In SuperHolly's video about visiting Australia at around 3:04, Holly mentions coming across the word "peckish" for the first time. As an Australian, I wasn't aware of the word being more common in Australian English than American English.

Wiktionary doesn't indicate it's specific to a dialect of English, and according to Google NGrams the word is in the same order of magnitude in American and British English (the closest they have to Australian English).

Is the word less common in American English than other varieties of English?

  • 3
    I agree, I am in the US; it is rare here. I first heard this term from a Canadian.
    – GEdgar
    Jul 12, 2020 at 11:40
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    "Feeling a bit peckish" is the kind of thing an American says when trying to sound British.
    – barbecue
    Jul 12, 2020 at 17:30
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    Growing up in the USA, I knew what "peckish" meant, but mostly from watching movies and TV made in England, or reading books from there. I have never heard it used colloquially by another US national, and it would mostly be used, if at all, the way @barbecue suggests: to imitate a British person. Jul 12, 2020 at 18:08
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    Monty Python's "Cheese Shop" sketch was the first time I heard "peckish" used. I don't think I've ever heard the word used in casual speech. (US Midwest, since 80's)
    – notovny
    Jul 13, 2020 at 1:17
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    @notovny Monty Python was, and remains, the only place where I've heard this word. AmE speaker here, and I have a few British friends.
    – user91988
    Jul 13, 2020 at 17:57

5 Answers 5


Yes, the informal expression peckish, meaning hungry, appears to be mainly used in BrE and AuE:

According to GDoS the term peckish dates back to the 18th century and the usage examples they provide are mainly from AuE and BrE. Peckish derives from peck, (16th C.) to eat (of a bird).

peckish: (also pecky) hungry:

1965 [UK] E. Bond Saved Scene ii: Still pecky? [...] There’s a bit’a choclit left. ’Ere.

1971 [UK] N. Armfelt Catching Up 204: I’m peckish myself.

1985 [Aus] R.G. Barrett You Wouldn’t Be Dead for Quids (1989) 47: Feeling a bit peckish now he [...] threw a T-bone [...] under the griller.

1989 [UK] (con. 1950s–60s) in G. Tremlett Little Legs 29: You come back a bit peckish.

1998 [Aus] R.G. Barrett Mud Crab Boogie (2013) [ebook] ‘Why don’t we order some food [...] I’m feeling a bit peckish’.

1999 [UK] (con. 1979–80) A. Wheatle Brixton Rock (2004) 27: I was feeling a bit peckish, so I thought I’d start dinner early.

2001 [UK] M. Coles Bible in Cockney 70: Did you never read about David when he was peckish and needed something to eat?

The term is mainly BrE according to the American Heritage Dictionary:


  1. (Chiefly British) Somewhat hungry.

and on the usage of peckish Vocabulary.com notes that:

While the informal word peckish is more common in the UK, most people in North America will know what you mean if you say, "I'm feeling a little peckish— should we make some popcorn?" Some people wake up in the morning feeling peckish, while others don't feel like eating for a few hours.

  • 3
    Huh. I'm a North American and I didn't know it meant hungry. I assumed it meant "irritable", from context (snooty British television characters complaining how peckish they are). Jul 14, 2020 at 3:28

According to Google NGrams the word is in the same order of magnitude in American and British English.

Actually, that's not true. Google Books Ngram Viewer does not show that they get the same amount of use.

A query that separates the US corpus from the UK corpus shows that peckish is almost twice as common in print in the UK as it is in the US:

US peckish versus UK peckish

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    Being in the same order of magnitude means that one case is not vastly different than the other case. It need not be similar magnitude. Specifically it means that one case is not 10x greater than the other case. Like the populations of the USA and China are in the same order of magnitude (though barely). I suspect Wikipedia explains it better than I do.
    – piojo
    Jul 12, 2020 at 16:27
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    Just to note, a word showing up less in print doesn't necessarily mean it is used less, only that it is used less in print. (Oh wait, sorry, I thought I was on the math stack exchange... :-D )
    – Michael
    Jul 12, 2020 at 19:09
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    At risk of pedantry, "order of magnitude" applies to the sciences in general, not just stats. In fact, in stats, I am usually on the natural log scale, not the common (base 10) log. Speaking of math, order of magnitude refers to the common log scale by convention. But conventions can change, and the relative frequency is about one order of 'magnitude' on a log base 2 scale. That said, I agree that Jason's use is not technically correct (by the current convention). I would probably have said "twice as commonly used" or something similar.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Jul 12, 2020 at 19:25
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    @JasonBassford with the internet starting to really take off around 2000, it's not that surprising. More TV use in the UK increases the use there, more international contact due to the internet leads to increased use in the US. As I said, nothing at all concrete to back this up, just speculation.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 13, 2020 at 13:19
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    @FreeMan Yes, the internet is a good source of information for the increase around that time. I'd be interested in seeing if the use the use most words—or most uncommonly used words—also followed the same trend. Jul 13, 2020 at 13:21

I find similar magnitudes to Jason Bafford's answer:

Therefore, peckish is approximately 3.6x as common in written BrE than general AmE (the corpora draw from different sources).


GloWbE shows it more common in UK websites than in the next three regions put together (which are Ireland, Australia, and Hong Kong).

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  • Could that be because GB has a bigger population, akin to xkcd.com/1138 ? Also, those other three countries use English that is more similar to GB than the US.
    – Golden Cuy
    Jul 12, 2020 at 22:21
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    Confirming once again, @AndrewGrimm, that there's an XKCD relevant to everything.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 13, 2020 at 12:58

Canadian here. I've heard it commonly where I live (western Canada, Alberta ). Maybe it's the British influence here, after all, we are technically part of the Commonwealth. Might be regionally dependent in Canada, can't speak for the eastern provinces though.

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