Saturday, February 05, 2011


Maureen has a daughter interested in gymnastics, and she has encountered the word pike.

The pike is a jackknife body position used in jumps, on parallel bars, or on rings, in which the body is bent forward at the waist with the legs kept straight. It may have been named because the body in that position looks like the pointed head of the weapon called a pike.

Pike turns out to be an interesting word with many applications. Used as a noun, we find

  • a pickaxe; a pick used in digging, breaking up ground or rock, dressing stone, etc.
  • the pointed metal tip of a staff, spear, arrow, etc.
  • a prickle, thorn, or spine, especially of a plant or animal.
  • an implement for clearing the ear; an ear-pick.
  • the spike or pin in a lathe upon which one end of the object to be turned is fixed.
  • a pilgrim's staff.
  • a pitchfork or hay-fork
  • a tent pole, or its pointed end.
  • a single-pronged pole used for moving blocks of salt.
  • a long pointed toe of a shoe or boot, of a type fashionable in the 14th and 15th centuries.
  • the pointed end of an anvil.
  • a narrow triangular or wedge-shaped piece of land, especially at the side of a field.
  • a mountain or hill with a pointed summit.
  • a beacon, pillar, or cairn built on the highest point of a mountain or hill.
  • a pointed or peaked stack, often conically shaped, in which hay is either stored or dried temporarily in the field before being stored.
  • a long-bodied, predatory freshwater fish having a pointed snout with large teeth.
  • a weapon consisting of a long wooden shaft with a pointed steel head.
  • a mountain peak, especially a volcanic cone.
  • a road on which a toll is collected at a toll gate; a turnpike.
  • a railway line or system.
  • in California and other Pacific states of the U.S., a member of a perceived class of poor white migrants from the southern states of the U.S., especially from Pike County, Missouri.

Used as a verb, we have

  • to make off with oneself; to hasten off, go away.
  • to gamble cautiously or for small amounts; the person who does so is called a piker.
  • to travel from end to end.
  • to sail close to the wind.
  • to wound, impale, or kill with a pike.
  • to heap or pile up (hay) into pikes.
  • to lift (something) with a pike.
  • to grade or resurface a road; to provide with a crown.
  • to adopt a pike position.

By the way, Pike’s Peak is not a redundancy. The mountain was named after Zebulon Pike, the man who explored the southern Colorado area in 1806.

SIDEBAR: Double pike

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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