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See also: Pike and pikë


Etymology 1[edit]

A modern recreation in Memmingen, Germany, of a mid-17th century company of pikemen holding pikes (etymology 1, sense 1)
A large haycock is called a pike (etymology 1, sense 1.3)
Two divers in a competition in Brazil in the pike position (etymology 1, sense 1.4)
A northern pike (Esox lucius; etymology 1, sense 2) caught in the Numedalslågen in Norway

From Middle English pike, pik, pyk, pyke (pike; sharp point, iron tip of a staff or spear, pointed toe of an item of footwear; sharp tool; mountain, peak), from Old English pīc (pointed object, pick axe),[1] and Middle French pique (long thrusting weapon), from Old French pic (sharp point, spike);[2] both ultimately from Proto-Germanic *pīkaz, *pīkō (sharp point, pike, peak), related to pick with a narrower meaning.

The word is cognate with Middle Dutch pecke, peke, picke (modern Dutch piek), dialectal German Peik, Norwegian pik, and possibly Old Irish pīk. It is a doublet of pique.

Noun sense 1.4 (“diving or gymnastics position”) is probably from the tapered appearance of the body when the position is executed.[1]

Noun sense 2 (“carnivorous freshwater fish”) is probably derived from the “sharp point, spike” senses,[3] due to the fish’s pointed jaws.[4]

Verb sense 3 (“to quit or back out of a promise”) may be from the sense of taking up a pilgrim's staff or pike and leaving on a pilgrimage;[4] and compare Middle English pī̆ken (to go, remove oneself) and Old Danish pikke af (to go away).[5]



pike (plural pikes)

  1. Senses relating to a pointed object.
    1. (military, historical) A very long spear used two-handed by infantry soldiers for thrusting (not throwing), both for attacks on enemy foot soldiers and as a countermeasure against cavalry assaults.
    2. A sharp point, such as that of the weapon.
      (Can we find and add a quotation of Beaumont and Fletcher to this entry?)
      • 1790, James Bruce, chapter V, in Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile, in the Years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772, and 1773. In Five Volumes, volume IV, Edinburgh: Printed by J. Ruthven, for G. G. J. and J. Robinson, Paternoster-Row, London, OCLC 535466037, page 117:
        Each had a ſmall ax in the ſurcingle of his ſaddle, and a pike about fourteen feet long, the weapon with which he charged; []
    3. A large haycock (conical stack of hay left in a field to dry before adding to a haystack).
      (Can we find and add a quotation of Halliwell to this entry?)
    4. (diving, gymnastics) A position with the knees straight and a tight bend at the hips with the torso folded over the legs, usually part of a jack-knife. [from 1920s]
    5. (fashion, dated) A pointy extrusion at the toe of a shoe.
      • 1765, William Blackstone, “Of the Absolute Rights of Individuals”, in Commentaries on the Laws of England, book I (Of the Rights of Persons), Oxford: Printed at the Clarendon Press, OCLC 65350522, page 122:
        Thus the ſtatute of king Edward IV, which forbad the fine gentlemen of thoſe times (under the degree of a lord) to wear pikes upon their ſhoes or boots of more than two inches in length, was a law that ſavoured of oppreſſion; becauſe, however ridiculous the faſhion then in uſe might appear, the reſtraining of it by pecuniary penalties could ſerve no purpoſe of common utility.
      • 1861, Charles Macfarlane; Thomas Thomson, “History of Society. From the Accession of Henry IV. (A.D. 1399) to the Death of Richard III. (A.D. 1485).”, in Thomas Thomson, editor, The Comprehensive History of England; Civil and Military, Religious, Intellectual, and Social, from the Earliest Period to the Suppression of the Sepoy Revolt, volume I, rev. edition, London; Glasgow; Edinburgh: Blackie and Son, Paternoster Row, OCLC 896578837, page 686, column 1:
        During the earlier part of this period, the long pike disappeared from the shoe, but in the later part it returned in greater longitude than ever. So highly valued indeed was this singular piece of extravagance [] that by a sumptuary statute of 1463, none but lords were allowed to wear shoes or boots having pikes more than two inches long.
    6. (chiefly Northern England) Especially in place names: a hill or mountain, particularly one with a sharp peak or summit.
      Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England.
      • 1621, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], “Ayre Rectified. With a Digression of the Ayre.”, in The Anatomy of Melancholy, Oxford: Printed by Iohn Lichfield and Iames Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 216894069; The Anatomy of Melancholy: What It Is. With All the Kindes, Cavses, Symptomes, Prognosticks, and Seuerall Cvres of It. In Three Maine Partitions, with Their Seuerall Sections, Members, and Svbsections. Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically Opened and Cut Up, by Democritvs Iunior, with a Satyricall Preface, Conducing to the Following Discourse, 2nd corrected and augmented edition, Oxford: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, 1624, OCLC 54573970, partition 2, section 2, member 3, page 209:
        The pike of Teneriffe how high it is? 70 miles or 52, as Patritius holds: []
    7. (obsolete) A pick, a pickaxe.
      (Can we find and add a quotation of Raymond to this entry?)
      (Can we find and add a quotation of Wright to this entry?)
    8. (obsolete, Britain, dialectal) A hayfork.
      (Can we find and add a quotation of Tusser to this entry?)
    9. (obsolete, often euphemistic) A penis.
  2. Any carnivorous freshwater fish of the genus Esox, especially the northern pike, Esox lucius.
    • 1880, Charles Dickens, Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames, from Its Source to the Nore:
      If you fish for pike with a live-bait, snap tackle, or spinning, it should always be with the hooks attached to gimp, in consequence of the several rows of sharp teeth with which the pike is armed, and which enable it to bite gut in two.
Derived terms[edit]


pike (third-person singular simple present pikes, present participle piking, simple past and past participle piked)

