As I understood so far with the help of Urban Dictionary, it means to act in an overly embarrassing way. Am I right? The whole sentence is:

Every week, we think Succession has hit peak cringe.

  • 2
    Hello, VZ. Yes. It's slang, for '... has got [just about] as embarrassing as it's possible to get.' Sep 16, 2019 at 13:09
  • The verb to ‘cringe’ expresses crouching down often hunching up as if to avoid a physical attach. So literal-minded people like me (if any exist) would cringe at you example, because ‘peak cringe’ is too much of an oxymoron. It comes of not thinking about what words mean.
    – Tuffy
    Sep 16, 2019 at 13:14
  • @Tuffy in this case, it's metaphorical for embarassment. A lot of words are really metaphors, so you can't be too literal! Sep 16, 2019 at 13:56
  • 1
    Compare "peak oil", the point at which oil production is at a maximum. (I think that's the origin of "peak X".) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil
    – Stuart F
    Sep 16, 2019 at 14:27
  • @EdwinAshworth is right 👍. That's what it means, though I wouldn't include the parenthetical "just about." -- "Every week, we think Succession has gotten as embarrassing as is possible, so embarrassing that it makes us involuntarily recoil from our at-first-blush blush 😳 and cringe 😬 as much as is possible." B-t-dubs, I love, love, love, LOVE the show Succession.
    – user361733
    Sep 16, 2019 at 15:24

2 Answers 2


peak cringe has yet to reach a registered idiomatic phrase in major AmE abd BrE dictionaries.

So it a matter of using the figurative definition of a verb and the definition of a noun:

peak a noun. vocabulary.com

the most extreme possible amount or value


cringe. OED a verb

b. figurative. To experience an involuntary inward shiver of embarrassment, awkwardness, disgust, etc.; to wince or shrink inwardly; (hence) to feel extremely embarrassed or uncomfortable.

As in:

Every week, we think the tv hit Succession has achieved maximum awkwardness and disgust [cringing is at a maximum at this point in time] in its viewers. It will likely continue to reach new levels of such as the season progresses.

  • And it never will be in a dictionary. It is writing, not a "term".
    – Lambie
    Sep 16, 2019 at 15:35

to hit a peak = to reach or get to a peak, as in a chart.

Especially used in Wall Street parlance for the highest price a stock reaches.

This lingo is relevant as the underlying premise in Succession is all about the share price of their companies (holding company). And here the author is using it to graph the cringe factor.

cringe means to have a negative reaction to something and that makes you contort your face, lift your shoulders or both. That is the visible way one can describe cringing, which, of course, can also be invisible to onlookers. It is a feeling close to disgust.

here is an example of a peak:

market peak

If you were graphing the show Succession in terms of how gross those characters can be, the author is saying that every week viewers believe that the behavior of the characters which cause viewers to cringe (feel grossed out) has been at its highest point. If you have been watching the show, the characters have behaved horribly from the beginning, personally and socially, and one wonders how it could get any worse.

This is not "a term". It is creative writing. Things can reach a peak or peak, meaning reach their highest point either like on a graph (here) or a river overflowing its banks. The flood waters peaked, one sees.

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