Why Does "Gadaffi" Have Different Spellings?

Gadaffi? Kadafi?Qaddafi? Which is it?

Mignon Fogarty
1-minute read

Why Does


The news reports about Muammar Gadaffi being killed today bring up a more trivial question: why do we see his name spelled so many different ways?

Translating Arabic words to English is difficult because the languages use different alphabets and there are no set rules to correlate the Arabic letters to the Latin letters we use in English. When we see Arabic words written in English, they’re actually not a translation, but a transliteration—a representation of how the Arabic words would sound if they were written in the Latin alphabet. Since sounds can be interpreted slightly different ways, you'll see "Gadaffi," "Kadafi," "Qaddafi," and so on.

It’s the same reason you see “Koran” spelled a few different ways in English publications including “Koran,” “Quran,” and “Qur’an.” There isn’t a right or wrong way; it’s a style choice.

Translating from Hebrew has the same problems, which is why there are many acceptable spellings for “Hanukkah.”

Further Reading

O’Carroll, E. “Gadaffi? Kadafi? Qadaffi? What’s the correct spelling?” Christian Science Monitor, February 22, 2011, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/2011/0222/Gaddafi-Kadafi-Qaddafi-What-s-the-correct-spelling (accessed April 20, 2011)

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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.