• pique •
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1. To arouse mild resentment or indignation. 2. To arouse or bestir, not quite to excite. 3. To be proud of or take pride in, as to pique yourself on your game of golf.
Notes: Today's word may also be used as a noun without any extension, as in doing something spiteful in a fit of pique. The adjective for the noun was once piquant but this word has of late assumed a sense of its own: "spicy, sharp in flavor". If you are easily piqued, then you are piquable (don't forget to drop the E before the suffix). One final caveat: do not confuse today's Good Word with piqué [pee-kay], a fabric with a raised pattern.
In Play: Pique is part and parcel of marriage: "Marilyn was so piqued by Horace's forgetting their wedding anniversary that she spent a week at a very expensive spa." Pique is a rather mild sort of indignation, nothing maddening: "Anita Job was piqued at finding her coffee mug holding pencils on her assistant's desk." In fact, it can refer to simple arousal or stimulation, as a cookbook might pique your interest in pickled mushrooms.
Word History: The -que on the end of today's Good Word is a dead giveaway that it comes straight from French where it means "a prick or irritation". French is, of course, Latin as it developed and is currently spoken in France, so the word set out as Latin piccare. The root of this verb also produced French pic "pick", as a toothpick or a pickaxe, borrowed by English. This word both retained its French pronunciation (pick) and developed into the more English-sounding, pike, something that can make a very deep prick. (We are grateful that today's word piqued the curiosity of our old friend and long-time word-collector, Chris Stewart of South Africa.)
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