Write This, Not That: Peak versus Pique

Do you know what happens if you send an email, or craft a piece of writing, that contains the phrase, “You’ve peaked my interest”?

Nothing. Nothing happens.

This makes me sad.


“Pique” and “peak” (and even, wincingly, “peek”) have a complicated relationship, because unlike so many other word pairs in English, these aren’t used interchangeably. Instead, the simpler, familiar “peak” is summarily replacing “pique.” I think the cause is an over-visual relationship in which the accelerating action suggested by “peak” somehow mirrors “pique,” which also means “to stimulate.”

Well, my inner grammar cop says: Too bad. It’s pique for interest, no exceptions. Adding pique to your word-arsenal is actually pretty interesting, if not for its “to stimulate” definition; in fact, its other two uses are much cooler.

Pique (n) – a feeling of irritation or resentment resulting from a slight, especially to one’s pride. “he left in a fit of pique

Pique (v) – feel irritated or resentful. “she was piqued by his curtness”


What grammar homonym misuse bugs you the most? Am I being too prickly? Share it in the comments.