Friday, January 4

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.