How should you spell Gaddafi’s name?

There are almost as many ways to spell Colonel Gaddafi’s name as there are theories of the former dictator’s whereabouts. There is no single “correct” way to spell the former Libyan ruler’s name because of the difficulty of translating the Arabic script into our language. It is estimated that there are currently 112 ways to spell his name.

Whether you have seen ‘Gaddafi’, ‘Khaddafi’ or ‘Ghaddafi’ in the press today, here are the most popular choices for the man with many spellings.

News sources

The spelling of 'Gaddafi' has been adopted by the majority of British news outlets such as the BBC, The Guardian, Yahoo! UK, Daily Mail, and Sky News. Many Irish are also consistent with this spelling.

French news agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP), uses ‘Moamar Kadhafi’, while The New York Times goes as close to Arabic as possible using ‘Muammar el-Qaddafi’.

Interestingly Arabian broadcaster Al Jazeera sticks with the ‘Gaddafi’ spelling, while the New York Times appears to consistently use ‘Qaddafi’ as the spelling.

Meanwhile US news outlets CNN, The Associated Press, and MSNBC use “Gadhafi”.

What people search for

Looking at data collated  by Yahoo! UK Search, in the month of July, the most popularly searched term for the man was ‘Gadhafi’ with more than 50% of Yahoo! UK users spelling it that way, followed by 25% of users spelling it ‘Gaddafi’. ‘Gadaffi’ and ‘Gadafi’ came third and fourth respectively. On other Internet search engines, the spelling of ‘Gaddafi’ also came out top.

Gaddafi’s official Website

It seems that even the colonel himself is unsure about how to spell it. According to Christian Science Monitor, who scoured Gaddafi’s official Website for the correct Arabic-English translation, the banner at the top of his official website spells it “AL Gathafi”. When searching deeper into the site, it continues ‘Al Qaddafi’, ‘Algathafi’, and ‘Al-Gathafi’.

[Related story: Farm names crocodile 'Kadhafi']


The spelling discrepancies exist because there are no exact English equivalents to Arabic characters making it a dilemma for editors.

Yahoo! News asked Reuters why it uses the spelling ‘Gaddafi’. According to a spokeswoman from the news provider, its journalists follow protocol. In the ‘Reuters Handbook of Journalism’, it says: “Reuters' style is to end Arab names in i rather than y (Ali not Aly, Gaddafi not Gaddafy).”

Whatever the accepted spelling, you now know that 112 English versions of his name can all be used correctly – it just has to sound right.

So who uses what?

Gaddafi – Al Jazeera, BBC, Yahoo! UK, Sky News, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Irish Independent, The Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald, Irish Independent, Jerusalem Post, Wikipedia, Financial Times, AOL, Reuters, Washington Post, Mirror, Scotsman

– Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, CNN, Ha’aretz, Yahoo! US

- Fox News, New York Times, The Atlantic, Bloomberg, Business Insider

Kadhafi - AFP, San Francisco Chronicle, Sudan Tribune

Khadafy - New York Post, Boston Globe

Gadaffi - ABC

Khaddafy - NBC

Kadafi- Los Angeles Times

While there may be global differences on how to spell the controversial leader's name, 'Gaddafi' seems to be the most popular.