Thursday, March 3, 2011

English teacher: peek and peak

Today's English lesson deals with the pet peeve of one of my readers: misuse of the words peek and peak. These words are, like many others, problems only for writers, not for speakers. They're homophones--that is, they sound exactly alike. Speakers can use the words interchangeably, and their listeners are responsible for hearing the right word. But writers must choose the correct word to use.

Peek is primarily a verb that means "to take a quick look." It can also be used as a noun that refers to the act of taking a quick look something.


Peek into the nursery and see if the baby is still asleep.
Take a peek at our darling new puppy!

Peak is a noun that means "the pointed top of a mountain." It can also refer to the highest point of something.


We want to visit Pike's Peak.
He is at the peak of his career.

Peak can also be used as verb that refers to reaching a high point or as an adjective describing a high point.


The writer's popularity peaked in the 1960's.
The hotel is always booked during the peak season.

Even when used as a verb or an adjective, peak refers to a high point. Perhaps it will help remember that the word you need here is the one with a high point in the spelling:


And to peek is something you do with your two eyes, just as there are two e's in the word.

Hope this helps you to keep these two words straight! As always, I'd be happy to answer any specific questions you may have. If there's a grammatical issue you'd like for me to write about, please let me know. If there's a particular question you'd like for me to answer right away, email me (richella (at) gmail (dot) com).


Jana said...

I love this series! A related word you could add to this particular post is "pique(d)." The other day I saw someone talk about their curiosity being "peaked" the other day on a blog.

Thanks for helping us all to stay on top of our grammatical game. I always smile when your hat picture pops up in my Google Reader posts!

Jana said...

Oops--I didn't need to say "the other day" twice!

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

Very good explanation! The other day I saw two or three bloggers (in the same day!) misuse the words "past" and "passed." I thought of you and this series immediately. ;)

Em and Lib said...

You are ROCKING this serieds! so clever adn you are such a gentle and compassionate teacher - not an ounce of sarcasm!!

Cherdecor said...

Thank you for your gentle and sweet grammar lessons. Even though I know the difference in the spellings of words, I go so fast that I sometimes use the wrong one.

When something piques our attention......I saw a very different spelling of that word on a blog. I wonder if people make up their own words. =) I think they call it inventive spelling?

Thank you for your sweet lessons.
You always share the love of God along with your lesson. You have a gift.

Shelly @ Life on the Wild Side said...

Others beat me to it, but I was also going to mention "pique" which also gets misused ALL the time. I think people are afraid of that one. :) Thanks for this!! *wink, wink*

melissa * 320 Sycamore said...

So wait...if I want to say my curiosity was peaked, it is supposed to be piqued??

Kirsty said...

Just found this series! Love it.

Dawn said...

i love that cute little reminder :) you know i'll think of you everytime i write "peek" and think of 2 eyes :)

i can't remember.... did we already do past & passed???

Dawn said...

oh now i see amanda suggested it too!!! funny ;)

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