How to pronounce Qatar

This morning I described my hunt for business class award flights to South Africa (click here to read the post).  I managed to book Qatar Airways business class for our outbound flights, but I’m still working on booking the return.  When discussing our plans with my family, I quickly realized that writing about Qatar 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.”

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. I flew Qatar Airways in Jan. When checking into the Admirals club at LAX, I called it Kotter, like the show (that is how the British pronounce it on their commercials). The lady at the desk had no idea what I was saying. Then she realized and told me it is pronounced Ka-Tar.

  2. This post reminds me of scenes from Keeping Up Appearances. “My name is Bouquet that’s spelled B-U-C-K-E-T” -Hyacinth Bucket. Thanks for the good laugh.

  3. I had to call AA to book award travel to Tanzania on Qatar. Not knowing properly how to pronounce, I reviewed internet articles and settled on something that sounded close to “cutter”. Proudly calling the award desk, I was told, in a thick Texas accent, “cutter” airlines is not a member of OneWorld. Then I said, “how about “Kaa-TAR” airlines. That did the trick.

  4. Ha !
    I noticed the funny pronunciation here in the US. Lived in Doha for many years when there was hardly an asphalt road in the country. We always pronounce it as ku-TAR and the people as ku-Taries.

  5. That freakin letter is responsible for every headline containing an alternate spelling of Moammar Gaddafi (Qadhafi? (Kadaffi??)).

  6. One of my professors guest lectured there during our spring break about two years ago and he told us it was pronounced like “cater,” which is how I’ve pronounced it since. Guess that was wrong!

  7. Having traveled there and met natives a few years back, most of them tend to pronounce it as “cutter” but agree that there are many ways to say it and not one of them is right. A very interesting place with a unique culture. They also have sister U.S. college campuses there and a lot of people come in from all over the world to study there.

  8. My sister has a friend from Qatar and he always pronounced it like “cutter” but with a softer c. Kind of like it’s halfway between “cutter” and “gutter”.

  9. Well, it can be both .. and uttered by the same crew member! As part of the usual post-landing spiel after arriving in DOH on our first QR flight, we were welcomed to the State of “kuh-TAR” and thanked for flying “KAH-ter” Airways. Said crew member was most unlikely to have been a Qatari, mind. 🙂

  10. I visited Doha, Qatar in 2015 and did not hear anyone pronounce it “cutter”. It was usually pronounced “kah-TAR”. When watching CNN I have noticed it is usually pronounced “cutter”.

  11. Like we’re going to start calling it Deutschland instead of Germany now…

    It’s hip to say Cutter in 2017. Previously it was Quaytar.

  12. I lived in Saudi Arabia in the ’80s and everybody except the Brits said Ka-TAR. The people are Ka-TAR-ees. I don’t know when this whole “cutter” and “gutter” thing began.

  13. I hate to disagree with you however I am a desert veteran I have been to Kuwait and I have to tell you that I don’t agree with the arguments that I see in the media and on pages like yours it’s as simple as looking at the people of the country i.e. Americans come from America we don’t call ourselves Am’ e ricans the same is true with Qatar there’s only one way to pronounce their people and it is qataris right so what are you going to call their people if you pronounce it cutter or gutter? Makes no sense whatsoever I don’t understand why this is so hard for people a little common sense goes a long way even Merriam-Webster has it wrong which is hard for me to believe but they do

  14. During the 60 Minutes interview (29 Oct 17) of the Emir of Qatar by Charlie Rose, the Emir kept saying KahTAR (or catTAR) vice Charlie’s pronunciation as “cutter.” The Emir probably has a better grasp of his language, than non-native speakers. I believe the “cutter” pronunciation emerged due to US military intervention in the Gulf Wars. I think it is an arrogant, derogatory pronunciation intended to belittle or demean, because it’s “so cool” now to be mean and ugly. Obviously, the people are “KahTAReze” (phonetic) not “cutteries.” We should respect the country’s language, not insist on “Americanizing” it!

  15. For gods shake is not cutter is katar . I did google the pronunciation site the voice was cutter . Very wrong . In international pronunciation the a is always an a sound as a in large , also Iran , Iraq the I is like an i as in Italy not airan or airag . I did see the interview of the Emir of katar with president of university , the Emir call his country katar and the president of the university call cutter , very unprofessional. What make me mad most was Irma German female name . Was pronounce Ir-ma its I-Rma As for mr Charlie rose when I see him next time I will tell him katar I know mr rose very nice man. And Oikos yugart is eeeeekos not Oekos , very wrong oi in Greek is an e sound as economy oikos house nomos law ,law of the house .

  16. I like to know who sets the pronunciation for international locations or names , his problem is he knows only English . You need someone one with at least knowledge 10 languages . You better with a Roman who speaks Latin , I believe he can pronounce better , but they are all dead .

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