Pronunciation: quay

Arrius

Senior Member
English, UK
I have just been listening to a reading of "Lord Jim" by Joseph Conrad on Librivox. The reader is American but sufficiently neutral and adaptable in his accent not to impinge too much on the imagination of an Englishman when reading the dialogue of various British characters in the story. I realised that Americans pronounced buoy (British homophone of boy) as /boowee/, but I was rather surprised when he pronounced quay (British homophone of key) as /kway/ rhyming with sway. Key Largo (as in the Bogart thriller) and Key West, Florida, are pronounced the same way as the thing for opening a door, but they are not derived from Quay but rather from the Spanish American cayo (a word for islet probably of Carib origin) so that Key West was once Cayo Hueso or Bone Islet and is, in fact in the East! Is this pronunciation of quay as /kway/ common in North America?
 
  • AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Arrius,

    Quay, long A sound, is the way we pronounce it in Michigan. It's the dock where we park our boats along the shoreline.

    I live in a city that's gots lots of water around it and, in fact, one of the streets downtown that runs along the river and where our Yacht Club is located, is called, "Quay Street."


    AngelEyes
     

    Orange Blossom

    Senior Member
    U.S.A. English
    Quay to rhyme with sway is the only way I've heard it here in Indiana; however, I find in my Webster's New World Dictionaries the following three pronunciations (using IPA notation): /ki/ /ke/ /kwe/

    Orange Blossom
     

    lizzeymac

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I'm in the northeast.
    The only placenames in the area that include "quay" are French in origin & are pronounced as anglecized version of the French.
    We have lots of buoys, I would say that most people I sail with pronounce it as a mixture of 75% boo-ee (with very little "w" sound) and 25% boy.
    I listen to Librivox books also & I am occasionally surprised by regional differences in pronouncing certain words. I wonder if the readers are given any guidance on pronunciation?
     
    Many Americans have a tendency to pronounce words the way they see them spelled. Just as many Americans insist on restoring to the word "palm" the L sound it lost centuries ago because that is how it is spelled, many Americans pronounce "quay" as "Kway" because that is the pronunciation the spelling would suggest.
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that there is so much variety in the pronunciation of nautical terms, since sailors come from all over.
    Presumably Angel Eyes is referring to the name of the letter A (and without the w) i.e. like the girl's name Kaye or Danny Kaye.
    No Izzeymac, although the Librivox people are obviously in contact with one another to share out tasks and discuss strategies, I very much doubt if any guidance on pronunciation is given. However, most of the time, they produce seamless readings of an outstandingly high quality that compares favourably with the BBC Arts and Drama site and often much surpasses it! Whether for pleasure or as an aid to learning, I would advise any native or non-native anglophone to use Librivox, whether or not in conjunction with the written texts, also in the public domain (links are provided to these and background information on the Librivox site itself):
    http://librivox.org/librivox-catalogue/
    There are a few non-English texts available too including Finnish and Japanese but surprisingly no Spanish yet, though the latter appears to be the most frequently used language on these fora after English.
    The only reading I have heard that I really found inadvisable was one of the Jeeves series by P.G. Wodehouse read by an American. The Upper Crust, and even archaic, British accents are essential to the spirit of the thing. Translating it into French has a similar deleterious effect as it quite removes the 1920's British atmosphere: "It's dweadfully sick-making!"
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Presumably Angel Eyes is referring to the name of the letter A (and without the w) i.e. like the girl's name Kaye or Danny Kaye.

    Arrius,

    The way everyone around here pronounces "Quay Street" is:

    Kwaye Street (long A).

    We use the same KW sound for QU when we say:
    kwestshun (question)
    Kweeree (query)


    This is very interesting.


    AngelEyes
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Arrius,

    The way everyone around here pronounces "Quay Street" is:

    Kwaye Street (long A).

    We use the same KW sound for QU when we say:
    kwestshun (question)
    Kweeree (query)


    This is very interesting.


    AngelEyes


    You have to be careful when using street names for pronunciation. This street might have been named for Philip Quay, and he might have pronounced his name "Kwaye".

    The classic example is "Houston" in Texas (pronounced "hoosten") and "Houston Street" in Manhattan (pronounced "howsten"). These streets were named after different people and with different pronunciations.
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Packard,

    Darn you, you piqued my interest and I called my local Historical Museum Director.

    He could find nothing in the way to indicate that Quay Street was named after a person. He and I came to the conclusion, (I admit a very weak one, without documentation) that it was chosen precisely because of its location: on the water, featuring a marina, the yacht club, and several docking facilities for all the boats we get in here every summer.

    I'm wondering, do languages, such as Irish have the "QU" letters and pronounce them with the KW sound?

