• synonyms


[kee, key, kwey]
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  1. a landing place, especially one of solid masonry, constructed along the edge of a body of water; wharf.
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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 formsquay·like, adjective
Can be confusedcay key quay


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  1. Matthew Stanley,1833–1904, U.S. politician: senator 1887–99, 1901–4.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


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

British Dictionary definitions for quay


  1. a wharf, typically one built parallel to the shorelineCompare pier (def. 1)
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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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper