Words That Begin with Q

By Maeve Maddox

Although Scrabble resources list hundreds of “English words” beginning with the letter q, there are only about 80 (not counting inflections) that most people are likely to encounter in their reading. I’ll categorize them according to “Basic Vocabulary,” “General Vocabulary,” and “Advanced Vocabulary.”

Note: In English orthography, q is usually followed by the letter u. The conventional pronunciation of qu is [kw]. In a few words, qu is pronounced [k]; I’ll note them.

Basic Vocabulary
quail
quaint
Quaker
qualify
quality
quantity
quarrel
quarry
quart
quartet
quartz
queen
queer
query
quest
question
queue [kju]
quiche [keesh]
quick
quiet
quilt
quintet
quip
quit
quite
quiz
quota
quote
quotient

General Vocabulary
quack
quaff
quagmire
quake
qualm
quandary
quantum
quark
quash
quasi
quaver
quay [kee]
quell
quench
queasy
quibble
quicken
quid
quieten
quill
quince
quirk
quirt
quiver
quixotic
Quixote (Standard American pronunciation of Quixote: [kee-HOH-tee]; Standard British pronunciation: [KWIK-sit])
quorum
quoth

Advanced Vocabulary
quaestor
quahog (also spelled quohog; some speakers pronounce the qu as [k])
quai [kay] (this is the word for the quays in Paris)
quartile
quean
quern
quiddity
Quietism
quietude
quietus
quiff
quire
quoin [KOYN]
quoit [koit] and [kwoit]
quondam

Related post: Q in English Words

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15 Responses to “Words That Begin with Q”

  • Judita

    what about “quinoa”? It’s all over the place – should be in general vocabulary.

  • Dale A. Wood

    I think that the word “quietus” only appears in a few fixed idiomatic phrases.
    That is a useful notation to place with words like this: “found only in fixed phrases”.

    They have words like that in German like this, and I have seen translation books that made this notation. There are certain words in German that appear in only a few fixed idiomatic phrases, and I believe that the same is in English.

    One of these German words is “Knacker”. A long time ago, a Knacker was someone who went from house to house collecting bones for some purpose (to make fertilizer with?). There haven’t been any Knackers in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland for a couple of centuries, so that word is only used in a few fixed idiomatic phrases.

    Will that put the quietus on the subject?
    D.A.W.

  • Dale A. Wood

    On the other hand, the word “quartile” is widely used, especially in anything having to do with statistics. There are the top quartile, the bottom quartile, and two quartiles in between those.

    The plural of the word “quantum” is “quanta” because this is a loan word from Latin, and “quanta” is the plural in Latin.
    Likewise, the plural of “spectrum” is “spectra”, the plural of “automatum” is “automata”, “labium” is “labia”, the plural or “minimum” is “minima”, the plural of “maximum” is “maxima”, the plural of “optimum” is “optima”, and the plural of “ultamatum” is “ultamata”. I wonder why English speakers cannot deal with this.

    Also, the plural of “index” is “indices”, but I see “indexes” most of the time now. Those people just cannot deal with Latin plurals.

    I heard an electrical engineer use “spectrums”. I made a correction of this to “spectra” – but then cross words ensued. Why?
    Electrical engineers deal with “voltage spectra” and “power spectra”, and physicists also deal with “energy spectra”, “color spectra”, “electron spectra”, “neutron spectra”, “mass spectra”, etc. Many of these spectra have passed into chemistry with tools for chemical analysis.
    D.A.W.

  • Donald Kaspersen

    I wold think that quantify and qualify would be on the list.

  • paul

    What about quisling?

  • Maeve

    The pronunciation of “quinoa” is discussed in the post linked as “Related Post”: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/q-in-english-words/

    I expect I’ve left out more than just “quantify” and “qualify.”

  • Bill Statton

    I wouldn’t omit the fine word “quotidian” (though I admit to not using it in an everyday or quotidian way!)

  • venqax

    On the other hand, the word “quartile” is widely used, especially in anything having to do with statistics.
    Likewise quintile, probably even more. Quadruple, quadruplets, quintuplets.
    The pronunciation of “quinoa” is discussed in the post linked as “Related Post”: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/q-in-english-words/
    I still have to go with “kwin’-oh-a”. That is how it would be pronounced in English, regardless of what language it came from. We are speaking English now.

    @DAW: The above goes for the Latin plurals, as well. Unless you are actually speaking Latin– which you probably aren’t– indexes, spectrums, and maximums are fine. That is what the English plurals would be. In specific narrow contexts, like scientific jargon, then the non-English plurals may be the dictated convention. But only then. Mathematicians talking about math or marine biologists discussing marine biology refer to formulae and octopi. At home, formulas and octopuses are perfectly acceptable. (Interestingly, yet again, formulae and octopi both get red-lined by spell-check. Formulas and octopuses don’t. That says quite a bit about convention, if nothing else.

  • D.A.W.

    Venqax: “red-lined by spell-check” means NOTHING!
    Please get that through your skull. Spell-checkers are inherently stupid, and they cannot be trusted.
    The ultimate decision maker is the human being.

