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cay

[key, kee] /keɪ, ki/
noun
1.
a small low island; key.
Origin
1700-1710
1700-10; < Spanish cayo; see key2
Can be confused
cay, key, quay.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for cay's

cay

/keɪ; kiː/
noun
1.
a small low island or bank composed of sand and coral fragments, esp in the Caribbean area Also called key
Word Origin
C18: from Spanish cayo, probably from Old French quaiquay
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 cay's

cay

n.

"low island," 1707, from Spanish cayo; see key (n.2).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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cay's in Science
cay
  (kē, kā)   
A small, low island composed largely of coral or sand. Also called key.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Article for cay's

cay

small, low island, usually sandy, situated on a coral reef platform. Such islands are commonly referred to as keys in Florida and parts of the Caribbean. Sand cays are usually built on the edge of the coral platform, opposite the direction from which the prevailing winds blow. Debris broken from the reef is swept across the platform at high tide but is prevented from washing over the edge by waves produced by the refraction and convergence of waves around the platform itself. The accumulation of sand may at first move around but gradually will become stabilized as beach rock (sand and debris cemented at water level by precipitated calcium carbonate) is formed and the tiny island becomes vegetated. The sand is generally built to 1 12 to 3 metres (5 to 10 feet) above the high-tide level, although the wind may raise dunes somewhat higher. A cay is often elongated perpendicular to the prevailing winds, but its shape may change considerably with deposition in calm weather and erosion during storms. Even fairly large cays are vulnerable to complete destruction by severe hurricanes or typhoons. Occasionally sand cays may have a rampart of coarse material on the windward side, just beyond a shallow lagoon filled with mangroves. In some cases cays or ramparts that consist of chunks of dead coral and other debris may form on the windward edge of the coral reef platform

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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