spike

Definitions

General English

Agriculture

  • noun a tall pointed flower head (inflorescence) in which small flowers without stalks grow from a central flower stem

Computing

  • noun a very short duration voltage pulse

Construction

  • A heavy nail, sometimes having a square cross section, and 3" to 12" (7.6 to 30.5 cm) long.

Electronics

  • An instantaneous current or voltage increase of great magnitude, such as that cause by a lightning strike or when power is restored after a blackout. A spike can arrive via power lines, phone lines, network lines, or the like, and may cause extensive damage if protective measures are not taken.
  • An very short pulse superimposed on a pulse of longer duration.
  • A spike (1) or spike (2) as displayed on a oscilloscope or other monitor, a printed plot, such as that of an EEG, and so on.

Information & Library Science

  • noun a sharp piece of metal which when mounted on a base can be used for temporary storage of papers needing attention

Media Studies

  • verb to reject a piece of copy

Publishing

  • verb to refuse to print a news story.

Real Estate

  • noun a sharply pointed piece of metal or wood, especially one of a number along the top of a railing, fence or wall
  • noun a long heavy metal nail

Slang

  • noun a hypodermic syringe. An item of drug addicts’ jargon dating from the 1950s. The word was used to denote an ordinary needle for many years before that.

Sports

  • noun a pointed metal stud, part of a set attached to the sole of an athlete’s shoe to give better grip
  • verb to injure another player or competitor with the spikes of an athletic shoe
  • verb to leap high close to the net and hit a volleyball straight down into an opponent’s court

Origin & History of “spike”

English has two etymologically distinct words spike, although they are so similar in meaning that they are commonly regarded as one and the same. Spike ‘long sharp piece’ (13th c.) was probably borrowed from middle Dutch spīker. It has another relative in Swedish spik ‘nail’, and goes back ultimately to prehistoric Germanic *speik-, *spaik- (source also of English spoke). The spick of spick and span (17th c.) is a variant of spike. The expression is an elaboration of an earlier span-new ‘brand-new’, which was borrowed from Old Norse spánnýr ‘as new as a new chip of wood’ (spánn ‘chip’ is related to English spoon, which originally meant ‘chip’). The spick was added in imitation of Dutch spiksplinter nieuw ‘spike-splinter new’.

Spike ‘ear of corn, arrangement of flowers on a stalk similar to this’ (14th c.) was borrowed from Latin spīca, a close relative of spīna ‘thorn’ (source of English spine). Spīca is also ultimately responsible for English spigot (14th c.), perhaps via the diminutive spiculum; and it forms the first syllable of spikenard (14th c.), the name of a sort of ancient aromatic ointment or of the plant that probably produced it.
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