Friday, January 04, 2013

Posted by Laurel Garver on Friday, January 04, 2013 10 comments
In my continuing series Homophone Helps, we'll be looking at three sound-alikes I've frequently seen confused both online and in some self-published books. Getting a handle on which word belongs in which context is so important because, for the most part, your computer's spell check won't catch this sort of error.

image from


peak (n.) - a projecting point, as on a mountain; the high point, top, summit, climax, apex.

peak (v., intrans.) To reach a highest point.

peak (adj.) - excellent or top-rate; descriptor for an insult so cutting it silences an opponent, humiliating (urban slang, US); bad luck, banter that's on the verge of taboo (urban slang, UK).

Common phrases: peak performance, peak of his career, widow's peak, Pike's Peak

Menmonic:  Arriving Atop an Alps PEAK was the Apex of his Austria trip.



peek (n.) - a quick, furtive look

peek (v., intrans.) - glance or look briefly; look through a small opening or from a place of concealment

Common phrases: "Close your eyes, no peeking!", play peek-a-boo, sneak peeks

Mnemonic: When she PEEKED, she could SEE LEE.

image by Alvimann


pique (n.) resentment; a feeling of wounded vanity or pride

pique (v., trans.) to excite or arouse; to irritate

This term comes to us from the French piquer, meaning to prick or goad

Common phrases: fit of pique, piqued my interest/curiosity

The cruel, Quick Quip made her Quiver with PIQUE.
The Queen's Queer Quirks PIQUE our curiosity.

Test your skills

1. Philip covered Carrie's eyes and begged her not to ____.

2. That article certainly has _____ my interest in learning to knit.

3. "You don't think my outfit is the ____ of fashion?" Liz cried, and in a fit of ____, stormed off.

4. Louisa's curiosity was ____, so she climbed to the roof ____ and tried to ____ through the skylight.

Which of these terms tend to trip you up? How did you do on the quiz? 

Answers: 1. peek 2. piqued 3. peak, pique 4. piqued, peak, peek.


  1. Nice post. It piqued my interest to peek inside my wip to see if any were misused. :-)

    1. Excellent! Here's to error-free manuscripts in the new year!

  2. Replies
    1. Hope it's useful. Happy New Year to you also!

  3. Do you think that kitty was upset 'cause the dude in the photo above her was peeking at her from behind a dog?

  4. Once I got corrected on this once, I now use pique correctly. But just b/c of the similarity I'll use peek instead of peak by accident. It happens. :)

    1. I hope the mnemonics help you keep them straight. The visuals might too.

  5. Laurel, these are always so helpful. I am wondering if you can help me with lay, lie, lying, laying, laid, lied. Every time I write a version of the word, I have to look it up and then I can never remember the next time. It's come to a point where I avoid characters resting or objects being put in a place ;) Do you have a trick for using them properly (It's a terrible block in my brain)

    1. You bet. I did a post called "No lie, why we misuse lay." Here's the link:

      And if you're wondering, yes, my homophone helps series will eventually be a book. If all goes well, I'll have it out in 2014.