Crick (variant of creek)

Crick is a variant of creek originating in the U.S., where it reflects a dialectal pronunciation of the word for a small, shallow stream. Crick might be nonstandard, but it is established enough to be considered an alternative form, and it is even listed in some dictionaries. In writing, crick is often used to create a rustic tone.


Crick appears often in American fiction, especially in first-person narratives and in dialogue—for example:

Just as I was passing a place where a kind of a cowpath crossed the crick, here comes a couple of men tearing up the path as tight as they could foot it. [Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain]

“… and when night come we taken and throwed their muskets into the crick and taken their ammunition and the rest of the grub and put a gyard on their hosses.” [Flags in the Dust, by William Faulkner]

“We’ve got the cattle all out of the hills an’ the timber, an’ we’re workin’ down the crick toward here,” he told her. [The Range Boss, by Charles Alden Seltzer]

But crick doesn’t only appear in fiction. Here are a few examples from current news publications and blogs:

Finding a competitive jumping frog could take several trips up and down the crick. [State Journal-Register]

Phlox next, then spring beauties then avalanche lilies, then marsh marigolds up on the edge of the crick where young aspen are budding. [New West (link now dead)]

They find Eric skinny dipping in a nearby crick and taunting gators in Nordic. [Screen Grab]

Of course, if you are not from a part of the U.S. where people say crick, the more standard spelling, creek, is safer.

11 thoughts on “Crick (variant of creek)”

  1. One wonders (en vacances now) if “crick” developed from the French word “la crique” which means “creek” where the French had settled or traded in the early U.S. territories… hmmmm

  2. I’m from Washington state and we use crick all the time.. I didn’t know it was weird until my friends from Texas/Oklahoma started laughing at me! And no.. I did not grow up in a trailer park :)

  3. Western New York — like Philadelphia, we spell it “creek” and say it “crick,” so ubiquitously that when John Denver had a song rhyming the word “creek” (with the long E), it took me ages to figure out what he was singing!

    • I was born & raised in WNY & have friends in Philly. The only people I know who pronounce it “crick” are high school dropouts over 50, a few truck drivers, & a very old retired former sheriff. In Canada, it’s a different story… indeed, “crique” is “creek” in french. If it’s spelled “creek”, the proper pronunciation is “creek”.

      • Well, I’m not a truck driver or a high school dropout our over fifty, and “Tonawanda Creek Road” was always pronounced “crick,” and Oatka Creek was always pronounced as “crick.” (Wolf Creek in Letchworth could go either way.)
        Things like that aren’t a question of proper or improper. It’s just a regional variation.

        • It’s not just simply regional as people all over the USA pronounce it this way.

          It more a class and educational dynamic.

  4. I am from a small rural area in Ontario, Canada and my dad says it crick but my mom pronounces it creek. I debated on which pronunciation to use and finally decided I like the rustic feel to crick better. My family has no real connection to America so I do not think it originated there. I suppose it is possible he learned it from t.v. The French did settle in Canada as well so perhaps there is some merit in the theory that it is of French origin.

    • Not true. The crick in my back yard definitely has a name. Creek is an amerIndian tribe from the southeast; crick is bigger than a ditch or a trickle or a stream, but smaller than a river (except in South Dakota, where I once saw a ditch with a sign proclaiming “Vermillion River”). You also get cricks in your neck if you sleep wrong, and a hinge will creak/[s]creek when it needs oil (or, you know, if the door/gate needs to be rehung. :-) )

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