37 Versions and Growing. How to Correctly Spell “Gaddafi” or “Khadafy” or “Qadaffi”?

As Libyans assert their right to self-govern, many at the cost of their lives, hundreds of articles and blog posts appear daily, keeping the world informed as the fight for freedom in the Middle East unfolds. I try to get the spelling of a person’s name, even a despicable dictator like Gaddafi, right. But with all the spellings that appear, its hard to figure out which one is the right spelling. I’m not alone in my quest. I came across an article by Mother Jones looking for the same answer, noting that the various spellings of Gaddafi is a result of a variety of Arabic pronunciations.

A less “Arabonics” approach to his name is found on Wikipedia, Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, and (Arabic: معمر القذافي‎ Muʿammar al-Qaḏḏāfī audio (help·info):

Because of the lack of standardization of transliterating written- and regionally-pronounced Arabic, Gaddafi’s name has been transliterated in many different ways into English and other Latin alphabet languages. Even though the Arabic spelling of a word does not change, the pronunciation may vary in different varieties of Arabic, which may cause a different romanization.

An article published in the London Evening Standard in 2004 lists a total of 37 spellings of his name, while a 1986 column by The Straight Dope quotes a list of 32 spellings known at the Library of Congress.

My search on the Internet came up short as to the main source, Gaddafi, on the correct way to spell and prounounce his name. Maybe he’s just as confused as everybody else. While we all wish Gaddafi would stop killing his people and just leave, I’m looking for the best spelling to use. So, help me out here. How would you spell Gaddafi’s name?

About GU Writer

Words matter.


  1. painter33

    That’s a terrific explanation of the conundrum facing news organizations. Now to get everyone to comply and end this ad hoc spelling by whomever is writing the name.

  2. hey there

    Why would we vote on a fact? if we voted the sky green would we have to call it green rather than blue. People are just going to vote on the wrong thing they’ve seen before. just choose the correct spelling

    The first name is definitely NOT Moammar. His first name has two “stops” in it. Also it is more of a U than an O,
    It would be “Moo ahm mar” if we use an apostrophe to determine a stop it would be “Mu’am’mar” The closest you have here is Muammar and Mu’ammar.

    For the last name the only two appropriate spellings would be Qad’dhafi or maybe Gad’dhafi or Gad’thafi

    Qad’Dhafi is the standard Arabic pronunciation
    Gad’dhafi is a local pronunciation in Libya. I don’t prefer it just as I don’t prefer spelling New York without an R just because the local dialect here leaves it out.

    basically you should be voting between two first names and two last names. So far Mu’ammar and Muammar combined out vote the definitely incorrect Moammar.

    You have included no version where the correct last name can be picked.


  3. Pingback: Libyan Crisis Resurrects Name Game - TVNewser

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