    Therefore, the next time that you are tempted to say something about spell-checkers, please go walk the plank instead.

    Furthermore, “formulae” is NOT used in American English. It is thoroughly obsolete in the United States, and probably in Canada, too. Use “formulas” here. “Formulae” is British English.
    Also, in physics, engineering, or any kind of technology, the plural of “antenna” is “antennas”.
    “Narrow context”, my foot! You obviously do not understand that in today’s world, science and technology is more important that anything else. If you don’t believe that, I suggest that you toss you computer off the top of the Empire State building.
    With your comments about technology, you have thoroughly insulted me and all of the other people like me. Shame On You.

    Why don’t you try listening and learning, rather than arguing with everything that you can think of? Do you know how insulting you argumentativeness is? If you do, you don’t care.

    When people want to discuss the details of things like poetry or horticulture, I just keep my mouth shut and don’t make any arguments.

    It is also stupid to argue with a mathematician about the use of the word “quartile”. How many courses in graduate statistics have you passed?

  • D.A.W.

    Note: codices, helices, indices, matrices, radices, and vertices, and don’t you forget these.
    Then there is the word “simplex”, which does not have a plural.
    Failure to use these just marks you as illiterate and witless.
    Irregular plurals in English are just a fact of life.
    Note alumnae and alumni, also.

  • Maeve

    D.A.W.,
    My usual policy regarding readers’ comments is one of noninterference. I appreciate readers who take the time to comment, especially when they contribute ideas or information that enrich the original post. After your “walking the plank” comment, however, I feel that intervention is in order.

    Disagreement, especially humorous disagreement, is useful and entertaining. Angry outbursts and ad hominem attacks, however, spoil the friendly atmosphere that has always made DWT a pleasant place to visit.

    I feel that you should be able to disagree with me or with your fellow readers without being abusive. Your opinions on language are welcome, but your insistence that they are the only valid opinions in any and all contexts is not in keeping with the spirit of this site.

    The tenor of readers’ comments affects the ambience of a site. I’d like to keep ours friendly and thought-provoking. Perhaps it would help if you would compose your comments offline while you are angry, and then edit them into something more appropriate before submitting them.

    Thanks for your cooperation.

  • D.A.W.

    Maeve, I think that you need to do something about Venqax and his arrant handing out of insults….

  • D.A.W.

    Yes, it is despicable to take advantage of the benefits of technology, such as transportation, refrigeration, telecommunications, electric power, computers, etc., and then insult the people who provide them for you….

  • venqax

    DAW: Calm down (don’t pronounce the L, though) or you’re going to give yourself more spasms .

    Venqax: “red-lined by spell-check” means NOTHING!
    It means exactly what I said it does. It shows, for good or ill, that there is a pretty strong convention among the general population that uses things like spellcheckers not to use those words. Whether or not that convention is defensible is a different question.

    The ultimate decision maker is the human being…Furthermore, “formulae” is NOT used in American English… It is thoroughly obsolete in the United States… “Formulae” is British English
    Yes, humans make decisions, DAW, but that doesn’t mean you can just make things up. Any source out there will tell you the 2 plurals are interchangeable, without distinction between SAE and British, and formulae is not labeled obsolete. But that is not the point, in any case. The point is, (I’m literally spelling it out, BTW) that terms of art or jargon in different fields are completely different from SAE or any other general standard. By definition they are NOT standard. That is their whole point.

    Also, in physics, engineering, or any kind of technology, the plural of “antenna” is “antennas”.
    Oh, would you be referring to the jargon of those areas, maybe? They use antennas, not antennae? That is nifty. As it happens, either one is fine in SAE but antennas is undoubtedly more common.

    “Narrow context”, my foot!
    Watch out for your foot! Yes, DAW, STEM jargons are just that: jargon. Narrow. It is how people in a field talk to each other about that field. It is not standard English. I guess you live in a techno bubble somewhere but I must inform you that normal people don’t talk like physicists or engineers or even lawyers or lumberjacks. I have no clue why you think I’ve insulted the stewards of technology or you, but if you really think technology is the most important thing there is, maybe someone needs to start. Even if it were, that would have nothing at all to do with language. For safety’s sake, can you enumerate exactly who, “all of the other people like [you]” are?

    When people want to discuss the details of things like poetry or horticulture, I just keep my mouth shut and don’t make any arguments.
    OK. What if the subject of discussion were something like…oh, let’s see…the English language and its use? Just as an example. How, exactly, do you suppose a mathematician would engage that conversation? I mean, math doesn’t have anything to do with English so you’d think maybe the mathematician would try “listening and learning”, rather than waxing apoplectic when he gets corrected.

    It is also stupid to argue with a mathematician about the use of the word “quartile”.
    What?

    How many courses in graduate statistics have you passed?
    Plus or minus 2. With more degrees of confidence than my N really warranted for a standard deviant. But enough to know that when someone says, “I’m a mathematician, so let me tell you about English”, the correlation between what he knows and what he thinks he knows is statistically insignificant.

  • paul

    and quintuplets? quintessential?

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