Arabic name

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The tughra (stylized signature) of Mahmud II of the Ottoman Empire. Influenced by Arabic culture, Ottoman rulers had stylized their names in the Arabic way, as depicted in this signature.

Arabic names were historically based on a long naming system; most Arabs did not simply have given/middle/family names, but a full chain of names. This system was mainly in use throughout Arabia and part of the Levant.

Structure of the Arabic name[edit]

Ism[edit]

The ism (Arabic: اسم‎) is the personal name (e.g. "Kareem" or "Fatimah"). Most names are Arabic words with a meaning, usually signaling the hoped-for character of the person. Such words are employed as adjectives and nouns in regular language.

Karīm means "generous"
Maħmūd means "praiseworthy"

Generally, the context and grammar differentiate between names and adjectives, but Arab newspapers sometimes try to avoid confusion by placing names in brackets or quotation marks.

A very common name is Muhammad, used throughout the Muslim world including parts of Africa, Arabia, the Middle East, South and South East Asia. The name may be abbreviated to Md., Mohd., Muhd., or simply M. in many cases, in which case the second given name is the one most commonly used. This can be seen in many names in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Muslim practices[edit]

A common form of Muslim Arab names is the combination of ʿAbd for males or ʿAmah for females (both English: servant) followed by an adjective of God. A particularly common masculine example is Abdullah (Arabic: عبد الله‎ / English: servant of God); the feminine counterpart being Amatullah.

This practice creates a possibility of 99 names for each sex, as there are 99 exclusive adjectives for God in Islam.

Notable points:

ʿAbd is not used upon the usage of one of the prophets' names (in Islam)[clarification needed]
This practice is not exclusive to Muslims in the Arab world. For example, in Lebanon and Egypt, AbdelMassih (servant of Christ) is commonly used as a Christian last name.

Arab Christian practices[edit]

To an extent, most Christian Arabs have names indistinguishable from Muslims except that they do not often use explicitly Islamic names, i.e., Muhammad. The following is most common:

Abd al-Yasuʿ (masc.) / Amat al-Yasuʿ (fem.) (slave of Jesus)
Abd al-Maseeḥ (masc.) / Amat al-Maseeḥ (fem.) (slave of The Messiah)
Derivations of Maseeḥ (Christ): Masūḥun (Most-Anointed), Amsāḥ (More-Anointed), Mamsūḥ (Anointed) and Musayḥ (Baby-Christ). The root, M-S-Ḥ, literally means 'to anoint' (as in Masah) and is cognate to the Hebrew Mashiah.
Abd al-Ilaah: An equivalent to the common Muslim name Abdullah, meaning worshiper of God, is also used by Christians.

Laqab[edit]

The laqab (Arabic: لقب‎  "cognomen" / "surname") is intended as a description of the person.

For example, the Abbasid Caliph Haroun al-Rashid (of One Thousand and One Nights fame). Haroun is the Arabic form for Aaron and "al-Rashid" means "the rightly-guided".

The laqab was very popular in ancient Arab societies, ca. 1000 years ago. Today, the laqab is only used if it is actually a person's birth surname/family name.

Nasab[edit]

The nasab (Arabic: نسب‎) is a patronymic or series of patronymics. It indicates the person's heritage by the word ibn (colloquially bin) (Arabic: ابن‎), which means "son", and bint بنت (also binte, abbreviated bte.) for "daughter".

Ibn Khaldun (Arabic: ابن خلدون‎) means "son of Khaldun". Khaldun is the father's proper name or, in this particular case, the proper name of a remote ancestor.

Several nasab can follow in a chain to trace a person's ancestry backwards in time, as was important in the tribally based society of the ancient Arabs, both for purposes of identification and for socio-political interactions. Today, however, ibn or bint is no longer used (unless it is the official naming style in a country, region, etc.: Adnen bin Abdallah). The plural is 'Abnā for males and Banāt for females. However, Banu or Bani is tribal and encompasses both sexes.

Nisbah[edit]

The nisbah (Arabic: نسبة‎) surname. It could be an everyday name, but is mostly the name of the ancestors' tribe, city, country, or any other term used to show relevance. It follows a family through several generations.

The laqab and nisbah are similar in use, thus, a name rarely contains both.

Example name[edit]

محمد بن سعيد بن عبد العزيز الفلسطيني
Muhammad ibn Saeed ibn Abd al-Aziz al-Filasteeni
muḥammad ibn saʻīdi ibn ʻabdi l-ʻazīzi l-filasṭīnī

Ism - Muhammad (proper name). Muhammad: praised.
Nasab - Saeed (father's name). Saeed: happy
Nasab - Abd al-Aziz (grandfather's name). Abd al-Aziz: Servant of the Almighty or the Honourable.
Nisbah - al-Filasteeni (the Palestinian). Filasteen: Palestine.

Muhammad, son of Saeed, son of Abdul-Aziz, the Palestinian

This person would simply be referred to as "Muhammad" or by relating him to his first-born son, e.g. "Abu Kareem" (father of Kareem). To signify respect or to specify which Muhammad one is speaking about, the name could be lengthened to the extent necessary or desired.

