Al Qaeda. Al-Qaeda. al Qaeda. al-Qaeda

In 2004, I asked Merriam-Webster the following question. Associate Editor, Thomas Pitoniak, replied as follows.

Q: What is the spelling you plan to include in your collegiate dictionary for al Qaeda, the terrorist organization headed by Osama bin Laden?

A: The spelling given in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia is Al-Qaeda. There is certainly variation, perhaps most notably including Al-Qaida, but Al-Qaeda is certainly acceptable.

The term is not entered in our dictionaries, because it is a proper noun for a specific group of people. Thus, we don’t enter similar terms like Red Brigades or Abu Sayyaf (Philippines group linked to bin Laden).

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