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[kee, key, kwey] /ki, keɪ, kweɪ/
a landing place, especially one of solid masonry, constructed along the edge of a body of water; wharf.
Origin of quay
1690-1700; spelling variant (after French quai) of earlier kay (also key, whence the modern pronunciation) < Old French kay, cay; akin to Spanish cayo shoal. See key2
Related forms
quaylike, adjective
Can be confused
cay, key, quay.
pier, dock, landing, levee.


[kwey] /kweɪ/
Matthew Stanley, 1833–1904, U.S. politician: senator 1887–99, 1901–4. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for quay
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He's pledged to find you on the quay, and he will—unless some one makes him drunk.

    It Happened in Egypt C. N. Williamson
  • And then, as they followed the quay of the Gave, they all at once came upon the Grotto.

  • Although the quay was not yet finished, the work seemed to be quite abandoned.

  • He bought one at a shop near the quay, and was back to the steps in ten minutes.

    Henry Dunbar M. E. Braddon
  • He was so interested in the crowd on the quay that he did not hear his father speaking to him.

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine
  • It was raining in torrents, and the quay was absolutely deserted.

    His Masterpiece Emile Zola
  • The quay in perspective to the left, the man who shoulders that sack below.

    His Masterpiece Emile Zola
  • Then, as he regained the quay, Juve laughed in his false white beard.

    A Nest of Spies Pierre Souvestre
  • Filling his pipe afresh, Juve resumed his walk along the quay.

    A Nest of Spies Pierre Souvestre
British Dictionary definitions for quay


a wharf, typically one built parallel to the shoreline Compare pier (sense 1)
Word Origin
C14 keye, from Old French kai, of Celtic origin; compare Cornish hedge, fence, Old Breton cai fence
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for quay

1690s, variant of Middle English key, keye, caye "wharf" (c.1300; mid-13c. in place names), from Old North French cai (Old French chai, 12c., Modern French quai) "sand bank," from Gaulish caium (5c.), from Old Celtic *kagio- "to encompass, enclose" (cf. Welsh cae "fence, hedge," Cornish ke "hedge"), from PIE *kagh- "to catch, seize; wickerwork, fence" (see hedge (n.)). Spelling altered in English by influence of French quai.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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