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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. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for quay
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I saw the child myself on Sutton quay, ay, and spake with him, but I'd no notion that he meant to follow us on board.

    The Golden Galleon Robert Leighton
  • Nejdanov thought of the rope that is flung to the quay to make fast a ship.

    Virgin Soil Ivan S. Turgenev
  • Cleopatra comes from the palace and runs across the quay to Ftatateeta.

    Caesar and Cleopatra George Bernard Shaw
  • He essayed his credit with a person of the name of Dufour, on the quay, and was refused.

  • Three bluejackets were walking down the street to the quay, lurching over the pavement as they walked.

    An Australian Lassie Lilian Turner
  • A clanging bell and the noise of traffic on the quay recalled them to the moment.

    Robert Orange John Oliver Hobbes
  • Finding that the second vessel lay moored to the quay, he sprang from it with all his might and alighted safely on the shore.

    Fighting the Flames R.M. Ballantyne
  • I there found Jack waiting for me, and we together walked down to the quay.

    The Fixed Period Anthony Trollope
  • At half past ten Timothy Sweeny left his shop and walked down to the quay.

    Priscilla's Spies George A. Birmingham
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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