What's the meaning of “spike” in the context of “adrenaline spike”? how does it relate to the meaning of “dump” in the context of “adrenaline dump”? and which of the two is the correct version?

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    Welcome to ELL.SE. As a reminder, questions posed on Stack Exchange should demonstrate some initial research efforts; looking up spike in Macmillan Dictionary, for example, directly gives the meaning a sudden increase in something. – choster Mar 15 '19 at 14:20
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    Related question – laugh salutes Monica C Mar 15 '19 at 14:40

One refers to a spike in a measurement, or a sharp rise (often followed by a fall that may not be as sharp, but is clear). This is because such measurements would be drawn with a moving needle on paper, or otherwise graphed after the fact, and the spike looks like, well, a spike.

Thus, in an adrenaline spike the level of adrenaline in a person's system has risen sharply, and may not be sustained. We don't generally have ongoing measurement of things like that, but it means that if we did have that sort of ongoing measurement, the graph would show a visible spike.

An adrenaline dump is also a sharp rise in adrenaline, speaking figuratively as the adrenal glands "dumping" a load of adrenaline into your system all at once.

Both of those terms are 'correct', they are just looking at it from a different perspective.

If you're really being a purist about the terminology, a spike shouldn't be sustained, whereas a dump might be. In practice, they are used reasonably interchangeably, in my experience.

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    The adrenaline dump causes a spike in it's blood level. – RonJohn Mar 15 '19 at 23:33

The term comes from the appearance on a graph. There are four main spikes in the following picture.


6 a : a pointed element in a graph or tracing


enter image description here


Spike in this context means a sharp increase in the magnitude or concentration of something.

Adrenaline spike would indicate an increase in adrenaline production

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    It might be worth noting that a spike in this context relates to the measurement of something by a measurement device and the output of that device on a graph. A spike indicates the device has detected whatever it is trying to detect. – Sarriesfan Mar 15 '19 at 12:50
  • @Sarriesfan That may be the origin, but we often use it to refer to the thing being measured as well. You can say that a runner experiences an adrenaline spike when he's nearing the finish line, even if he's not connected to a measuring device. – Barmar Mar 15 '19 at 20:56
  • @Barmar that why I suggested that it was worth noted the term spike comes from this original source. – Sarriesfan Mar 15 '19 at 23:02
  • @Sarriesfan I thought you were suggesting a correction to the answer. There are already several other answers that explain the relationship with measurements, including one that actually shows the graphics. – Barmar Mar 15 '19 at 23:04
  • @Barmar those answers were not there when I first made the comment 10hrs ago, SamBC answers was posted 9hrs ago. – Sarriesfan Mar 15 '19 at 23:50

An adrenaline rush is when one experiences a sudden increase in the hormone adrenaline (also known as epinephrine). Apparently adrenaline dump has the same meaning, as I see from looking this up, though I’ve never heard dump used in this context. I guess spike (or surge) could be used as a synonym of one of those other words. However, as an American native speaker, the only one I’d say and that I think is most idiomatic is adrenaline rush. Also, if you’re asking what this means, it’s a biological process in response to fear and/or excitement. You might get this feeling while riding on a roller coaster or while skydiving, for example.

  • What you describe is indeed an adrenaline rush (more info here), but the question is about the word spike, which is a sharp increase followed by a sharp decrease, as illustrated in this related WordReference answer. The terms adrenaline rush and adrenaline spike (and also adrenaline dump) may refer to the same phenomena, but the meaning is not the same - "rush" does not describe a fast decrease. – laugh salutes Monica C Mar 15 '19 at 14:41
  • @laugh I agree with your definition of spike in general- a sudden increase followed by a sudden decrease. None of (rush, dump, or surge) imply a sharp decrease. But what about a spike in blood glucose? I believe this refers to a sharp increase that is sustained, whose long term effects are dangerous. In other words, it seems to me that certain words are used loosely in medical contexts. Therefore, as you say, an adrenaline rush and an adrenaline spike may refer to the same phenomenon. – Mixolydian Mar 15 '19 at 15:40

In practice, a spike in something really refers to any abrupt increase, even if the decrease afterwards is not abrupt. The visual image definitely is a time-series plot where you would see a spike-like projection if there was a rapid increase and a rapid decrease afterwards. But people are more concerned about the consequences of any rapid increase, so the term came to be used more broadly.

If you imagine a graph depicting the rate of change, rather than the level of the quantity, then an abrupt increase followed by a leveling off or a decline will always look like a spike. But I am not sure people thought it through in that much detail.

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