To look peaky and to look poorly

Discussion in 'English Only' started by europefranc, Jan 29, 2006.

  1. europefranc

    europefranc Senior Member


    Thanks for the precious explanations!!! Has to look peaky the same meaning as to look poorly? Don't they stem from poor and peak? (peak of a mountain ex)?

    Have a nice Monday.

  2. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    I'd say poorly is broadly the same as ill, unwell, the opposite of healthy. Peaky is a bit different: weak, under the weather, but not necessarily ill. You can feel peaky after a heavy night on the town, or if you've not had enough sleep: you're not necessarily ill. I also think of pale, although maybe that's just me.

    Peaky apparently comes from the verb peak in the following sense:
    (Source: OED) Originally it was "peaking" or "peaked" before becoming "peaky".

    Poorly comes from poor. Most words describing the state of one's health were originally adverbs (as in other languages you might say "va bene", "ça va bien", etc. -- except after "be" or "do" rather than "go"), so people would say:
    I'm well
    I'm ill (adverb of bad)
    I'm poorly

    "Ill" and "poorly" have become adjectives, though, and (especially?) in American English people tend to say "Good" rather than "Well" in response to "How are you?". American English also used the adjective "sick" where British English uses "ill". (In BE "to be sick" means to vomit.)
  3. europefranc

    europefranc Senior Member


    So, does illness involve also a psychological state and disease sothing proved by tests?! And to feel sick = to feel nauseous?


  4. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Interesting-- to me it's still "peaked," and I'd call it an obsolete expression that was quaint even when people were using it. Also, for some reason in AE it's pronounced with two syllables, like "naked," not "peekt."

    We say "I'm sick" or "I'm feeling a little sick" or "I was sick yesterday," meaning generally ill, and likewise "you'll get sick" or "that'll make you sick, you know"-- but "I think I'm gonna be sick" is a good prompt for everybody to get out of the way.
  5. cirrus

    cirrus Senior Member

    Crug Hywel
    UK English
    That's how I'd understand it. If someone said I feel sick, I'd be reaching for a bucket for them if there wasn't a bathroom nearby.
  6. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Certainly in BE if someone announces they feel sick it's time, as others say, to get clear. But to say that someone is sick, or was sick last week, only means that they were unwell. Sick leave is what you take when you are not well.

    Poorly is a very English word - I mean English (and possibly Welsh) rather than Scottish or Irish. As well as saying "I feel poorly", it may appear as "He's a very poorly boy today."

    Words like illness and disease are used very loosely - to describe anything from a hangover to life-limiting conditions. Psychological disorders would usually be described as illness, rather than disease.

    Peaky is what you look when you are on the way to becoming poorly - although you may recover without becoming poorly.
  7. djrslx New Member

    Thanks a lot for your information
  8. mjscott Senior Member

    Yes, I pronounce it as two syllables--PEEK-ud. I guess I'm just somewhere between quaint and obsolete. Someone can look peaked, also, if they have seen something that was shocking and caused the blood to run from their face.

    What's wrong? You look peaked.
    --I think I just saw my dead grandfather!

    You're looking a little peaked. Are you sure you want to watch while I stitch up your finger?
    --Yeah, I'm fine....Hey, wait! Did somebody turn off the lights....(faint)

Share This Page