Bit peaky

  • Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    This is a BE term, so I'm not familiar with its use, but can it also mean peckish? I ask because of the reference to dinner immediately following. Would someone who feels ill be looking forward to dinner?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Here's the OED:
    peaky, adj.2
    Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈpiːki/ , U.S. /ˈpiki/
    Etymology: Apparently < peak v.1 (compare sense 3) + -y suffix
    Freq. colloq. and regional. Sickly; feeble, puny; showing signs of poor health, fatigue, or undernourishment.
    It's not uncommon, and generally implies non-serious illness in contrast to poorly - ​more like 'under the weather'. I don't think it's related to peckish (although the OED definition refers to undernourishment).
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    From etymonline.com on "peaked":
    "sickly-looking," 1835, from past participle of obsolete verb peak "look sickly or thin, shrink, waste away" (1540s), which is perhaps from peak in sense of "become pointed" through emaciation.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    There is a relationship between peaky and peckish, but it's pretty far-flung. Both can be traced back to pic, an Old English word meaning a pike or pickaxe.

    1. This came down through "to pick at", then "to peck" and ended up meaning to eat with pecking movements, like a bird picking up crumbs. And if you want a little bit of food, you're peckish.
    2. But there's also the fact that a pike is pointed, which gives us the word peak, a mountain-top. And if your face is pointy, it may be because you've not been eating and you're feeling peaky.

    There's a phenomenon in all these - somebody help me with the name of it! - that words with similar meanings cluster around certain sounds. The cluster here includes peak, pike, pick, peck, piquant, pique, picket... all of which have an underlying meaning of spikiness.
     
    Last edited:

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    There is a relationship between peaky and peckish, but it's pretty far-flung. Both can be traced back to pic, and Old English word meaning a pike or pickaxe.

    1. This came down through "to pick at", then "to peck" and ended up meaning to eat with pecking movements, like a bird picking up crumbs. And if you want a little bit of food, you're peckish.
    2. But there's also the fact that a pike is pointed, which gives us the word peak, a mountain-top. And if your face is pointy, it may be because you've not been eating and you're feeling peaky.

    There's a phenomenon in all these - somebody help me with the name of it! - that words with similar meanings cluster around certain sounds. The cluster here includes peak, pike, pick, peck, piquant, pique, picket... all of which have an underlying meaning of spikiness.

    Having eaten a peck of piquant pickles with poached pike I was feeling quite peaked.

    I immediately thought that "peaky" was a back-formation from "peaked". A quick Google check does not show anything to substantiate that thought however.
     
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