You might use the set expression, piqued my interest from time to time.
But I’m sure you have seen different verbs before the word interest when you’re reading.
The problem, of course, is that the words piqued, peaked, and peeked are homonyms. When we’re speaking, these words don’t cause us any problems because they sound the same.
However, in writing, it’s better to do a quick vocabulary and grammar check. Always make sure you’re using the correct word before you publish your writing.
Why is piqued my interest, correct?
There are a lot of confusing words in English, and the word piqued is a strange one.
The word’s origin is from the mid 16th century.
It derives from the French verb piquer, which means to prick or irritate.
These two meanings still apply to the word piqued, but now one is for the noun and the other for the verb.
When you use pique as a noun, it has the meaning of a feeling or sense of irritation or displeasure resulting from an insult that affects one’s pride.
The common expression is, he left in a fit of pique.
But pique as a verb is totally different. Its sense relates to the verb prick, which means to provoke an action.
The action is to arouse interest or curiosity in something.
So you would say my curiosity was piqued or good writing is about piquing a reader’s interest.
That’s why we collocate the verb pique with curiosity and interest.
Other verbs with curiosity and interest
You can also use expressions with a different verb that have a similar meaning to piqued my interest.
aroused my curiosity
stirred my interest
caught my attention
drew my attention
captured my imagination
attracted my attention
captured my interest
got my attention
Synonyms for pique
The Macmillan Thesaurus provides a handy list of synonyms and phrases for pique someone’s interest.
To make someone feel excited, enthusiastic, or impressed.
To make someone want to know more.
Fire someone with enthusiasm.
Capture someone’s interest/imagination/attention.
Why peaked and peeked are incorrect
You often see the expression using these two verbs instead of piqued.
In fact, I noticed this error while I was reading, and it piqued my interest enough to write this short article.
Peaked my interest is wrong. The word peak as a noun means the top point of a mountain or a similarly shaped object.
Whip egg whites to stiff peaks.
The verb peak means to reach the highest point, either literally or metaphorically.
His career peaked in the early seventies.
The word peek is more straightforward. The verb and noun both have the meaning of taking a quick look or glance at something.
I took a quick peek through the curtains to see what the neighbors were doing.
Therefore, neither peak nor peek work in the expression. You can’t reach the top of your interest or look at it quickly.
Other misused words you occasionally see in the expression are it picked my interest, it ticked my interest, or it pecked my interest.
These are not correct either. But it is understandable if a writer doesn’t take the time to check for the right word choice.
However, there is one verb that can possibly be used in place of pique.
You will sometimes see prick my interest or curiosity.
From the BBC:
So, while it’s a small but personal link to the ship, it was more than enough to prick my curiosity to want to find out more.
From the Huffington Post:
I nearly always notice something different that will prick my curiosity.
I would always prefer pique. But because the verb prick has a similar meaning, it may well be correct.
Always check your homonym use
English homonyms or homophones need extra attention when you’re writing.
It’s easy to get a set expression wrong if you’re deep in your thoughts and concentrating on writing your story, article, or blog post.
But readers notice.
People will be quick to criticize you, especially if you mistype or misuse words in set expressions.
You need to keep your mistakes to a bare/bear minimum.
Can you bear/bare with me for a few minutes?
It is a moot/mute point.
He pored over/poured over the manuscript looking for errors.
He waited with bated/baited breath.
To me, it’s a matter of principle/principal.
He walked past/passed me without saying a word.
I’d hazard a guess/has at a guess that you have made at least one of these mistakes.
She’s on tenterhooks/tender hooks waiting for news.
The only way to be sure you’re correct is to refer to a good dictionary and thesaurus.
But most computers and word processors have these two tools installed by default.
Writers also have a vast selection of other excellent free resources available online today.
However, taking an extra minute to check your use of set expressions is always good insurance.
Hopefully, I piqued your interest with this article.
It’s not a phrase we use very often. But it’s worthwhile knowing how to use it or replace it when the need arises.
You will undoubtedly see peaked my interest many times when you are reading online.
But at least now you know why it’s incorrect.