Transliteration of Libyan placenames

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Transliteration of Libyan placenames is the process of converting Libyan placenames written in the Arabic alphabet into the Latin alphabet. Libyan places have, in most cases no common English name, so when they are referred to, they need to be transliterated, from Libyan Arabic or Standard Arabic. Over the decades, many systems have been used result in locations, which thus have multiple transliterations in circulation.


Writing names of Libyan places in Latin alphabet is a confusing dilemma. In the past, the colonist Italians tried, despite the constraints of their language, to write these names as accurate as the local Libyans pronounce them, in Libyan Arabic, except for some places renamed by Roman, Greek, or Italian names, like (Al-Qubba-Giovanni Berta), (Shahat-Cirene), and (Sussa-Apollonia).

During World War II, the British used the Italian maps so they used the names almost as the Italians has already written it and so did the war’s historians.

However, most Libyans were not acquainted of these previous experiments. Moreover, after the political change on September 1, 1969,[1] any alphabet other than the Arabic one had been banned in writing any signs or tablets, so Libyan officials were uninterested in writing tablets or signs in foreign alphabet. People who were interested, either Libyan or foreign, tried to write the names after bringing them back to their Standard Arabic origin, sometimes far from reality. For example, in a place is known in Standard Arabic as “Ajdabia”, in Libya Arabic “Jdabia”, and the Italian wrote it “Agedabia”. Another place named in Standard Arabic. “Marsa Al Burayqa”, in Libyan Arabic, “Marsa El Breiga”, and the Italians wrote it Mersa Brega. A third example is “Al-Uqayla” in Standard Arabic “El Agheila” in Libyan Arabic, which was Italians wrote it.

There is no agreement on transliteration of Libyan placenames except for a few cities like Tripoli, Benghazi, and Tobruk.


Here is a list of selected Libyan cities and towns, showing how the places could be transliterated from Standard Arabic and Libyan Arabic. It shows also how the Italians had already transliterated the names to Italian alphabet. However, none of the choices has been suggested to be used alone.

Note that any (h) preceded by a vowel is lightly pronounced or silent (like in Darnah).

Standard Arabic Libyan Arabic Italian Page(s) in English Wikipedia
Ajdabia Jdabia Agedábia Ajdabiya
Al Abraq Labrag Luigi di Savoia[2] Al Abraq
Al Abyar Labiar El Abiár Aybar
Al ʿAziziyah El Aziziyah El Azizia ‘Aziziya
Al Baydaʾ El Bayda Beda Littoria Bayda
Al Bardiya El Bardiya
or El Bûrdi
Bardia Bardia
Al Jaghbub El Jaghbub Giarabub
or El Giaghbub
Al Khums El Khums Homs Khoms
Al Makhili El Mkhili Mechili Mechili
Al Marj El Marj Barce Marj
Al Qubbah El Gûbbah Giovanni Berta[3] Al Qubah
Al Uqaylah El Agheila El Agheila El Agheila
At Tamimi Et Timimi Tmimi Timimi
Awjilah Awjilah Áugila Awjila
Az Zawiyah Ez Zawiah Ez Zauia Zawiya
Bani Walid Bani Wlid Beni Ulid Bani Walid
Bani Ghazi
Banghazi Bengasi Benghazi
Darnah Darnah Derna Derna
Daryanah Deriana Driána Deriana
Ghadamis Ghadamis Gadames Ghadames
Ghat Ghat Gat Ghat
Gharyan Ghiryan Garian Gharyan
Jalu Jalu Giálo Jalu
& Jalo oasis
Marsa Al Burayqah Marsa El Breiga
or El Breiga
Mersa Brega Brega
Maradah Maradah Maráda Marada
Marawah Marawah Maraua Marawa
Misratah Misratah Misurata Misrata
Qaminis Ghemines Ghemínes Qaminis
Sabha Sabha Sebca Sabha
Shahhat Shahhat Cirene Shahhat
& Cyrene
Suluq Solug Soluch Suluq
Susah Susah Apollonia Susa,
& Apollonia
Tarabulus Trablis Tripoli Tripoli
Yifrin Yifrin Jefren Yafran
Zallah Zallah Zella Zella
Zuwarah Zwarah Zuara Zuwara

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See for example Act no.12; 1984, banning the usage of all languages other than Arabic in all dealings, reprinted in a governmental book named:"Al Qawaneen wal Lawa'eh wal Qararat that al Alaqa bil wazeefa al Amma wal Muwazzaf", part IV, prepared by Mohammed Omar Kassab et al.
  2. ^ Bulegma, & Kezeiri (ed.), " Al Jamahiriya ...", p.405
  3. ^ Bulegma, & Kezeiri (ed.), " Al Jamahiriya ...", p.405


  • El Hadi Mustapha Bulegma, & Saad Khalil Kezeiri (ed.), " Al Jamahiriya: Dirasa fil Jughrafia", Ad Dar al Jamahiriya lil nashr wa tawzee wa e'lan, Surt, Libya, 1995.

And Libya's maps at: