I've noticed that the word masquerade is spelt with qu instead of c in mascarade like in French or mascarada in Spanish. According to Online Etymology Dictionary, the word is of French origin.

I'd be very interested to know how it came to be spelt with qu instead of c or k like in mask.

  • Perhaps quay ("key") has a similar origin?
    – Phil Perry
    Mar 17, 2014 at 13:47

1 Answer 1


The word is derived from Middle French masque (Middle French covers a period of around 1340–1610) which accounts for the -qu- spelling.

Etymonline has

masque (n.)
"masquerade, masked ball," 1510s, from Middle French masque; see mask (n.), with which it was originally identical. It developed a special sense of "amateur theatrical performance" (1560s) in Elizabethan times, when such entertainments (originally performed in masks) were popular among the nobility.

The word as imported into English hasn't changed; it appears that it has changed in French, possibly under the influence of Spanish.

  • Interestingly, the word 'mask' looks like the word 'maskhara' in Arabic which means a mockery.
    – user15851
    Mar 17, 2014 at 9:19
  • Mask: of uncertain origin, perhaps from Arabic maskharah "buffoon, mockery," from sakhira "be mocked, ridiculed." Or via Provençal mascarar, Catalan mascarar, Old French mascurer "to black (the face)." Online Etymology Dictionary
    – user15851
    Mar 17, 2014 at 9:21
  • OED doesn't have that, although it's possible that the French/Romance lanuages were influenced by the Arabic during the 13th century. However, the English -qu- spelling comes from Middle French attested c1590 as -que- and earlier as -qua-.
    – Andrew Leach
    Mar 17, 2014 at 9:26
  • 2
    The current French word for mask is still very much spelled masque (this answer does not contradict that, but I just wanted to remark this). Mar 17, 2014 at 15:25

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