See also: Pike and pikë



A 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 3)
A northern pike (Esox lucius; etymology 1, sense 4) caught in the Numedalslågen in Norway
Two divers in a competition in Brazil in the pike position (etymology 1, sense 5)

Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English pyke, pyk, pik, pike (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), German Pike, Norwegian pik, and possibly Old Irish pīk. It is a doublet of pique.

The diving or gymnastics position is probably from tapered appearance of the body when the position is executed.[1]

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

The verb sense “to quit or back out of a promise” may be from the sense of taking up 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. (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.
    • c. 1558–1602, Ralph Rabbards, “[Letters on Scientific Subjects.] Ralph Rabbards to Queen Elizabeth. [MS. Lansd. No. 121. Art. 14.] A Coppie of Notes Delivered to Her Majestie by Raphe Rabbards.”, in James Orchard Halliwell, editor, Ludus Conventriæ. A Collection of Mysteries, formerly Represented at Coventry on the Feast of Corpus Christi, London: Printed for the Shakespeare Society, published 1841, OCLC 499471454, page 11:
      An arme pike which a weake man maye use or handle very reddily with such force as a man will not thincke, and the same pike will also become a very good shotte at all tymes.
    • 1825 June 22, [Walter Scott], chapter IV, in Tales of the Crusaders. [...] In Four Volumes, volume I (The Betrothed), Edinburgh: Printed [by James Ballantyne and Co.] for Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Hurst, Robinson, and Co., OCLC 5584494, page 71:
      Wounded and overthrown, the Britons continued their resistance, clung round the legs of the Norman steeds, and cumbered their advance; while their brethren, thrusting with pikes, proved every joint and crevice of the plate and mail, or grappling with the men-at-arms, strove to pull them from their horses by main force, or beat them down with their bills and Welch hooks.
  2. A sharp point, such as that of the weapon.
    • 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, [], 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; []
    • 1855, Jules Raymond Lamé Fleury; M. C. T., transl., “The Death of Don Carlos. From the Year 1567 to 1570.”, in Historical Chapters Relating to Many Lands. Adapted for Children. Translated from the French of M. Lamé Fleury, by a Lady, London: Jackson & Walford, [], OCLC 561678804, page 110:
      A few months after the murder of Don Carlos, the Counts de Horn and d'Egmonte, who had long been detained in prison, notwithstanding their innocence, were put to death by the cruel Alva in the market-place at Brussels, and the heads of these two patriotic martyrs were exposed upon pikes to the view of the populace.
  3. A large haycock (conical stack of hay left in a field to dry before adding to a haystack).
    • 1866, “Mixed Pickles. (A Sea-side Story.)”, in The Ladies’ Companion, and Monthly Magazine, volume XXIX (Second Series), London: Rogerson and Tuxford, [], OCLC 64216652, page 44, column 1:
      On returning to the hayfield, "Where can Mr. Thorn be?" said Mrs. Merton: "I thought he was in the field." / Magenta and Solferino looked at each other; the haymakers had made a pike on top of the hay in which they had buried him. / "Mamma," said Solferino, "I believe he's under that pike!" / [] "He went to sleep," said Magenta, "and we covered him over with hay, and they have made a pike on top of him!" / "You naughty, tiresome children!" said Mrs. Merton: "what have you done?"
  4. Any carnivorous freshwater fish of the genus Esox, especially the northern pike, Esox lucius.
    • 1711 March 10, Jonathan Swift; J[ohn] Hawkesworth, “Letter LV”, in The Works of Jonathan Swift, D.D. Dean of St. Patrick’s, Dublin: [], volume XIII, new edition, London: Printed for Charles Elliot, Edinburgh, published 1784, OCLC 977757961, pages 275–276:
      And now they begin to catch the pikes, and will ſhortly the trouts (pox on theſe miniſters), and I would fain know whether the floods were ever ſo high as to get over the holly bank or the river walk; if ſo, then all my pikes are gone; but I hope not.
    • 1839 November 2, “Memoirs of Harriot, Duchess of St. Albans. By Mrs. Cornwell Baron Wilson, Author of the ‘Life and Correspondence of M. G. Lewis.’ 2 vols. 12mo. London 1839. Colburn.”, in The Literary Gazette; and Journal of the Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, &c., number 1189, London: Printed by Moyes and Barclay, []; published for the proprietors, at the Literary Gazette office, [], OCLC 1009015967, page 694, column 1:
      Lord Erskine soon afterwards came to Brighton, and told Mrs. Coutts, if she would give him a dinner he would provide the fish from his own pond. She agreed; and his present proved to be an overgrown pike, weighing between thirty and forty pounds, and so hideous in its appearance that no guest touched it, the mere sight of it being perfectly disagreeable to many.
    • 1879 (indicated as 1880), [Charles Dickens Jr.], “Pike”, in Dickens’s Dictionary of the Thames: From Oxford to the Nore. [...] An Unconventional Handbook, London: Charles Dickens, [], OCLC 1011597609; republished as Dickens’s Dictionary of the Thames, from Its Source to the Nore. [...] An Unconventional Handbook, London: Macmillan & Co., [], 1883, OCLC 6517068, page 164, column 2:
      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.
  5. (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]
    • 2000, J[ames] G[raham] Ballard, Super-Cannes, London: Flamingo, →ISBN; republished London: Fourth Estate, 2011, →ISBN, page 167:
      She sprang into the air and jack-knifed into a clumsy pike before following her hands into the water.
    • 2008 August 10, “China Wins First Diving Medal at Beijing Olympics”, in The Sports Network[1], archived from the original on 28 July 2013:
      Guo and Wu took a big lead after the second dive, a back dive in pike position, which the judges awarded three perfect tens for synchronization.
  6. (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.
  7. (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.
  8. (obsolete) A pick, a pickaxe.
    • 2015, Joseph Klinoff, “Public Fire Protection”, in Introduction to Fire Protection and Emergency Services, 5th edition, Burlington, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning, →ISBN, page 65:
      The pike axe, a single blade axe with a point on the back side of the head, was designed for forcible entry.
  9. (obsolete, Britain, dialectal) A hayfork.
    • 1580, Thomas Tusser, “A Digression to Husbandlie Furniture”, in Fiue Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie: [], imprinted at London: By Henrie Denham [beeing the assigne of William Seres] [], OCLC 837741850; republished as W[illiam] Payne and Sidney J[ohn Hervon] Herrtage, editors, Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie. [], London: Published for the English Dialect Society by Trübner & Co., [], 1878, OCLC 7391867535, stanza 15, page 37:
      Short rakes for to gather vp barlie to binde, / and greater to rake vp such leauings behinde: / A rake for to hale vp the fitchis that lie, / A pike for to pike them vp handsom to drie.
  10. (obsolete, often euphemistic) A penis.
Derived termsEdit


