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See also: Spike



From Middle English spike, spyke, spik,[1] from Old Norse spík (spike, sprig), from Proto-Germanic *spīkō (stick, splinter, point), from Proto-Indo-European *spey- (to be pointed; sharp point, stick). Cognate with Icelandic spík (spike), Swedish spik (spike, nail), Dutch spijker (nail), Old English spīcing (spike), and Latin spīca (ear of corn), which may have influenced some senses.


  • IPA(key): /spaɪk/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -aɪk


spike (plural spikes)

  1. A sort of very large nail.
  2. A piece of pointed metal etc. set with points upward or outward.
    The trap was lined with spikes.
  3. (by extension) Anything resembling such a nail in shape.
    • 1726, [Joseph Addison], Dialogues Upon the Usefulness of Ancient Medals. [], [London], →OCLC, page 111:
      He wears on his head the Corona Radiata, which at that time was another type of his Divinity. The ſpikes that ſhoot out from the crown were the repreſent the rays of the Sun.
  4. An ear of corn or grain.
  5. (botany) A kind of inflorescence in which sessile flowers are arranged on an unbranched elongated axis.
  6. (informal, chiefly in the plural) A running shoe with spikes in the sole to provide grip.
  7. A sharp peak in a graph.
  8. A surge in power or in the price of a commodity, etc.; any sudden and brief change that would be represented by a sharp peak on a graph.
    • 2019 April 1, Ana Swanson, “Avocado Shortages and Price Spikes: How Trump’s Border Closing Would Hit U.S.”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN:
      If the border were shut down, consumers would most likely see an immediate spike in food prices, and supplies of fresh food could dwindle from grocery store shelves in a matter of days.
    • 2023 November 1, Nick Brodrick talks to Jason Cocker, “A station that "oozes" customer service...”, in RAIL, number 995, pages 52-53:
      As well as the boom in off-peak leisure numbers, "there has been a big spike in passenger assistance - that's really taken off as well", he continues. "We're probably victims of our own success because we promote this more than we ever used to. We promote how accessible the railways are. I think that this area has more than doubled from pre-COVID levels.
  9. The rod-like protrusion from a woman's high-heeled shoe that elevates the heel.
  10. A long nail for storing papers by skewering them; (by extension) the metaphorical place where rejected newspaper articles are sent.
    Synonym: spindle
    • 1974, Books and Bookmen:
      It was all true, it appeared. He sat down and wrote it, the editor read it and said: ' We don't use stories like this in this newspaper.' So the story ended up on the spike, reinforcing the principle that wife-swapping, unlike justice, must not be seen to be done.
    • 2005, David Bouchier, Writer at Work: Reflections on the Art and Business of Writing, iUniverse, →ISBN:
      Later I was entrusted with writing the letters to the editor, because nobody else ever wrote to our paper. The editor, Eric Lewis, had a slash and burn style of editing that left its mark on me forever. Most of my stories ended up on the spike.
    • 2013, Margalit Fox, Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code and the Uncovering of a Lost Civilisation, Profile Books, →ISBN:
      Assuming that word of the death reached the Times's newsroom at all, it would have taken little more than one bleary-eyed night editor who had heard neither of Ventris nor of linear B for the obituary to have been consigned to the spike.
  11. (volleyball) An attack from, usually, above the height of the net performed with the intent to send the ball straight to the floor of the opponent or off the hands of the opposing block.
  12. (zoology) An adolescent male deer.
  13. (slang, historical) The casual ward of a workhouse.
  14. Spike lavender.
    oil of spike
  15. (music, lutherie) Synonym of endpin.
  16. (theater) A mark indicating where a prop or other item should be placed on stage.
    • 2020, John Ramsey Holloway, Zachary Stribling, Illustrated Theatre Production Guide, page 15:
      Sometimes actors set props on the spikes, or sometimes a deckhand will do it, depending on the action of the play.
  17. (software engineering, XP) A small project that uses the simplest possible program to explore potential solutions.
    • 2017, Andrew Stellman, Jennifer Greene, Head First Agile [] [2], O'Reilly Media, →ISBN:
      An architectural spike is used to prove that a specific technical approach works. Teams will often do an architectural spike when they have a few different options for designing a specific technical solution, or if they don't know if a certain approach will work.

