I have seen multiple times that in English texts there is a dj to sound /dʒ/ instead of just a single j (If J is at the beginning of the word). Even if those aren't native English words, we already know that a j sounds /dʒ/; so what's the reason for putting a dj? Aren't those words welcomed into our lexicon?

Examples: Ramin Djawadi (Iranian-German musician), N'Djamena (the capital city of Chad), Djibouti (an African country), Novak Djokovic (Serbian tennis player), etc.

But on the other hand, we have Jamal Khashoggi (Saudi journalist), Jawaharlal Nehru (the first prime minister of India), etc.

  • For Serbian, there is already a standard spelling in the Roman alphabet (this is because Serbian and Croatian are nearly the same language, and Serbian uses the Cyrillic letters while Croatian uses the Roman alphabet). So Novak Djoković is essentially the original spelling. Spelling it Jokovic would be like spelling Jacques Chirac's name Zhack Shirack in order to conform with the pronunciation. We don't do that. Dec 17, 2022 at 16:31
  • @PeterShor But Jockoveetch might get us closer to [dʑôːkoʋitɕ]. :)
    – tchrist
    Dec 17, 2022 at 17:05
  • You may have noticed that English spelling is not consistent. This feature extends everywhere; don't expect exceptions. Dec 17, 2022 at 18:40

1 Answer 1


Almost certainly it's a marker of how the word has travelled from its native language to English.

Where there is an initial D the word has come via a language where that makes a difference:

Djawadi — German
N’Djamena — French
Djibouti — French
Djokovic — Croatian (as Peter Shor commented)

For direct transliterations into English, the D isn't needed.

There are exceptions too: English doesn't use the French spelling of Tchad, for example.

  • 2
    Tchaikovsky is another such peculiar transliteration choice in that it doesn’t look like China.
    – tchrist
    Dec 17, 2022 at 17:02
  • 3
    @tchrist - Around 30 years ago, it became the convention for library catalogues to use the spelling Chaikovski'i, following standard transliteration rules. This was discontinued after a time because the public found it confusing. (However, earlier in the 20th century we got used to Chekhov instead of Tchekhov!) Dec 17, 2022 at 17:12
  • @KateBunting Why did the public find it confusing? Dec 18, 2022 at 14:57
  • Because English speakers are used to the spelling Tchaikovsky (which was adapted from the German transliteration Tschaikowsky). Dec 19, 2022 at 17:50
  • Just came back to this. Djawadi isn't German. It's Perso-Arabic. Aug 11, 2023 at 21:14

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