    Nonetheless, that's the way we say it here in the backwoods of Michigan. Whether it's the street with a dubious history, or the word, meaning "docks."


    AngelEyes
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    I'm wondering, do languages, such as Irish have the "QU" letters and pronounce them with the KW sound? (Angel Eyes)

    Quinn (/kwin/) is an Irish name (the late Anthony Quinn's father was Irish), and the Scandinavians also have names beginning Qu but originally pronounced kv- such as the infamous Quisling who gave a new word to the English language meaning traitorous collaborator, and kvin(d)e is the Danish for woman. And then you have the Latin "Quo vadis, Domine?"(Whither goest Thou, Master?) and the Swahili for Goodbye, Kwa Heri, but I don't think that takes us anywhere.
    It is extremely unlikely that Quay Street, Michigan, is named after/for a person since, apart from the extremely obvious reason that there are quays there, the name Quay is described by OneLookDictionaries as "a very rare surname, popularity ranking in the US #27,233".
    But we must not lose sight of the fact that the original word was the French le quai pronounced /ke/ with an open E more or less as in egg and the U is in the word simply because you never get a Q without a U in either French or English (or some other languages) unless you are transliterating Arabic, as in Qatar and Iraq.
    I think GreenWhiteBlue is right when he says that the pronunciation of many words such as quay changed when more people learned to spell (in the old days, even if you could spell you would frequently vary your spelling, as we see in the diaries of Samuel Pepys and the manuscripts of Shakespeare). Before many people could spell in England waistcoat was pronounced weskit, forehead, forred and victuals, vittles (i.e.vittels).
     

    ewhite

    Senior Member
    USA/English


    Quinn (/kwin/) is an Irish name (the late Anthony Quinn's father was Irish),


    Quinn is indeed an Irish name, but it is an English transliteration of Cuinn. There is no Q in the Gaelic alphabet.

    And to keep this on topic, I am from New York City, and were I ever to pronounce that word, I'm sure I would say "kay".
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Packard,

    Darn you, you piqued my interest and I called my local Historical Museum Director.

    He could find nothing in the way to indicate that Quay Street was named after a person. He and I came to the conclusion, (I admit a very weak one, without documentation) that it was chosen precisely because of its location: on the water, featuring a marina, the yacht club, and several docking facilities for all the boats we get in here every summer.

    I'm wondering, do languages, such as Irish have the "QU" letters and pronounce them with the KW sound?

    Nonetheless, that's the way we say it here in the backwoods of Michigan. Whether it's the street with a dubious history, or the word, meaning "docks."


    AngelEyes

    Minnie Quay, a Ghost: http://www.prairieghosts.com/minnie.html
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Well, poor Minnie. Sad story.

    Those Quays were not from around here, though.

    Still...a bittersweet, interesting, and engaging tale. Thanks for posting the link, Packard.



    AngelEyes
     

    Pigu

    New Member
    English, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
    In Iowa and the midwest it always rhymes with sway. My wife had not even heard of the "key" pronunciation. Of course, it is not a word often used in conversation in the heartlands.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Summary:
    UK: quay = [kee]
    US: quay = [kee], [kay] or more rarely [kway].
    OZ: quay = [kee].
    IRL: quay = [kee].
     
    Last edited:

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    The oldest part of Sydney [Australia] is Circular Quay, pronounced Key.

    There is a new development in my home city, Newport Quays, again pronounced Keys.

    When I first hear Americans saying "boo-ees" [buoys] I had no idea what they were talking about.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    When I first heard Americans saying "boo-ees" [buoys] I had no idea what they were talking about.
    Ditto, Brio.

    Moderatorial note (a bit late but hey-ho there you go): Please try to keep the thread to quay rather than buoy ... or Houston!
     
    Last edited:

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I have only ever pronounced the word "key," except of course in French place names.

    The pronunciation of HYOOst'n is widespread throughout the U.S., not just regionally.

    As for keys and cays, they are small islands, not wharves, and have a slightly different etymology.
    .
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    As for keys and cays, they are small islands, not wharves, and have a slightly different etymology. foxfirebrand

    For the background to that see Post#1 on this thread by yours truly.
     

    Pet Korun

    Member
    English - Ireland
    It's usually a place, so I'd pronounce it however the locals pronounce it.
    Personally I would naturally pronounce it Quay (like sway) if I didn't know, because it makes more sense to me phonetically that way.

    It is generally pronounced key here.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Summary:
    UK: quay = [kee]
    US: quay = [kee], [kay] or more rarely [kway].
    OZ: quay = [kee].
    IRL: quay = [kee].

