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Romanization of Arabic names

Hi everyone. This isn't directly related to a particular course module, but I was just wondering if anyone knew how Arabic names get turned into English writing. Such as, if there are particular rules, or whether how one writes a name depends on their/their parents' preferences for writing it. I'm asking this becase Rami Malek and Ramy Youssef both have the same first name (رامي) but they spell it differently, which I thought was interesting. I was just curious if there was a particular reason for this or not.

March 14, 2020



The reason their names are transliterated differently is because there is no single agreed-upon standard for romanizing Arabic. The system used on duolingo is just one of many. The Arabic alphabet has many letters that don’t match anything in the Latin script, and everyone has different ideas about how to transliterate them. I remember reading many years ago that the late, infamous Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhaffi’s name could be transliterated one of 645,120 ways depending on how you transliterated each particular letter.


I was wondering if perhaps a lack of standardization of it was the case. Over 600000 ways of writing one name is a bit hard to believe, though!


Some romanization systems are certainly more well-used than others, but I saw the guy’s name spelled about a dozen different ways back when he was in the news. Basically the only thing they agreed on was that his first name started with an M and ended with an r.


Very interesting!


There are no rules for this, each person chooses how to write his/her own name. The difference between the Arabic/English alphabets causes Arabs a big deal of a problem actually. The reason for this is that the vowels are much simpler in Arabic (only three distinct vowels). And many arabic letters aren't present in English.

The letter أ translate to a, o, i, e, u (based on its mini vowel).

The letter ي translates to e, i, y, ie, ei, ee.

The letter و translates to u, o, ou, w, oo.

Moreover, ك and ق translate to k or c, ت with ط both become t, ظ becomes z, th

Both ح and هـ equal H, س and ص = s, ض and د = d.

And the most special arabic letter of them all : ع = A, O, I, E, U too.


Thanks for your detailed answer. This is very interesting!


If you asked me, no there isn't.. Arabic names are written as how it been pronounced. Like my name (لمى) there is no "Alef maqsora" in English but it pronounced just as a normal "Alef" so this is the written of my name (Lama).. Sometimes in different names like (سارة) some likes to write it (Sara) some likes (Sarah)... Other names have a specific written in English such as (يوسف) it has just to be (Youssef) not "Yusef"


Interesting question! I think it depends on if the last letter is translated as y or ii (i)


It is how the parents spell it, take Mohamed for example, the name consists of 5 letters in Arabic: م ح م م د (before anyone freaks out, the ّ above the م represents a second letter). So If I was to write it in English letter for letter substitution it would read Mhmmd. But if we add the short vowels, it would read Muhammad (this would be the most accurate spelling, but not many people use it). English names also have a similar issue. Graham and Graeme, Alan and Allan, Phillip and Philip, Stephen and Steven, Sean, Shawn, and Shaun.

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