Derived terms[edit]



spike (third-person singular simple present spikes, present participle spiking, simple past and past participle spiked)

  1. To fasten with spikes, or long, large nails.
    to spike down planks
  2. To set or furnish with spikes.
  3. To embed nails into (a tree) so that any attempt to cut it down will damage equipment or injure people.
  4. To fix on a spike.
    • 1950, Cyril M. Kornbluth, “The Little Black Bag”, in Astounding Science Fiction, volume 45, number 4:
      He spiked the story on the “dead” hook and answered his interphone.
    • 1996, Christine Quigley, The Corpse: A History, McFarland, page 144:
      Better known as Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), he spiked his victims on stakes arranged in geometric patterns and accorded each a high or low spear, according to his or her rank.
  5. (figurative, journalism) To discard; to decide not to publish or make public.
    • 1981, Chris Greyvenstein, The Fighters, page 145:
      Nicolaas, or Nick, as the family called him, wanted to turn professional but an ear injury, sustained during the war, spiked his plans.
    • 2002 October 14, Jonathan Sale, “Edward VIII news blackout”, in The Guardian:
      Instead, the "Beaver" declared he would spike the story about Wallis Simpson and make sure his fellow media moguls sat on it too.
    • 2010, Sharon Marshall, Tabloid Girl[3], Hachette UK, →ISBN:
      Anyway, on this day I was still struggling with how to use fewer than twenty words to sum up my day in Blackpool in a manner which would not prove too upsetting for my parents, when I learned that I'd got spiked. Again.
    • 2017 October 11, Lloyd Grove, “How NBC ‘Killed’ Ronan Farrow’s Weinstein Exposé”, in Daily Beast:
      With two such wildly contradictory versions of why and how NBC News spiked Farrow’s Weinstein story, it’s difficult to determine what objectively occurred.
  6. To increase sharply.
    Traffic accidents spiked in December when there was ice on the roads.
    • 2017, Jennifer S. Holland, For These Monkeys, It’s a Fight for Survival., National Geographic (March 2017)[4]
      But the bigger threat is that people in Sulawesi have been eating macaque meat for centuries. Today it goes for about two dollars a pound (an adult macaque weighs 18 to 23 pounds), and demand spikes at holidays.
  7. To covertly put alcohol or a drug into a drink.
    She spiked my lemonade with vodka!
    • 1968, Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Bantam, published 1997, →ISBN, page 245:
      I asked him what was happening, and if it was all me, and he laughed and held me very close and told me that the Kool-Aid had been ‘spiked’ and that I was just beginning my first LSD experience…
    • 2021, Glenda Young, The Miner's Lass:
      She'd sit by the fire, arms crossed, demanding that Ruby spike her tea with a cinder. But Ruby would never give in to her demands, no matter how much her mam begged. There was no alcohol in the house now; Arthur had made sure of that in an effort to get Mary sober.
  8. To add a small amount of one substance to another.
    The water sample to be tested has been spiked with arsenic, antimony, mercury, and lead in quantities commonly found in industrial effluents.
  9. (volleyball) To attack from, usually, above the height of the net with the intent to send the ball straight to the floor of the opponent or off the hands of the opposing block.
    Synonyms: attack, hit
  10. (military) To render (a gun) unusable by driving a metal spike into its touch hole.
    • 1833, [Frederick Marryat], chapter XVIII, in Peter Simple. [], volume I, London: Saunders and Otley, [], published 1834, →OCLC, page 299:
      He jumped down, wrenched the hammer from the armourer's hand, and seizing a nail from the bag, in a few moments he had spiked the gun.
    • 1990, Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game, Folio Society, published 2010, pages 235–6:
      Small skirmishes also took place, and the Afghans managed to seize a pair of mule-guns and force the British to spike and abandon two other precious guns.
  11. (American football slang) To slam the football to the ground, usually in celebration of scoring a touchdown, or to stop expiring time on the game clock after snapping the ball as to save time for the losing team to attempt to score the tying or winning points.
    to spike the football
    • 2022 September 13, Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper, quoting Colin Kahl, “The Critical Moment Behind Ukraine’s Rapid Advance”, in The New York Times[5], →ISSN:
      “No one is spiking the football yet,” Mr. Kahl said.
  12. (slang) To inject a drug with a syringe.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “spike”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.