    I beg to differ with your AE/US summary. In the northeastern and Middle Atlantic states,
    the most common pronunciation is kway. That includes quite a large chunk (rhymes with clunk) of the US population. That's not to say that many US speakers don't say kee or kay for quay, but the predominant form seems to vary by region.
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Oh dearie me....

    Since ewie is (presumably) watching t' telly at t' moment, let me venture an alternative summary:
    UK: quay = [kee]
    US: quay = [kee], [kay] or [kway].
    OZ: quay = [kee].
    IRL: quay = [kee].
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    As for keys and cays, they are small islands, not wharves, and have a slightly different etymology. foxfirebrand

    For the background to that see Post#1 on this thread by yours truly.

    Well, I didn't really say the same thing. You gave the derivation of key without mentioning the word's relationship with quay-- in fact you implied that they were completely different terms.

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=quay&searchmode=none

    That's why I said "slightly different" etymologies.
    .
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Oh dearie me....

    Since ewie is (presumably) watching t' telly at t' moment, let me venture an alternative summary:
    UK: quay = [kee]
    US: quay = [kee], [kay] or [kway].
    OZ: quay = [kee].
    IRL: quay = [kee].
    Beg pardon ~ I was relying on my unreliable memories of what I read in the thread about 3 minutes previously.
     
    Last edited:

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Ahemmmmm

    Ewie has selective memory.

    Here are the AE posters who weighed in before his synopsis: [Something for everybody. Yer pays yer money and yer takes yer cherce.]

    AngelEyes - long A. Kwaye

    Orange Blossom: kway

    Lizzymac: "anglecized version of the French"

    Packard: Kay

    GWB: "many Americams pronounce "quay" as "Kway"

    Forero: "key" and "kay", but not "kway"

    dobes: key

    ewhite: kay

    Pigu: In Iowa and the midwest it always rhymes with sway



    I've no idea how the boys in Yuston say it.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    That seems to amount to US: quay = [kee], [kay] or [kway].

    Or am I misssing something?
     

    craeux

    Member
    French (France)
    In the longman pronunciation dictionary I found the following:
    quay, Quay [kei] [kwei] quays [ki:z] [keiz] [kweiz]
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    I have just been listening to a reading of "Lord Jim" by Joseph Conrad on Librivox. The reader is American but sufficiently neutral and adaptable in his accent not to impinge too much on the imagination of an Englishman when reading the dialogue of various British characters in the story. I realised that Americans pronounced buoy (British homophone of boy) as /boowee/, but I was rather surprised when he pronounced quay (British homophone of key) as /kway/ rhyming with sway. Key Largo (as in the Bogart thriller) and Key West, Florida, are pronounced the same way as the thing for opening a door, but they are not derived from Quay but rather from the Spanish American cayo (a word for islet probably of Carib origin) so that Key West was once Cayo Hueso or Bone Islet and is, in fact in the East! Is this pronunciation of quay as /kway/ common in North America?


    Unless (or until?) you are a buoy from Key Houston, please address the thread question. Those with burning desires to talk about other matters are invited to open additional threads.
     

    craeux

    Member
    French (France)
    The longman english pronunciation dictionary doesn't specify if it is specific which means then that it is not specific...
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    You gave the derivation of key without mentioning the word's relationship with quay-- in fact you implied that they were completely different terms. foxfirebrand.

    They are:
    Key as in Key Largo or Key West is from a Carib word meaning small island, that became cayo in Spanish (which does not mean quay - that is muelle) and then corrupted to key in American (but nothing to do with unlocking doors).
    Quay is from French quai in turn derived from an original Gaulish word.

    Thus quay and key have origins as different as chalk and cheese, but in the case of the Florida islets, the words have in common that they sound similar and have both to do with the sea and littoral, and as a result have been conflated.
     

    mat3o2

    New Member
    English - Canada
    In Toronto there is a street named "Queen's Quay", and though some people pronounce it "kway", it's referred to as "Key" in the media and by most of the population.
     

    Sorker

    New Member
    English-American
    I have lived iand sailed n many areas of the U.S., in the U.K. and other countries and am familiar with nautical pronunciations in each.

