Scrabble players know that there aren’t many English words that end in q. But this is to be expected given the rules of English spelling.
In fact, if you don’t count proper nouns (e.g, Iraq), abbreviations (sq.), or initialisms (FAQ), then you’re left with a short list of words ending in q—perhaps fewer than 20.
Even this number is an estimate given that many of these words have other spellings that conform better to English spelling rules. For example, souq is just an alternate spelling of souk, an open-air market.
But for the purpose of this list we’re using words that can be spelled with a final q even if another spelling is more common.
10 English Words That End in q
Below are ten words that end in q, the second least common letter in the English alphabet. (The letter z appears the least.) Headings indicate language of origin.
A traditional alcoholic drink in Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran (as well as several other countries), araq is clear and tastes of anise.
The riq is a musical instrument in the tambourine family. Twenty small cymbals are attached to a circular wooden frame over which is stretched a tight skin—from a young goat, for example.
Of all the words ending in q, souq is one that you may actually have heard of. It’s simply a bazaar—an outdoor market in a city in Western Asia or North Africa. Historically, souqs were not only for buying and selling goods but were places to meet or host social events.
Here’s a term for a concept that wouldn’t hold up in U.S. divorce court. In classical Islamic law, talaq (meaning “repudiation”), the highly controversial right that a husband had to end the marriage just by announcing to his spouse that he rejected her.
But here’s the kicker: he didn’t need a court’s approval or even a reason to dissolve the marriage.
Igunaq refers to an Inuit method of preparing meat for consumption. The meat in question is from a marine mammal such as a walrus.
Here’s what happens: first, you bury the meat and fat in the ground in summer. Then, the “steaks” ferment in the fall and freeze during the winter. In the spring, bon appétit!
You’re not crazy if this method sounds a tad risky to you—if the food prep isn’t spot-on, you can contract botulism.
You’ve probably heard of katajjaq—the concept if not the word. It’s throat singing, which, in Inuit culture, is done by two people at once. The duet performers are usually women.
Okay, brace yourself, because this one is only for people with a strong stomach.
Kiviaq comes from little auks. Intuit Greelanders preparing kiviaq stuff 500 of these small birds—whole—into the skin of a seal.
Then they remove as much air as possible, sew it up, and spread seal fat over the sutures. Next, the lucky diners put a heavy rock on the the whole kit and kaboodle to push out air.
For the next half year or so, the auks ferment. The Inuit then eat the delicacy for special occasions.
Rounding out our list of Inuit words that end in q is umiaq. (You can also spell it umiak.)
This is a traditional boat that both the Yupik and Inuit peoples built for use while hunting whales and walrus.
A torq (more commonly torc) is a piece of jewelry not unlike a necklace that dates from the Iron Age. Torqs were made of metal, sometimes of strands that were twisted together.
If you know the term torque, then it won’t surprise you to learn that we get this word from the Latin torqueo (“to twist” or “to turn”).
Built by Turkic ethnic groups in Central Asia and Azerbaijan, a qishlaq is a settlement found in rural areas. Surrounding the typical qishlaq is a fence of mud or clay.
Wikipedia, multiple pages.
If you want to learn more about English loanwords, then take a look at the origin of the words orangutan, aardvark, and tarantula. If you’re a language buff, then you’ll like these 9 incredible facts.
For something a bit offbeat, see our post on French swear words (but only if you’re okay with profanity).