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, “The Breaking-out of the Rebellion”, in Memoirs of the Different Rebellions in Ireland, [], Dublin: Printed by Robert Marchbank, for John Milliken, [] and John Stockdale, [], OCLC 939656729, pages 260–261:
      Soon after the general marched from Kilcullen, the rebels plundered all the houſes of the proteſtants in it and its vicinity, and murdered ſuch of the inhabitants as could not make their eſcape. [] They piked out one eye of a Mrs. Burchell, aged ninety; they alſo aſſaſſinated ſome wounded ſoldiers who had been left in the town, and Mr. John Cheney at Donard.
    • 1854, L[eonard] B. Gurley, chapter XV, in Memoir of Rev. William Gurley, Late of Milan, Ohio, [], Cincinnati, Oh.: Printed for the author, at the Methodist Book Concern [], OCLC 27776097, page 178:
      They were armed with pikes, which were red with the blood of those they had just murdered. As Mr. Gurley was led toward them, they set up a shout: “O boys, here comes Gurley, the heretic. Pike him! pike him! pike the heretic dog!”
  2. (transitive, intransitive, diving, gymnastics) To assume a pike position.
    • 1979, Peter Tatlow, editor, Gymnastics: All the Beauty and Skills of This Thrilling Sport, Auckland: McGraw-Hill, →ISBN:
      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, Karen Folger Jacobs, The Story of a Young Gymnast: Tracee Talavera, New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books, →ISBN, page 98:
      At the front of her swing she pikes to wrap her legs under the low bar.
    • 2012, Charles Fierro, “Tom”, in Dinkletown Road, [Bloomington, Ind.]: Xlibris, →ISBN, page 50:
      She stood on the block bending slowly; her hands now on the front of the blocks, she dove straight out. Piking, she came up doing the stroke she was famous for—the butterfly.
    • 2013, Peter M[erton] McGinnis, Biomechanics of Sport and Exercise, 3rd edition, Champaign, Ill.: Human Kinetics, →ISBN, page 196:
      A diver jumps off the 3 m platform. She is in a stretched-out position (a layout) and barely rotating at first. 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, New York, N.Y.: Grosset & Dunlap [], OCLC 18355580, 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, “The Lure of Chance”, in How Many Cards?, New York, N.Y.: A. L. Burt Company, [], OCLC 897715944, 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, Gilbert Patten (“Burt L. Standish”), Harriet Hinsdale, assisted by Tony London, editors, Frank Merriwell’'s “Father”: An Autobiography, Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, OCLC 1036254, 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: Stories and Essays, Sydney, N.S.W.: UNSW Press, →ISBN, page 151:
      —But [Albert] Camus piked out, said Carole. [Jean-Paul] Sartre and that lot got pissed off with him, he stood off from the war, he wouldn't oppose it.
    • 2006, Pip Wilson, “Biographies”, in Faces in the Street: Louisa and Henry Lawson and the Castlereagh Street Push, Coffs Harbour, N.S.W.: Pip Wilson, →ISBN; 3rd edition, Coffs Harbour, N.S.W.: Pip Wilson, January 2007, →ISBN, page 543:
      [William] Holman accepted the challenge while [John] Nortonpiked out’; nevertheless Holman won Cootamundra against a strong candidate.
    • 2008, Chris Pash, The Last Whale, ReadHowYouWant edition, Fremantle, W.A.: Fremantle Press, →ISBN, page 36:
      If they didn't go ahead, it would look like they had piked, backed down.
Derived termsEdit

