verb (used with object), spiked, spik·ing.

verb (used without object), spiked, spik·ing.

to rise or increase sharply (often followed by up): Interest rates spiked up last week.


    spike someone's guns. gun1(def 16).

Origin of spike

1300–50; Middle English spik(e) (noun) < Old Norse spīkr nail; akin to Old Norse spīk, Middle Low German spīker nail
Related formsspike·like, adjective




an ear, as of wheat or other grain.
Botany. an inflorescence in which the flowers are without a stalk, or apparently so, along an elongated, unbranched axis.

Origin of spike

1350–1400; Middle English; probably special use of spike1, influenced by Latin spīca ear of grain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for spike




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
(plural) shoes with metal projections on the sole and heel for greater traction, as used by athletes
the straight unbranched antler of a young deer
British slang another word for dosshouse

verb (mainly tr)

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 for spike

C13 spyk; related to Old English spīcing nail, Old Norse spīk splinter, Middle Low German spīker spike, Norwegian spīk spoke ², Latin spīca sharp point; see spike ²



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 for spike

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

Word Origin and History for spike

"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

Medicine definitions for spike




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.

Science definitions for spike



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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.