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Pike, Weapon

PIKE, WEAPON, a word which, with its collateral forms " pick " and " peak," has as its basic meaning that of anything pointed or tapering to a point. The ultimate etymology is much disputed, and the interrelation of the collaterals is very confused. In Old English there are two forms (pic), one with a long and the other with a short vowel, which give " pike " and " pick " respectively. The first form gave in the 15th century the variant " peak," first with reference to the peaked shoes then fashionable, pekyd schone. In Romanic languages are found Fr. pic., Span, pica, Ital. piccare, to pierce, etc. There are also similar words in Welsh, Cornish and Breton. The Scandinavian forms, e.g. Swed. and Nor. pik, are probably taken from English. While some authorities take the Celtic as the original, others look to Latin for the source. Here the woodpecker, plcus, is referred to, or more probably the root seen in spica, ear of corn, and spina, prickle (English spike, spine). The current differentiation in meanings attached to pike, pick and peak are more or less clearly marked, though in dialects they may vary, (i) Pike: Apart from the use as the name of the fish (see above), probably a shortened form of pike-fish, from its sharp, pointed beak, the common uses of the word are for a long hafted weapon with sharply pointed head of iron or steel, the common weapon of the foot-soldier till the introduction of the bayonet (see SPEAR and BAYONET), and for a hill with a pointed summit, appearing chiefly in the names of such hills in Cumberland, Westmorland and North West Lancashire. It may be noticed that the proverbial expression " plain as a pike-staff " appears originally as " plain as a pack-staff," the flat plain sided staff on which a pedlar carried and rested his pack. The use of " pike " for a highway, a toll-gate, etc., is merely short for " turnpike." (2) Pick: As a substantive this form is chiefly used of the common tool of the navvy and the miner, consisting of a curved doubleended head set at right angles to the handle, one end being squared with a chisel edge, the other pointed, and used for loosening and breaking hard masses of earth, coal, etc. (see TOOLS). The other name for this tool, " pickaxe," is a corruption of the earlier pikoys, Fr. picois, M. Lat. picosium, formed from Fr. pic, the termination being adapted to the familiar English " axe." The sense-development of the verb " to pick " is not very clear, but the following meanings give the probable line: to dig into anything like a bird with its beak, in order to extract or remove something, to gather, pluck, hence to select, choose. (3) Peak: The chief uses are for the front of a cap or hat projecting sharply over the eyes, for the part of a ship's PIKE-PERCHPILATE hold where it narrows towards the bows, the fore-peak, or towards the stern, the after-peak, for the top corner of a sail extended by a gaff, or for the projecting end of the gaff itself, and for a pointed or conical top of a hill or mountain. The name of the high table-land district in Derbyshire is not to be connected with this word, but probably retains the name of an old English demon, Peac (see PEAK, THE).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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