How Do You Pronounce "Cay"?

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The Third Coast - Nashville
7,890 Posts
Joined Mar 2001
"You say tomato, I say tomoto, let's call the whole thing off...."

Is "Cay", as in HMC, pronounced "key" or "kay"?

Is a cay the same thing as a quay?

Aren't these thought provoking questions for a Sunday afternoon?

MB, Canada
11,101 Posts
Joined Jun 2002
It is pronounced key as in house key. [/color]
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Spotsylvania, VA USA
135 Posts
Joined Nov 2002
Cay (ke {long e}) it is a low island made mostly of coral or sand.
a quay, same pronounciation, is a wharf or a paved embankment for loading/unloading ships
the second acceptable pronounciation of both is ka (long a)
The Third Coast - Nashville
7,890 Posts
Joined Mar 2001
Thanks to both of you. So Ruby, you're saying there are 2 possible pronunciations? Now I'm totally confused! But I'll never make the mistake of saying boat instead of ship.

Lincoln CA USA, 95648
12,739 Posts
Joined Aug 2000
I pronounce it "key", as in door key.

I pronounce gaol "jail" as in slammer.

I pronounce the first r in library, but most say liberry.

I also use the first r in February.

Otherwise, I speak with a fairly normal Western US accent.

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108,182 Posts
Joined Jul 2001

Years and years ago when we visited our first private island, everyone used to say "cay" - long "a".

But over the years the pronounciation has changed to "key".

Have no idea when or who started the change.

DFW Texas
1,391 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
I'm hooked on phonics so I say Cay just as it's spelled
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Explorer of the Seas October 2017
DFW Texas
1,391 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
Okey, I'll pronounce it correctly
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Husbands are like pancakes - you have to throw the first one out

Explorer of the Seas October 2017
448 Posts
Joined Mar 2002
30 years ago I visited Great Harbor Cay in the Bahamas and Cay was pronounced with a long A...I still say it with the long A although I have heard Key. Another pronounciation issue...Antiga or Antigua. On the island and on Jimmy Buffet songs it is Anteega.
14,214 Posts
Joined Mar 2002
Didn't the Florida Keys start out as Cays, but they just gave up and spelled it like it sounds?
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San Diego, CA
593 Posts
Joined Oct 2002
After reading about Half Moon Cay for several months I found that it is supposed to be pronounced Key! Well, I am a slow learner so I now call it Half Moon Cay-Key. Maybe by December I will get it right!

And I pronounce both R's in February and library and nuclear not nucular and realtor not realitor. But once I get something wrong it's difficult to un-learn it!
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Palm Harbor, FL
45 Posts
Joined Dec 2002
We pronounce it "key" in Belize. Just to add another twist, we also spell it "caye"! This language of ours is a wonderful thing!!

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Long Island, NY, USA
3,779 Posts
Joined Nov 2003
Apparently both are technically acceptable but on lovely Half Moon Cay it is most definitely pronounced "key".

I also pronounce "quay" as "key" though there are myriad different ways to pronounce that. The correct alternate pronounciation is, yes, "cay", like the way you would expect the island to be pronounced Lots of Americans say "kway" but that is not correct. I stick with the most common British version, "key" (how often do you have Americans using the word quay anyway?). In French it is spelled quai and pronounced roughly as "keh", like the first part of "KEttle".

As for whether "cay" and "quay" are the same, no, they're totally different. A cay is a small, low island. A quay is a place where one ties up a ship - it is a synonym for wharf; that is a dock which is parallel to the shoreline (whereas a pier is perpendicular to, or at least protrudes from the shore). Confusingly I have read that "quay" can also be spelled "key", just to muddy things further. At least there can't be any controversy over pronounciation when it's spelled that way .
Vero Beach, FL USA
3,455 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
You can pronounce it Half Moon Key or Half Moon Kay. I don't care as long as I'm able to lay out and enjoy the island you can call it whatever you want.
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