    Americans are not so punctilious as they ought be, and once were, especially on nautical words. They have lost their fine nautical traditions and their care for etymology. So, those of us Americans who are sailors (not necessarily those who “motor” “sail”, an oxymoron) certainly do pronounce quay as "key" and “draught” as “draft” and leeward as “lew-erd” etc. Let’s not condone certain American sloppiness by calling it a separate tradition. I do reserve as correct American pronunciation the use of “buoy” as Boo-E, rather than “Boy”; that pronunciation has been long and invariably correct in all parts of America and at all levels of sailing experience and tradition.
     

    justduckygal

    New Member
    USA, English
    I read a Tennyson poem that rhymed the word "quay" with "to-day."
    I've always pronounced it as "key." I'm in the US.
     

    m bell

    Banned
    English - UK
    I just heard a highly educated native speaker of American English (his PhD was from Harvard and he is currently a professor there) pronounce "quay" as "kway", i.e. it rhymed with sway. I was shocked, for I had been taught that it is pronounced the same way as "key".
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    Both "key" and "kay" sound reasonable given the etymology of the word, but "kway" certainly sound curious.
    From Old French kay, cail (modern French quai), from Gaulish *kagyum, cagiíun (“enclosure”), from Proto-Celtic *kagyom (“pen, enclosure”) (compare Welsh cae (“hedge”)), from Proto-Indo-European *kagʰyóm (“enclosure”).
    The letter u only appears in the modern French spelling because "qu-" is how we write the sound /k/, but it's not part of the etymology of the word.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I just heard a highly educated native speaker of American English (his PhD was from Harvard and he is currently a professor there) pronounce "quay" as "kway", i.e. it rhymed with sway. I was shocked, for I had been taught that it is pronounced the same way as "key".
    "Key" (/ki:/ in IPA) is the British English pronunciation, so you, being British, were taught to pronounce it like this, but "kay" (/keɪ/) and "kway" (/kweɪ/) are widely used elsewhere in the English-speaking world, as has been mentioned earlier in the thread. These pronunciations are not wrong - just take a look at any American dictionary; the WordReference.com one is here: quay - WordReference.com Dictionary of English
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    However, "key" is the first pronunciation listed, which means it is the most common, even in Merriam-Webster.

    (An 11-year-old thread! These things stick around.)

    I was surprised to read about "qway" as one pronunciation. I have never heard that before, but then I've never traveled to New England.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    US English
    US: quay = [kee], [kay] or more rarely [kway].

    The spelling is "quay". The default normal pronunciation of those 4 letters in English is "kway", not "kee".

    In the US I have only heard "kway". I spent a lot of time in New England, around water, and only heard "kway".
     

    hwit

    Member
    English - US (AL)
    I have no horse in this race since quay is not a word used around here, but I just wanted to say that dictionaries are not perfectly accurate when it comes to how widespread a pronunciation or word is. For example, I was surprised to find many dictionaries say ‘strow’ is archaic, even though it is still used in the southern U.S. and I didn’t even know strew was the standard word until I became an adult. Dictionary editers have limited resources and may not know what the most common pronunciation is. Merriam Webster still lists the pronunciation of words like ‘what’ and ‘where’ with the hw pronunciation first, even though I am pretty sure it is not as common as the one with the dropped h.

    But anyway, I think I have heard both /ki/ and /kei/ but not /kwei/.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    The spelling is "quay". The default normal pronunciation of those 4 letters in English is "kway", not "kee".

    In the US I have only heard "kway". I spent a lot of time in New England, around water, and only heard "kway".

    There is no "default normal pronunciation" of letters in English, especially in borrowed words. You probably know that, though you might not have thought it through very thoroughly before you wrote it and just gave a rough answer (cough-cough). (Now exactly what is the "default normal pronunciation' of 'ough'? :) )

    You can't really use logic when it comes to English pronunciation. We are all over the place when it comes to it. The most common time that people invoke logic is when they are unaware of the other ways a word can be pronounced.

    Speaking of 'ough', just think of the different ways 'slough' can be pronounced, and then tell any of those people that their particular favorite is not correct. :)

    Another example: If law has an "aw" sound, why do most Americans pronounce lawyer to rhyme with foyer? Southerners say "law-yer", just as the "default normal pronunciation" of those letters would recommend, but that doesn't make it the majority pronunciation.

    Many realtors, for some reason, pronounce their title as "real-tore" with equal emphasis on both syllables although they don't say "mow-tore" for motor or "ack-tore" for actor. It's even pronounced that way in their TV ads. So strange!

    I have only heard "key" and "kay" for "quay". This thread is the first time I've even heard of "kway" as an option. That's one of the reasons I love WordReference.
     
    Last edited:

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    US English
    There is no "default normal pronunciation" of letters in English, especially in borrowed words.

    I didn't know that "quay" was a "borrowed word".

    If non-borrowed, I expect the spelling "key" or "kee" (like Key Largo and the Florida Keys).

    Now exactly what is the "default normal pronunciation' of 'ough'?

    Did you miss 3d grade? We were taught in 3d grade that "ough" has multiple pronunciations in English words, not just one. So that isn't relevent. I think this question is relevant:

    Are there lots of English words starting with "qu-" pronounced "k", or ending with "-ay" pronounced "-ee"?

    Are there any?
     
    Top