Cay, quay and key

A cay is a naturally occurring low island, either a sandbar or a coral reef. Cay is most often applied to Caribbean islands, the preferred pronunciation is “keyCay comes from the Spanish word, cayo, which means key. Its first use to refer to an island occurred in 1707.

Key also may refer to a naturally occurring low island, either a sandbar or a coral reef. Key is most often applied to Caribbean islands. Key also comes from the Spanish word, cayo, which means key.

A quay is a man-made platform that is built along the water or extends into the water for use in loading and unloading ships. A quay is a wharf that is most often constructed of concrete or stone. The word quay comes from the Middle English kai, with the spelling influenced by the French word, quai.


BRODUS ‘Tyrus’ Clay and Jessie ‘Mr Pec-Tacular’ Godderz are in town and they have both consented to put on a show in two weeks for the Bahamian public when the Gladiator Championship Wrestling makes its debut at Arawak Cay on Saturday, August 29. (Bahamas Tribune)

The properties will be located on North Shore Beach on Parrot Cay, with private infinity pools, outdoor decks, open-plan living and 115 feet of beach frontage. (Caribbean Journal)

Both boats at Hythe Quay are described as “completely alight” by the Essex Fire and Rescue Service incident commander. (East Anglian Daily Times)

Dr Hames wants the attraction — which could include dancing fountains, laser lights and loud music — to be incorporated in the continuing planning for the quay. (The West Australian)

Since then, he has seen Stock Island’s oceanside growth from a Key West outskirt — it’s just five miles from Duval Street — with shrimpers and fishermen to an island on the brink of major development. (Miami Herald)

Later this year, Key Largo — the northernmost and longest island in the Keys — will welcome the 155-room Playa Largo Resort & Spa. (The SunSentinel)

2 thoughts on “Cay, quay and key”

  1. Wiktionary offers that quay has at least 3 regionally distinct pronunciations; in IPA in decreasing frequency: / kʰi / kʰei / kʰwei / … with the last one being almost exclusive to the United States.

    For those that don’t grok IPA and prefer one of the many fairly standard Random House type English pronuciations: / kē (as in KEY ) / kā (as in KAY) / kwā (as in KWAY) /

    Myself, I’ve always read it as KWAY, and pronounced it that way … along with quayside (KWAY SIDE) and quayage (KWAY AYJ – for the stuff sitting aside the quay).


    The above notwithstanding, I was somewhat alarmed to find that the almost-universal pronunciation of Cay is KEY. I’ve been saying it just as it is spel’t … for a lifetime. Then again, until I was 15, I also thought that [sake] (the drink from japan) was pronounced SAYK, for the “sake of the argument”. Woe was me when on giving an extemporaneous speech in high school, I said “SAYK” instead of sah-kay. LOL


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