You say "burkini" and I'll say "burqini"

David Borowitz borowitz at STANFORD.EDU
Tue Mar 13 07:30:04 UTC 2007

A cursory Google search suggests that the difference parallels that of
"burqa" vs. "burqa":
burka: 2,030,000
burqa: 983,000

I'm actually a bit surprised that the -k- is not more common in "burkini,"
since in this case there is definitely the explanation of taking -kini from

The other two variant spellings suggested by Wikipedia:
burkha: 175,000
burqua - 129,000

There are far fewer "burkhini" (185) and "burquini" (551), but all seem to
be talking about the same thing.

My basically non-existent knowledge of Arabic suggests that "q" is most
commonly used to transliterate the voiceless uvular stop (qaf), and I think
"burqa" actually has a qaf in it. Of course, English has no uvular stop,
which explains the irregularity in transliteration. People who actually know
the language, feel free to comment.

On 3/12/07, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      You say "burkini" and I'll say "burqini"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> A fairly new lexical item, either way.  The vote is close:  Google
> offers 120,000 "burkini"s vs. 87,000 "burqini"s.  The reference is
> transparent (but, one gathers, not *too* transparent).  Actually, as
> blends go, this one is a bit misleading, to judge from the photos
> available at various web sites, which are reminiscent of neither
> burqas nor bikinis, but I guess that's what happens when such
> differences are split.
> As for antedates, if we ignore a wayward typo ("Burkini Faso"), the
> first actual Nexis hits seem to have appeared a little over a year
> ago (cf. "It's the burqini, an Islamic revolution in the pool",
> Sydney Daily Telegraph, 3 Dec. 2005).  The Times, a bit late to the
> swim party, published its first piece on this Islamic revolution (heh
> heh) last Friday (Raymond Bonner, "Australian Muslims go for surf,
> lifesaving and burqinis", 3/9/07).
> LH
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