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Q, q [Called ‘kew’, rhyming with ‘few’]. The 17th LETTER of the modern Roman ALPHABET as used for English. It originated as the Phoenician symbol qop, which had the value of a voiceless uvular plosive: a k-like sound made well back in the mouth. It was initially adopted by the Greeks as koppa, to represent /k/ before a back vowel; but classical GREEK preferred the letter kappa, the ancestor of K, and koppa fell into disuse. The Etruscans used three Greek letters, gamma, kappa, and koppa, for variants on /k/. Koppa was used specifically before /u/, a practice followed by LATIN, which gave the letter its characteristic curved tail as Q. This letter was little used in OLD ENGLISH, which used the digraph cw in words now spelt with qu: cwen/queen, cwic/quick. FRENCH inherited the digraph qu from Latin, and after the Norman Conquest it was increasingly used in written English by French-influenced scribes, so that by 1300 cw had been supplanted. For a time, qu spread further especially in Northern English, to words now spelt with wh. This pattern persisted longest in Scots, in which, for example, what was written quhat until the 18c, and quh survives in such surnames as Colquhoun (‘Cahoon’), Farquhar (‘Farker’), and Urquhart (‘Urkart’).

Sound value and occurrence

(1) In English, q has the same value as k or hard c, and is generally followed by u, with the joint pronunciation /kw/: quaint, quibble. (2) Loss of /w/ in French led to spelling changes that obscure the common ancestry of such English/French pairs as quash/casser, quire/cahier. On the other hand, English has developed qu in words that in French had, and still have, cu: esquire/écuyer, squirrel/écureuil. (3) In English, qu typically occurs word-initially before a, e, i, o (quack, quash, quail, quest, queer, quit, quite, quote) and after s (squat, squeal, squirrel). (4) Medial qu also occurs: adequate, banquet, equal, frequent, liquid, request. (5) When the Latin prefix ad- precedes qu, it is assimilated as ac: acquaint, acquire, acquit. However, initial a sometimes also precedes qu without c (aquatic, aquiline) with no distinction in pronunciation.

Exotic Q, QU

(1) Though rarely so used, q without u has the same value as k and as c before a, o, u. It is used as a TRANSLITERATION of the HEBREW letter quph and ARABIC qaf (cognate with Phoenician qop), both uvular plosives given the value /k/ in everyday English: Iraq, qaf, Qatar, Qur'ān (Koran). (2) In the Pinyin script for Chinese, q represents the ch sound in cheese, as in Qian-long, Qin-huang-dao: see CHINA. (3) Words that have entered English in recent centuries from Romance languages have mostly kept the value of qu as /k/: word-finally with e (arabesque, grotesque, mosque, opaque, picturesque, unique), medially (bouquet, coquette, mosquito), and occasionally initially (quiche, but not queue), especially in names (Quezon City in the Philippines). The recent French LOAN questionnaire is sometimes pronounced with /k/, but usually with /kw/ by ANALOGY with the earlier loan question. Quay is an 18c respelling of kay or key, by analogy with French quai. There is an alternation between /kw/ in conquest (compare quest, request) and liquid, and /k/ in conquer/conqueror and liquor. (4) In the ACRONYMS Qantas (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services) and QARANC ( Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps) the q is pronounced as /kw/, as if followed by a u: ‘Kwontas’, ‘Kwarank’. (5) Forms with medial cqu pronounced /k/, include: lacquer, lacquey (now lackey), and racquet (also racket). (6) AmE generally has bark, check, licorice where BrE keeps the q in barque, cheque, liquorice.

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Q1 / kyoō/ (also q) • n. (pl. Qs or Q's ) the seventeenth letter of the alphabet. ∎  denoting the next after P in a set of items, categories, etc. PHRASES: mind one's Ps and Qssee mind.Q2 • abbr. ∎  quarter (used to refer to a specified quarter of the fiscal year): we expect to have an exceptional Q4. ∎  queen (used esp. in describing card games and recording moves in chess): 17.Qb4. ∎  question: Q: What's the problem? A: I don't feel well. ∎  Theol. denoting the hypothetical source of the passages shared by the gospels of Matthew and Luke, but not found in Mark.

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Q 17th letter of the English alphabet and a letter employed in the alphabets of other w European languages. It is a consonant and is descended from the Semitic letter qoph (a name meaning “ape” or “monkey”), which became qoppa in the Greek alphabet. Qoppa was a rarely used letter intended to render the k sound before the lip-rounded back vowels o and u, but only a few Greek dialects had a use for it and it was superseded by kappa. However, the Romans took it over, retaining its k sound but invariably following it with the letter u to represent what phoneticians call a labialized velar plosive (pronounced kw). The qu spelling entered all the subsequent Romance languages, and thence came into English. It retains a kw pronunciation, although in French particularly this has been simplified to a k sound. English preserves both, depending on the origin of the word – kw in such words as queen, k in such words as quiche. In a few words (mostly proper names) of Arabic origin, the q has no accompanying u and is an attempt to transliterate a more uvular form of k. However, in English it is pronounced as a common velar k in such names as Qatar or Iraq. See K

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2. The ratio of the frequency at the mid-point of a bandpass filter to the filter width.

3. The ratio of the peak energy in a waveform to the energy lost by dissipation. As a measure of seismic absorption it has been used effectively in delimiting Benioff zones using natural earthquake events (high Q implies low absorption and is associated with crust and deep mantle; low Q implies high absorption and is associated with the subcrustal low-velocity layer.

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Q (prob. an abbreviation of Germ. Quelle, source). A symbol denoting a (hypothetical) document used by the authors of the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Its existence is inferred from parallel passages in those gospels, containing substantially the same material, which do not come from Mark (see SYNOPTIC GOSPELS). Thus the Q hypothesis proposes a second written source beside the gospel of Mark for Matthew and Luke. It normally envisages that Luke did not use Matthew, and is therefore the main rival to the view that Luke knew and used Matthew (within either a Mark-Matthew-Luke or a Matthew-Luke-Mark sequence).

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Q the seventeenth letter of the modern English alphabet and the sixteenth of the ancient Roman one, in the latter an adoption of the (koppa) of some of the early Greek alphabets, in turn derived from the Phoenician letter used to represent voiced uvular.

Q was the pseudonym of the English writer and critic Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863–1944), which he originally adopted as a student at Oxford when writing parodies of English poets for the Oxford Magazine.

Q also denotes the hypothetical source of the passages shared by the gospels of Matthew and Luke, but not found in Mark; Q here probably comes from German Quelle ‘source’.

In the James Bond films, Q is the name of the elderly technician responsible for the development of Bond's customized cars and other gadgets.

See also mind one's P's and Q's.

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q (ital.) Physics, symbol for density of heat flow rate
• (ital.) Physics, symbol for electric charge
• (bold ital.; or qi) Maths., symbol for a generalized coordinate
• (ital.) Chem., symbol for partition function (individual entity)
• Physics, symbol for quark
• (ital.) symbol for quintal (100 kg)
• (ital.) Meteorol., symbol for specific humidity
• Meteorol., symbol for squall

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Q, 17th letter of the alphabet, corresponding to the koppa of western Greek alphabets. U must follow the letter in English (e.g., queen, question), and the combination properly represents a sound much like the true voiceless labiovelar stop (also represented by the combination kw).

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q • symb. Physics electric charge.

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