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July 1998


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Tue, 30 Jun 1998 15:04:26 -0400
"Kenneth J. Blume" <[log in to unmask]>
Albany College of Pharmacy
"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
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Quay is pronounced KEY.  When it has to do with ships, I believe it has
French origin, because "quayage" means "wharfage."  The Florida Keys, or
the cays in the Caribbean, come from the Spanish, CAY, a small low
island.  The Spanish possibly came from the Arawak.

Regarding the original question:

Gershom Bradford, in _The Mariner's Dictionary_, provides the following
definitions. As with most nautical terminology, there is quite a bit of

BERTH:  "a position for a vessel to tie up to or anchor."

DOCK:  "the water space between piers.  The use of the word through the
years indicates the water space, not the pier.  But seamen sometimes use
the term in referring to wharf or pier, yet it is not considered
strictkly correct."

PIER:  "a construction work extending into a harbor with a sufficient
depth of water alongside to accomodate vessels.  It coarries a suggstion
of greater length than a wharf."

QUAY:  "a loading and discharging place for vessels.  It is usually
filled in behind solid masonry.  This type of pier is very common in

SLIP: "a berth for a ship between two piers."

WHARF:  "a projecting structure extending off to a depth of water
sufficient to accommodate vessels alongside, where they are discharged,
loaded and repaired.  the term has been somewhat superseded by the word
_pier_ when applied to the great solid structures of the larger

So there it all is--although all that might not clarify things...


Phil Lord wrote:
> Not to complicate matters, but can someone clarify the correct pronounciation of "quay" - being the waterfront bulkhead mentioned below? Is it "kway" or "keee"? My understanding is that it is the latter, as in "key". And what is the linguistic connection, if any, between this "key" and the word now associated with small islands, as in "Key Largo". Do they both have the same root?
> Phil Lord
> Historical Survey
> New York State Museum
> [log in to unmask]
> >>> <[log in to unmask]> 06/29/98 08:31pm >>>
>      The words "pier," "slip," "dock," "wharf," etc., have or had very
> specific meanings.  A true "dock" is the same as a slip.  A dock, or slip, is
> an inlet of water large enough to contain one or more ships.  A dock is
> basically an enclosed area of water large enough to hold a ship; a dock is not
> a wharf or pier, although it has now, incorrectly, come to mean that.
> Manhattan had many slips in the 18th century.  These were replaced beginning
> about 1790 with a system of projecting piers, or wharfs that projected into
> the harbor to which ships could tie.  A quay is a wharf that is built parallel
> with the water's edge, to which a ship can tie.   A wharf is basically any
> built structure to which a ship can tie.
>      I am curious to know why the word "slip," in the meaning of dock, is not
> included in the Oxford English Dictionary.   It is, I think, clearly an
> English language word.
> Paul Huey

Kenneth J. Blume, Ph.D.
Assoc. Prof. of History
Head, Division of Humanities and Social Sciences
Albany College of Pharmacy
106 New Scotland Ave             518-445-7265; Fax: 518-445-7202
Albany, NY 12208                 E-MAIL:  [log in to unmask]

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