rest of them had me checking my watch. —David GatesNewsweek4 Mar. 2002
  2. 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 GordonNew York Times Book Review6 Oct. 1991
  3. Some environmentalists worry that the natural behavior patterns of whales are being altered by tourist boats that pique the animals' curiosity. —Jack McCallumSports Illustrated21 Aug. 1989
  4. 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 DefordSports Illustrated11 Apr. 1988
  5. Brightly colored objects pique a baby's interest.

  6. her seat companion piqued her by repeatedly poking her in the ribs

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.

Origin and Etymology of pique

French piquer, literally, to prick — more at pike

Synonym Discussion of 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 \ ˈpēk \

Definition of pique

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

Examples of pique in a Sentence

  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 BurumaNew Republic3 Apr. 2000
  2. … 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. ThompsonRolling Stone15 Dec. 1994
  3. 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 DiazSports Illustrated2 Mar. 1987
  4. After a moment of pique, the senator responded calmly to his accusers.

  5. He slammed the door in a fit of pique.

Origin and Etymology of pique

see 1pique

Synonym Discussion of pique

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



noun pi·qué \ pi-ˈkā , ˈpē-ˌkā \
variants: or pique

Definition of piqué

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

Origin and Etymology of piqué

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

PIQUE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of pique for English Language Learners

  • : a sudden feeling of annoyance or anger when someone has offended you


Definition of pique for English Language Learners

  • : to cause (curiosity or interest)

  • : to make (someone) annoyed or angry

PIQUE Defined for Kids


verb \ ˈpēk \

Definition of pique for Students

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

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