Word of the Day


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1.something sharp and pointed, especially a piece of metal or wood

2. one of the short pointed pieces of metal on the bottom of some sports shoes

3. a sudden increase in something

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun spike meaning a sharp piece of metal is related to similar words in Germanic and Scandinavian languages. It was first used in English in the 14th century. The second meaning above dates from the early 19th century, while the figurative use is 20th century. The verb, which also has a number of meanings, dates from the early 17th century.


The noun and verb spike have several different meanings beyond the literal ones. The short pieces of metal set in the soles of running shoes and designed to prevent slipping led to such shoes being referred to as spikes. A sudden increase in the amount of electricity that a system produces is called a spike: this meaning dates from the early 20th century. A spike is also a sudden increase in something such as prices, costs or rates. Spike also has a specialist meaning in volleyball, where it refers to a hard downward hit of the ball. To spike food or drink means to add alcohol or a drug to it, usually surreptitiously. If a story or article is spiked, it is not published: this derives from the days when paper copies of news stories would be placed on a metal rod standing on a base after being typeset or because they were not being published.


“Among video game developers, it’s called ‘crunch’: a sudden spike in work hours, as many as 20 a day, that can last for days or weeks on end.”
(Jason Schreier)

“I’d do things like spike my hair and put on a nice shirt, but I’d hardly call myself fashion-conscious.”
(Paolo Nutini)

Related words

surge, leap, spurt

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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