Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Pleasantly pungent or tart in taste; spicy.
  • adj. Appealingly provocative: a piquant wit.
  • adj. Charming, interesting, or attractive: a piquant face.
  • adj. Archaic Causing hurt feelings; stinging.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Engaging; charming.
  • adj. Favorably stimulating to the palate; pleasantly spicy; stimulating.
  • adj. Causing hurt feelings; scathing.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Stimulating to the taste; giving zest; tart; sharp; pungent.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of an agreeable pungency or sharpness of taste or flavor; sharp; stinging; biting: as, sauce piquant.
  • Of a smart, lively, racy, or sparkling nature; keenly interesting, or fitted to produce a sudden or keen interest; “taking”: as, a piquant anecdote: a piquant manner; a piquant style of female beauty; a piquant hat.
  • That pierces or wounds, or is fitted to pierce or wound; stinging; sharp or cutting to the feelings; biting; keen; pungent; severe.
  • Synonyms Poignant, etc. See pungent.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. having an agreeably pungent taste
  • adj. attracting or delighting
  • adj. engagingly stimulating or provocative

Etymologies

French, from Old French, present participle of piquer, to prick; see pique.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Middle French piquant ("pricking, stimulating, irritating"), from Old French piquer ("to prick, sting, nettle"). Related to pike. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • What is particularly piquant — that's right I used the word piquant — about the conflation of Nicaragua and El Salvador is that it suggests America's entire effort "down there" was nothing but folly, hubris, and imperialism.

    THE NEWS BLOG

  • It was the old world and the new one brought face to face with a vengeance! the contrast rendered the more piquant from the fact of the new one being represented by the worthy middle-aged baronet, the old by the girl of seventeen.

    Maria Edgeworth

  • Mrs. Cary's "piquant" -- pronounced in a manner that was neither French nor English, but a startling mixture of both -- had a background to it of charitable patronage.

    The Native Born or, the Rajah's People

  • That is what you may call piquant, it braces and refreshes a man.

    On Nothing and Kindred Subjects

  • He soon tired of the others, wanted something new; recalled the piquant character of the girl and took a fancy into his head that she would lighten his ennui.

    Behind a Mask: or, A Woman's Power.

  • One saving grace would be that the MxDW at least wouldn't have that lovely, "piquant" flavor from being smuggled in empty ammonia tankers.

    Marijuana "ranked fairly high," says Obama, who was presumably not high...

  • Mr. Buruma skirts the issue by calling this cruel man "fastidious and difficult," "piquant," a "trickster," ... or an example of "bad boy behavior."

    On V.S. Naipaul: An Exchange

  • There was a kind of piquant joy in their hearts as they crept up past the Tower, and saw its mighty walls and guns across the water.

    The King's Achievement

  • It looks certainly very graceful, fresh, animated, "piquant," as they love to say -- yes! and withal, I repeat, perfectly pure, and may well congratulate itself on the loan of a fallacious grace, not its own.

    Imaginary Portraits

  • With hatred he watched her worn but still "piquant," sneering, Parisian face, her white cuffs, her silken apron, and light cap.

    A Nobleman's Nest

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Comments

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  • The nominal form is piquancy

    April 15, 2009

  • Whenever I see this word I hear Nathan Lane's voice as a meerkat saying "Piquant, with a delicate crunch," about a bug.

    July 16, 2008