‘Muslim’ or ‘Moslem’?

Why do we use the new spelling, "Muslim," and not the older spelling, "Moslem," anymore?

Mignon Fogarty
2-minute read
Episode #770
The Quick And Dirty

"Moslem" was more common in the past, but "Muslim" is the recommended spelling today.

We got this question from Dan Leibert about the word “Muslim” in the Facebook group a few weeks ago, and I wanted to get to it this week since we’re in the middle of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Dan wrote, “Is there any preference for “Muslim” versus “Moslem”? I use them interchangeably and was wondering if one was the preferred usage when referring to people who practice the Moslem faith. I can see that Facebook has 'Moslem' underlined in red. Is that significant?”

Thanks, Dan. It is significant. The M-O-S spelling used to be common, but today dictionaries and style guides say to spell it “Muslim.” For example, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary says “Moslem” was “formerly common but now old-fashioned, increasingly rare, and sometimes offensive.” So “Muslim” it is! M-U-S-L-I-M. Facebook was doing you a favor by adding that red underline to the other spelling. 

Also, “Muslim” is capitalized, and according to Eymyonline, it’s from the Arabic word “muslim,” (lowercase and spelled like the current recommended spelling) which means “one who submits” to the faith. And the Oxford English Dictionary notes that the current spelling is now the generally preferred one because it’s closer to that Arabic word from which it comes.

If you’re older, “Moslem” may be the spelling you learned, and you may even worry that you’re doing it wrong if you spell it the currently proper way, like Dan did, but you don’t need to worry. The recommendations have changed.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.