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You might have noticed some people write Cuzco and some people write Cusco when referring to the city that was once capital of the Inca Empire. You may be wondering which spelling is correct.

Full moon at Plaza de Armas Cusco, PeruThe Incas did not have a written language when the Spanish arrived, and the Spanish after hearing the name of the city, spelled it “Cuzco”. Alternative spellings were sometimes used, and it was spelled “Qosqo” or “Qosqu” in Quechua.

About 40 years ago, the mayor of Cusco changed the city’s official spelling from “Cuzco” to “Cusco” because the Quechua language did not have a “z” sound, and so the “Cusco” spelling is truer to the original Quechua pronunciation.

Today the “Cusco” spelling is used in Peru, but in Spain and in many other Latin American countries, the “Cuzco” spelling is still used.