One or two Rs? And just how many Us? Albuquerque is a tricky word to spell that leaves a lot of non-locals trying to sound it out. With a little history on the name and a few fun ways to remember, it’s easy to spell Albuquerque like a pro.

The History of Albuquerque’s Name

In 1706, a group of Spanish colonists received permission from King Philip of Spain to build a city near the Rio Grande. The new colony was named for the Duke of Alburquerque, who was then the viceroy of New Spain. (This is also why Albuquerque is referred to as “the Duke City.”) The word Alburquerque comes from the Latin words “albus” and “quercus,” or “white oak.”

An image of the historic marker sign explaining Albuquerque's name in Old Town

The first “r” in Alburquerque was later dropped, although there isn’t a clear, specific reason why. It’s generally agreed that people had trouble pronouncing it. The Director of the Spanish Colonial Research Center at the University of New Mexico says it may have been phonetically dropped, or even mistyped on a sign. In his novel "Alburquerque," author Rudolfo Anaya hints that a train stationmaster who had a hard time pronouncing the extra “r” was the reason behind the change.

How to Spell Albuquerque

The great debate over how to spell Albuquerque has been captured in pop culture. In 1953, Herb Hendler penned the song “A-L-B-U-Q-U-E-R-Q-U-E” after some salespeople struggled to spell the city’s name. In the 1987 movie “Roxanne,” a bartender sparked a discussion after asking patrons how to spell Albuquerque. Over the years, various people have come up with ways to help you remember how to spell Albuquerque. One of the easier ones is to sing Albuquerque to the tune of the “Mickey Mouse Song.” 

Common Misspellings

It’s no secret that spelling Albuquerque is hard, and people have been misspelling Albuquerque for hundreds of years. The archives at the Albuquerque Museum show a number of variants in spelling since Spanish settlers arrived, including “Alburquerqui” and “Alburquerq.” More recently, a road sign directed travelers to “Abluquerque,” and in 2022, a different sign missed the “r” and had to be replaced.

A highway sign that misspelled Albuquerque as "Albuqueque"

Photo Credit: X

Don’t feel bad if Albuquerque is still hard for you to spell. If all else fails, spellcheck and autocorrect can save the day!


-Albuquerque Journal
-LA Times
-New Mexico Newsport