How to pronounce Qatar

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In a previous post I described my hunt for business class award flights to South Africa in which I happily found Qatar Airways business class award flights (click here to read that post).  When discussing these plans with my family, I quickly realized that writing about Qatar Airways is very different than talking about it.  Most often I’ve heard Qatar pronounced as “cutter,” but I’ve heard “kuh-TAR” as well.  When talking with people unfamiliar with the country or the airline, the conversation seems to require a few steps:

I booked business class flights on “cutter”…

Or, “kuh-tar”…

That’s spelled Q.A.T.A.R

Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways

Curious if there was a better answer, I turned to the internet…

Cambridge Dictionary

The Cambridge dictionary online offers two English pronunciations of “Qatar” (found here).  You can click to listen to the spoken words or

  • UK: /ˈkʌt.ɑːr/ [sounds like “KUH-tah” to me]
  • US: /kəˈtɑːr/ [sounds like “kuh-TAR” to me]

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The Merriam-Webster dictionary online offers a single English pronunciation of “Qatar” (found here): \ˈkä-tər, ˈgä-, ˈgə-; kə-ˈtär\.  When clicking the link to listen, it sounds to me like “KAH-ter” (as in Welcome Back, Kotter).

Welcome Back Kotter

QuoraQatar the country

On the question and answer site, Quora, someone asked: Arabic (language): Qatar: Is it “kah-tarr,” “cutter,” or “gutter”?

Here were some of the answers:

Since the Arabic letter qof/qaf (ق) doesn’t exist in most European languages, an approximation is necessary. The closest in English is “gutter”. Definitely not “ka-TAR” as is frequently heard.

… However, the caveat to all of this is that when speaking English and speaking of foreign nations it doesn’t always have to be restricted to mimicking the native pronunciation. For example, Americans would say France with a short A, whereas in French it would be la France with a long A.  …This is a long way of saying that Qatar, pronounced “cutter” is probably more in vogue now. It is replacing the older way, “kuh-TAR.” People who’ve had some interaction with the region might say, “gutter” a bit more – not inaccurate either.  As many Qataris will tell you, the pronunciation can vary.

It’s significantly closer to “cutter” than it is to “kah-tarr”.  Some gulfies like to say “gutter”, which is probably the easiest pronunciation for anyone who’s not familiar with the “qaf” sound.  In normal English I say “cutter”.  When talking to Arabs, I say “qutter” or “gutter,” depending on how they pronounce their qafs.

NPR

NPR published an amusing segment in 2010 titled “More Than One Way To Pronounce Qatar.”  Mike Pesca describes many pronunciation options and ends with:

But officially they want me to say it sort of like guitar. We called the embassy, they said, kuh-TAR is fine, everyone pronounces it that way anyway. Well, maybe not everyone.

Summary

The correct English pronunciation is a matter of debate.  Here are several options:

  • KUH-tah
  • kuh-TAR
  • KAH-ter (Kotter)
  • Gutter
  • Cutter

So, say it however you wish and, if talking with someone unfamiliar with the country or airline, follow up with “That’s spelled Q.A.T.A.R.”

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Jim

Just flew Qatar Airlines and I asked 10 flight attendants how to pronounce the name. Every single one of them said Ka Tar … they laughed at Cutter…said nobody says that except those that have no clue.

RS_WI

This is a funny debate, and really actually just hinges on the English pronunciation vs native pronunciation.

We call Germany, Germany. They don’t, in German. Sweden <> Sverige. Espana vs. Spain.
Like, it’s all inconsistent all over the world. There’s just a weird hangup on this particular county’s name.

I was an Arabic linguist in the military, in a middle-east specialist unit, and have heard all the permutations here in this thread and comments from many colleagues and foreigners. In my early years, it was definitely ka-Taar. More knowledgeable, but not Arabic speakers went with ‘cutter’.

Based on language school, and native speakers:
Take the last sound of “lack”, with that hard “K in the back of your throat. That glottal sound doesn’t exist in English, but this is very very close.
Say “lack” like 10 times
Then put that very last sound in front of “-utter” and say it fast: “Kut’r” almost.

And, in fact, they don’t refer to Qatar as “Qatar”. All countries in Arabic are preceded by essentially the equivalent of “the”.
So, on the airplane itself, it says (in Arabic script): al-Qatar
Iraq is called “al-Iraq”, etc.

So, by just referring to the country as Qatar, we have already, in English, change the name/pronunciation.

Robert

My sister-in-law lives in Dammam, they say it ‘cutter’

Rick

My take is I don’t care what the dictionary or other people think it is pronounced. All I care is how the person or company wants to pronounce it. Years ago when I flew Qatar, in-flight safety video pronounced itself KAH-tur. It is how I call it since then.

Same for many other brands that people pronounce them incorrectly everyday – Adidas, Chanel, even Marriott. We can discuss it all day long, but the only correct pronunciation is the one the company (or the person) wants.

dave

You are overthinking this. Call Qatar airlines and listen to the pronunciation on the recorded greeting.

derek

Qatar Airways TV ads in Singapore say “KAH-tur Airways”. So I say “KAH-tur” or “guttar”, not ka-TAR as in NC Tar Heels.

Why not ask a local?

Why would you cite the British or American dictionaries ? Because they’re so correct on pronouncing cities and countries? Like Peking, Bombay, Florence, etc? How about asking someone from Qatar how they pronounce their own countries name instead of trying to Anglicize it (which 99% of the time is incorrect)?

Last edited 1 year ago by Why not ask a local?
Genise

I lived in Qatar for many years – in Doha and Umm Said. The Qataries – and us expats – pronounced it as kuTAR.

helklo

ITS KUH-TAR

vancanhph93

It’s significantly closer to “cutter” than it is to “kah-tarr”. Some gulfies like to say “gutter”, which is probably the easiest pronunciation for anyone who’s not familiar with the “qaf” sound. In normal English I say “cutter”. When talking to Arabs, I say “qutter” or “gutter,” depending on how they pronounce their qafs.
https://bit.ly/2GCOE1Z

Douglas Duke

I think changing the pronunciation of Qatar is New Agediculous! Are we going to start saying Francaise instead of France or Paree instead of Paris or Deutschland instead of Germany etcetera?! Do other countries pronounce our names our ways ,on a Spanish station I heard them say Nueva York instead of New York . Do they pronounce Qataries Cutteries now? How does Qataries pronounce our country and cities and states?
On another note if you’ll pardon me. Re:Smokey Bear? It’s a bit irksome when wrong-headed ageism tries to change something the way it was when I was a kid and I’m 72 years old. It’s my impression even before my childhood it was and is Smokey the Bear .the argument against that I heard was that who has “the” in their name . Duh, what about Felix the Cat ,Alexander the Great ,Eric the Great, Attila the Hun and in common terminology like Otto the German , Jack the Plumber, or Mickelson the golfer, and how about John the Baptist?

And nobody asked me about “hashtag” ,what about Tweed tag , Crossroads tag or why add to the terminology of pound sign & number sign? And instead of so-called hashtag why not use the star sign? Thank you and John 3:16 and 1st Corinthians 14:33 and “pray for the Peace of Jerusalem” and may God bless America and the judeo-christian ethic and may God bless the children

Peter Simon

I lived in Dubai when it was as a dusty, desert town. Fascinating but very provincial. We, everybody, pronounced it ku-TAR. I’m going to continue to call it Ku-TAR no matter what is “current” in the United States.

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