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[spahyk] /spaɪk/
a naillike fastener, 3 to 12 inches (7.6 to 30.5 cm) long and proportionately thicker than a common nail, for fastening together heavy timbers or railroad track.
something resembling such a nail; a stiff, sharp-pointed piece or part:
to set spikes in the top of a cement wall.
a sharp-pointed piece of metal set with the point outward, as on a weapon.
an abrupt increase or rise:
a chart showing a spike of unusual activity in the stock market; a sudden spike of electrical current.
a rectangular or naillike metal projection on the heel and sole of a shoe for improving traction, as of a baseball player or a runner.
spikes, a pair of shoes having such projections.
the unbranched antler of a young deer.
Botany. a flower stalk.
a pointed portion of a continuous curve or graph, usually rising above the adjacent portion:
a spike in the value of the voltage.
Volleyball. a hard smash, hit close to the net, almost straight down into the opponent's court.
Slang. a hypodermic needle.
verb (used with object), spiked, spiking.
to fasten or secure with a spike or spikes.
to provide or set with a spike or spikes.
to pierce with or impale on a spike.
to set or stud with something suggesting spikes.
to injure (another player or a competitor) with the spikes of one's shoe, as in baseball.
Volleyball. to hit (a ball in the air) with a powerful, overarm motion from a position close to the net so as to cause it to travel almost straight down into the court of the opponents.
Football. to slam (the ball) to the ground in the end zone, after scoring a touchdown.
to render (a muzzle-loading gun) useless by driving a spike into the touchhole.
to make ineffective; frustrate or thwart:
to spike a rumor; to spike someone's chances for promotion.
  1. to add alcoholic liquor to (a drink).
  2. to add (a chemical, poison, or other substance) to:
    The cocoa was spiked with cyanide.
Journalism Slang. to refuse (a story) by or as if by placing on a spindle.
verb (used without object), spiked, spiking.
to rise or increase sharply (often followed by up):
Interest rates spiked up last week.
spike someone's guns. gun1 (def 16).
Origin of spike1
1300-50; Middle English spik(e) (noun) < Old Norse spīkr nail; akin to Old Norse spīk, Middle Low German spīker nail
Related forms
spikelike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for spike up


a sharp point
any sharp-pointed object, esp one made of metal
a long metal nail
  1. a transient variation in voltage or current in an electric circuit
  2. a graphical recording of this, such as one of the peaks on an electroencephalogram
(pl) shoes with metal projections on the sole and heel for greater traction, as used by athletes
the straight unbranched antler of a young deer
(Brit, slang) another word for dosshouse
verb (mainly transitive)
to secure or supply with or as with spikes
to render ineffective or block the intentions of; thwart
to impale on a spike
to add alcohol to (a drink)
(journalism) to reject (a news story)
(volleyball) to hit (a ball) sharply downwards with an overarm motion from the front of one's own court into the opposing court
(formerly) to render (a cannon) ineffective by blocking its vent with a spike
spike someone's guns, to thwart someone's purpose
Word Origin
C13 spyk; related to Old English spīcing nail, Old Norse spīk splinter, Middle Low German spīker spike, Norwegian spīk spoke², Latin spīca sharp point; see spike²


noun (botany)
an inflorescence consisting of a raceme of sessile flowers, as in the gladiolus and sedges
an ear of wheat, barley, or any other grass that has sessile spikelets
Word Origin
C14: from Latin spīca ear of corn
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for spike up



"large nail," mid-14c., perhaps from Old Norse spik "splinter" (related to Old English spicing "large nail"), from Proto-Germanic *spikaz (cf. Middle Dutch spicher, Dutch spijker "nail," Old English spaca, Old High German speihha "spoke"), from PIE root *spei- "sharp point" (cf. Latin spica "ear of corn," spina "thorn, prickle, backbone," and perhaps pinna "pin" (see pin (n.)); Greek spilas "rock, cliff;" Lettish spile "wooden fork;" Lithuanian speigliai "thorns," spitna "tongue of a buckle," Old English spitu "spit").

But based on gender difficulties in the Germanic words, OED casts doubt on this whole derivation and says the English word may be a borrowing of Latin spica (see spike (n.2)), from the same root. Slang meaning "needle" is from 1923. Meaning "pointed stud in athletic shoes" is from 1832. Electrical sense of "pulse of short duration" is from 1935.



"ear of grain," late 14c., from Latin spica "ear of grain," related to spina "thorn" (see spike (n.1)).



1620s, "to fasten with spikes," see spike (n.1). Meaning "To rise in a spike" is from 1958. Military sense (1680s) means "to disable guns by driving a big nail into the touch-hole." Figurative use of this sense is from 1823. Meaning "to lace (a drink) with liquor" is from 1889. Journalism sense of "to kill a story before publication" (1908) is from the metal spindle in which old-time editors filed hard copy of stories after they were set in type, or especially when rejected for publication.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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spike up in Medicine

spike (spīk)
A brief electrical event of 3 to 25 milliseconds that gives the appearance in the electroencephalogram of a rising and falling vertical line.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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spike up in Science
An elongated indeterminate inflorescence in which the flowers are attached directly to a common stem, rather than borne on individual stalks arising from the stem. The gladiolus produces spikes. The distinctive spikes of grasses such as wheat or barley are known as spikelets. See illustration at inflorescence.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for spike up

spike up

verb phrase

To inject narcotics; shoot up: if he came home and found her spiking up (1960s+ Narcotics)



A hypodermic needle (1934+ Narcotics)


  1. To strengthen a drink by adding alcohol or liquor: He spiked his coffee with brandy (1889+)
  2. To riseto a high level, esp rapidly: He also spikes into the upper registers/ push fluids when the patient has spiked a temp (1960s+)
  3. To reject; quash: The spiking of Schanberg's column at The Times drew hundreds of angry letters from readers/ confident the man's disbelieving New York editors will spike the story (1908+)
  4. To injure a player, most often a defending baseman, with the spikes on one's shoes (1885+ Baseball)
  5. To punch a volleyball powerfully and unreturnably down (1970s+ Volleyball)
  6. To slam the ball down, usually done by a player who has just scored a touchdown (1970s+ Football)
  7. To shoot: Figure whoever spiked Porter probably did us a favor (1990s+ Black)

[all senses fr spike, ''large nail,'' hence ''sharp point''; the sense ''to reject'' may be fr the earlier phrase spike a gun, ''render a cannon useless by driving a spike into the touchhole,'' or fr the notion of dealing with a paper, bill, manuscript, etc, by impaling it on a spindle or spindle file]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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