How do you pronounce "Qatar"?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Dec. 3 2002 7:27 PM

How Do You Pronounce "Qatar"?

Should the looming invasion of Iraq come to pass, air bases located in the tiny Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar will be vital to the U.S. military's plans. What is the correct pronunciation of "Qatar"?


The most accurate English estimate is something halfway between "cutter" and "gutter." It's not "KUH-tar," the pronunciation that has become the standard among TV newscasters.

The Arabic language—particularly the colloquial dialect common in the Arabian Peninsula—features several sounds that are completely alien to native English speakers, beginning with the initial consonant in "Qatar." The "q" makes for a hard "k" sound but one with its origins deep within the throat—a poor English equivalent is the "c" in "cough." The word's first vowel sound is similar to "aw," as in "Aw, shucks!" but not nearly as heavy on the "w."

The middle "t" is perhaps the trickiest part. It is known as a velarized consonant, which means the back of the tongue must be pressed against the mouth's roof to achieve the requisite effect. The result is somewhat similar to the double "t" in "butter" but a lot more guttural. Native English speakers must train very hard to learn this trick, as our impulse when making a "t" sound is to push up the tongue's tip, rather than its aft section.

The terminal "ar" is nearly overpowered by this strong velarized consonant. If anything, it is supposed to sound like a little rumble escaping the epiglottis.

Click here to hear Terri DeYoung, a professor of Arabic, pronounce "Qatar."

Explainer thanks John Hayes of the University of California at Berkeley and Terri DeYoung of the University of Washington.



The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.


See Me

Transparent is the fall’s only great new show.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

  News & Politics
Damned Spot
Sept. 30 2014 9:00 AM Now Stare. Don’t Stop. The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.
Sept. 30 2014 11:25 AM Naomi Klein Is Wrong Multinational corporations are doing more than governments to halt climate change.
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 30 2014 10:10 AM A Lovable Murderer and Heroic Villain: The Story of Australia's Most Iconic Outlaw
  Double X
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 10:59 AM “For People, Food Is Heaven” Boer Deng on the story behind her piece “How to Order Chinese Food.”
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 10:48 AM One of Last Year’s Best Animated Shorts Is Finally Online for Free
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.