  1. (transitive) To prod, attack, or injure someone with a pike.
    • 1801, Richard Musgrave, Memoirs of the Different Rebellions in Ireland, page 73:
      The same day William Watters and John Reitly of Coolatin, parish of Carnew, were piked.
  2. (transitive, intransitive, diving, gymnastics) To assume a pike position.
    • 1979, Peter Tatlow, Gymnastics: all the beauty and skills of this thrilling sport:
      In the early stages he can do this by bending at the elbows (no more than 90) as he pikes the legs and straightens the arms in co-ordination with the upward swing of the cast, so that the whole body is extended as he reaches handstand.
    • 1980, The Story of a Young Gymnast, Tracee Talavera, page 98:
      At the front of her swing she pikes to wrap her legs under the low bar.
    • 2013, Peter McGinnis, Biomechanics of Sport and Exercise, page 196:
      Then she flexes at the hips and folds herself in half (she pikes), and her rotation speeds up as if by magic.
  3. (intransitive, gambling) To bet or gamble with only small amounts of money.
    • 1900, Clarence Louis Cullen, Tales of the Ex-tanks: A Book of Hard-luck Stories, page 339:
      I put the temporary squinch on the rum bug when I got there and piked along at a ten-cent table with the last two dollars I had.
    • 1920, Isabel Ostrander, How Many Cards?, page 188:
      Not that my wife is an inveterate gambler; as a matter of fact the poor kid hasn't any card sense at all and doesn't even care for it She only piked along because I—I compelled her to.
    • 1964, Frank Merriwell's "father", page 208:
      I found no difficulty in obtaining admission to the Navarre's long gambling room, where I "piked" by placing two-bit bets on the numbered roulette board.
  4. (intransitive, Australia, New Zealand, slang) Often followed by on or out: to quit or back out of a promise.
    Don’t pike on me like you did last time!
    • 2002, Sylvia Lawson, How Simone De Beauvoir Died in Australia, page 151,
      —But Camus piked out, said Carole. Sartre and that lot got pissed off with him, he stood off from the war, he wouldn′t oppose it.
    • 2006, Pip Wilson, Faces in the Street: Louisa and Henry Lawson and the Castlereagh Street Push, page 543,
      Holman accepted the challenge while Norton ‘piked out’; nevertheless Holman won Cootamundra against a strong candidate.
    • 2008, Chris Pash, The Last Whale, Fremantle Press, Australia, page 36,
      If they didn′t go ahead, it would look like they had piked, backed down.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Clipping of turnpike (a toll road, especially a toll expressway; a spiked barrier across a road, originally used to block access to the road until toll had been paid).

Noun sense 2 (“gypsy, itinerant tramp, or traveller”) and verb sense 2 (“to depart, travel, especially to flee, run away”) may refer to someone frequently using turnpikes, or may be derived from Middle English pī̆ken (to go, remove oneself).[5]


pike (plural pikes)

  1. Short for turnpike.
  2. (derogatory, slang) A gypsy, itinerant tramp, or traveller from any ethnic background; a pikey.
    • 1873, Charles Nordhoff, California, page 138:
      The true "Pike," however, in the Californian sense of the word, is the wandering gypsy-like Southern poor white.


pike (third-person singular simple present pikes, present participle piking, simple past and past participle piked)

  1. (intransitive) To equip with a turnpike.
    • 1889, Annual Report of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture:
      The saving on what was piked the years before would be such that you would be able to pay into the treasury only the amount that you did the first year.
    • 1918, The Lehigh Law Journal, volume 7, page 198:
      On motion Duke street from King street to Princess street was ordered to be piked.
  2. (intransitive, obsolete, Britain, thieves' cant) To depart or travel (as if by a turnpike), especially to flee, to run away.
    • c. 1789, Parker, George, “The Sandman's Wedding”, in Farmer, John Stephen, editor, Musa Pedestris, published 1896, page 65:
      Into a booze-ken they pike it.
    • 1828, Bulwer-Lytton, Edward, chapter LXXXIII, in Pelham: or The Adventures of a Gentleman[2], page 402:
      "Crash the cull—down with him—down with him before he dubs the jigger. Tip him the degan, Fib, fake him through and through; if he pikes we shall all be scragged."
    • 1918, Sewell Ford, Odd Numbers: Being Further Chronicles of Shorty McCabe:
      "Here, hold Bismarck!" says Aunty, jammin' the brass cage into Mr. Mallory's arm, and with that she pikes straight over to us.


  1. 1.0 1.1 pike” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2018.
  2. ^ pī̆k(e, n.(1)” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 17 February 2018.
  3. ^ pī̆k(e, n.(2)” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 17 February 2018.
  4. 4.0 4.1 pike” (US) / “pike” (UK) in Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press.
  5. 5.0 5.1 pī̆ken, v.(1)” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 17 February 2018.
  6. ^ William Shakespeare (2016), James C. Bulman, editor, King Henry IV Part 2 (The Arden Shakespeare Third Series), London; New York, N.Y.: Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 978-1-9042-7136-9, published 2017, footnote 51, page 254.


Norwegian Bokmål[edit]


From Old Norse píka.


pike f, m (definite singular pika or piken, indefinite plural piker, definite plural pikene)

  1. a girl

Usage notes[edit]

Jente is the standard appellation for girl in Norwegian, however, pike may also be used observing its somewhat conservative tint.


Derived terms[edit]