Etymology 2Edit

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.
    They tried out every idea that came down the pike.
    There is heavy traffic on the Mass Pike
    • 1863 June 29, Whitelaw Reid, “Doc. 20. The Battles of Gettysburgh. Cincinnati ‘Gazette’ Account.”, in Frank Moore, editor, The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, with Documents, Narratives, Illustrative Incidents, Poetry, etc., volume VII, New York, N.Y.: D[avid] Van Nostrand, [], published 1864, OCLC 79355077, section III (Thursday’s Doubtful Issue—Friday’s Victory), page 98, column 2:
      Under cover of the woods, they moved still further south, in a direction parallel with the Baltimore pike; but Gregg was moving too, and when they started out toward the pike, they were again confronted.
  2. (derogatory, slang) A gypsy, itinerant tramp, or traveller from any ethnic background; a pikey.
    • 1873, Charles Nordhoff, “A January Day in Los Angeles”, in California: For Health, Pleasure, and Residence. A Book for Travellers and Residents, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, publishers, [], OCLC 26292004, page 138:
      The true "Pike," however, in the Californian sense of the word, is the wandering gypsy-like Southern poor white. [] "I found a Pike the other day killing and salting hogs, and actually hauling the salt pork off to sell it," said a gentleman in whose company we were discussing these people. / "Certainly that was an industrious Pike," said I. / "Yes, but confound it, they were my hogs," he replied, with natural wrath.


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

  1. (intransitive) To equip with a turnpike.
    • 1889, “To What Extent is Macadamizing Practicable. (A Discussion at the Washington Institute.)”, in Agriculture of Pennsylvania, [], Harrisburg, Pa.: Edwin K. Meyers, state printer, OCLC 844614073, page 381:
      Now suppose we commence and pike one mile of road in every township in this county each year, []. 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.
    • 1917 February 19, Charles W. Kaeppel; Calvin E. Arner, reporters, “City of York v. Holtzapple. No. 2.”, in The Lehigh County Law Journal [], volume VII, Allentown, Pa.: Call Publishing Co., published 1918, OCLC 894503250, 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.
    • a. 1789, G[eorge] Parker (?); collected and annotated by John S[tephen] Farmer, “The Sandman’s Wedding”, in Musa Pedestris. Three Centuries of Canting Songs and Slang Rhymes [1536–1896], [s.l.]: Privately published for subscribers only, published 1896, OCLC 459482181, page 65:
      Joe sold his sand, and cly'd his cole, sir [marginal note: pocketed his money] / While Bess got a basket of rags, / Then up to St. Giles's they roll'd, sir, / To every bunter Bess brags: / Into a booze-ken they pike it, [marginal note: go] / Where Bess was admitted we hear; / For none of the coves dare but like it, / As Joey, here kiddy, was there.
    • 1828, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, chapter LXXXIII, in Pelham or Adventures of a Gentleman[2], New York, N.Y.: The Cassell Publishing Co. [], OCLC 19052286, 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. [footnote: Kill the fellow, down with him before he opens the door. Stab him, through and through; if he gets off we shall all be hanged.]
    • 1875 May, “Facts and Fancies”, in Ballou’s Monthly Magazine, volume XLI, number 5 (number 245 overall), Boston, Mass.: Thomes & Talbot, publishers [], OCLC 5585397, page 496, column 2:
      Two hoodlums were "piking" up Woodward Avenue yesterday, when they encountered a boy acquaintance who asked where they were going.
    • 1912, Sewell Ford, “A Long Shot on DeLancey”, in Odd Numbers: Being Further Chronicles of Shorty McCabe, New York, N.Y.: Grosset & Dunlap, publishers, OCLC 1957281, page 77:
      "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, 2001–2020.
  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” in Lexico,; 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, published 2017, →ISBN, footnote 51, page 254.


Middle EnglishEdit



  1. Alternative form of pyke

Norwegian BokmålEdit


From Old Norse píka.


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

  1. a girl

Usage notesEdit

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


Derived termsEdit