I know that to spike means to rise quickly, and that's also what dictionaries told me. However, when talking about charts and graphs, the noun spike actually includes both the sharp rise as well as steep fall of a metric, hence forming a shape akin to a spike.

Therefore I wonder, does the more general usage of to spike in the sense of rising sharply also imply that the thing being described also quickly falls back down shortly after? Or does it both have and not have this implication, depending on context (aside graphs)?

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    Yes, the term derives from the shape of the graph resembling a spike (a stick with a pointed end)
    – Jim
    Sep 25 '16 at 5:28
  • No, it does not. Sep 25 '16 at 5:32
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    Then there's also spike as in dropping a Mickey Finn into someone's drink - to spike a drink; to drug it with the intention of rendering that person unconscious or incapacitated. Sep 25 '16 at 5:35
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    I wouldn't necessarily say that spike requires the thing described to quickly fall back down afterwards, but it definitely does imply that it falls back down. @PeterPoint And of course there's also the volleyball sense, which is almost the opposite of the sense asked about here, describing a steep downward movement (usually followed by an upward movement if the ball hits the ground and bounces back)… Sep 25 '16 at 8:36
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    @busukxuan I agree, I just thought that it was a good example. By the way I wonder whether the naming of the volleyball example was influenced by the railroad spike which is driven downward into a wooden sleeper to hold the rail in place.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 27 '16 at 9:45

When used in the sense of "a rapid upward change of a measure from a prior rate or value" the phrase "to spike" does not always entail a similarly rapid change back down.

Consider this example:

"The average cost for regular, unleaded gas is expected to spike to $2.49 per gallon this year, up from $2.13 in 2016. That significant uptick is in marked contrast to the steady price drops consumers have mostly seen over the past four years." http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/01/03/gas-prices-expected-spike-2017/96111548/

Here "to spike" just means "significant uptick" with no anticipation of when the value will lower again.

That being said, "spikes" or "a spike" would tend to convey the sense of a short term deviation with a return to a lower value. If I were to say: "The newspaper's website saw a spike in traffic when the mayor was arrested." the implication is clear that this is a short term increase.

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    Gas prices spiked at the start of both Iraq wars. They did not return to lower levels for years. A spike is pointy on both sides, but "to spike" only implies a sudden upward change. Jan 28 '17 at 23:59
  • That's what I said?
    – deadcode
    Jan 29 '17 at 0:01
  • Pretty much. Just made it shorter. Jan 29 '17 at 0:02

One needs to note that "spike" has several definitions:

  • A pointed object, such as a large nail
  • The metaphorical use of "pointed object", as with a "spike" in a graph
  • To surreptitiously add drugs or alcohol to a drink
  • To drive a volleyball or (American?) football downward sharply
  • To "liven up" a party or meeting (often used as "spike up")
  • To increase sharply

If gas prices "spike" that generally implies a sudden increase, as suggested by the last definition above. While often there is eventually a downward trend sometime later, that is not implied/required by the word "spike".

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