Westernization of Arabic naming practices and names[edit]

Almost all Arabic-speaking countries (excluding for example Saudi Arabia or Bahrain) have now adopted a Westernized way of naming. This is the case for example in the Levant and Maghreb, as well as some North African countries, where French or English conventions are followed (an effect of European colonization), and it is rapidly gaining ground elsewhere.

Also, many Arabs adapt to Western conventions for practical purposes when travelling or when residing in Western countries, constructing a given name/family name model out of their full Arab name, to fit Western expectations and/or visa applications or other official forms and documents. The reverse side to this is the when Westerners are asked to supply their first name, father's name, and family name in some Arab visa applications.

The Westernization of an Arab name may require transliteration. Often, one name may be transliterated in several ways (Abdul Rahman, Abdoul Rahman, Abdur Rahman, Abdurahman, Abd al-Rahman, or Abd ar-Rahman), as there is no single accepted Arabic transliteration system. A single individual may try several ways of transliterating his or her name, producing even greater inconsistency. This has resulted in confusion on the part of governments, security agencies, airlines and others: for example, especially since 9/11, persons with names written similarly to those of suspected terrorists have been detained.

Common mistakes[edit]

Non-Arabic speakers often make these mistakes:

Arab family naming convention[edit]

In Arabic culture, as in many parts of the world, a person's ancestry and family name are very important. An example is explained below.

Assume a man is called Saleh ibn Tariq ibn Khalid al-Fulan.

Hence, Saleh ibn Tariq ibn Khalid al-Fulan translates as "Saleh, son of Tariq, son of Khaled; of the family al-Fulan."

The Arabic for "daughter of" is bint. A woman with the name Fatimah bint Tariq bin Khalid al-Fulan translates as "Fatimah, daughter of Tariq, Son of Khaled; of the family al-Fulan."

In this case, ibn and bint are included in the official naming. Most Arab countries today, however, do not use 'ibn' and 'bint' in their naming system. If Saleh was an Egyptian, he would be called Saleh Tariq Khalid al-Fulan and Fatimah would be Fatimah Tariq Khalid al-Fulan.

If Saleh marries a wife (who would keep her own maiden, family, and surnames), their children will take Saleh's family name. Therefore, their son Mohammed would be called Mohammed ibn Saleh ibn Tariq al-Fulan.

However, not all Arab countries use the name in its full length, but conventionally use two- and three-word names, and sometimes four-word names in official or legal matters. Thus the first name is the personal name, the middle name is the father's name and the last name is the family name.

Arabic names and their biblical equivalent[edit]

The Arabic names listed below are used in the Arab world, as well as some other Muslim regions, with correspondent Hebrew, English, Syriac and Greek equivalents in many cases. They are not necessarily of Arabic origin, although some are. Most are derived from Syriac transliterations of the Hebrew Bible. For more information, see also Iranian, Malay, Pakistani, and Turkish names.

Arabic nameHebrew nameEnglish nameSyriac nameGreek name
Aabir
ʿĀbir /ʾĪbir عابر / إيبر
Éver
ʻĒḇer עֵבֶר
Eber
Alyasaa
Alyasaʿ اليسع
Elisha
Elišaʿ אֱלִישָׁע
ElishaΕλισαίος
Aamoos
ʿĀmūs عاموس
Amos
ʿĀmōs עָמוֹס
Amos
Andraaoos
Andrāwus أندراوس
Andras אנדראסAndrew-Ἀνδρέας
Asif
ʾĀsif آصف
Asaph
ʾĀsaf אָסָף
Asaph
Ayoob
ʾAyyūb أيّوب
Iyov / Iov
Iyyov / Iyyôḇ איוב
JobΙώβ
ʾĀzar
Āzar / Taraḥ آزر / تارح
Téraḥ / Tharakh תֶּרַח / תָּרַחTerahTharaΘάρα
Azaria
Azarīyā أزريا
Azaryah עֲזַרְיָהוּAzariah
Bartholmaos
Barthulmāwus بَرثُولَماوُس
bar-Tôlmay בר-תולמיBartholomew-Βαρθολομαῖος
Baraka
Baraka
Bārak بارك
Barukh
Bārûḵ בָּרוּךְ
Baruch
Benyamin
Binyāmīn بنيامين
Binyamin
Binyāmîn בִּנְיָמִין
BenjaminΒενιαμίν
Boulus
Būlus بولس
Paolos פאולוסPaul-Παῦλος
Boutros
Butrus بطرس
Putros פטרוסPeter-Πέτρος
Daborah
Dabūrāh دبوراه
Dvora
Dəḇôrā דְּבוֹרָה
Deborah
Daniel
Dānyāl دانيال
Daniel
Dāniyyêl דָּנִיֵּאל
DanielΔανιήλ
Dawoud / Dāwud / Dāwūd / Dāʾūd داود / داوُود / داؤودDavid
Davīd  דָּוִד
DavidΔαβίδ
Fileeb
Fīlīb/Fīlībus فيليب / فيليبوس
Pīlīpos פיליפוסPhilip-Φίλιππος
Faris
Fáris فارص
Péreẓ
Páreẓ פֶּרֶץ / פָּרֶץ
Perez
Efraim
ʾIfrāym إفرايم
Efraim
Efráyim אֶפְרַיִם/אֶפְרָיִם
Ephraim
Hubaab
Ḥūbāb حُوبَابَ
Chobab
Ḥovav חֹבָב
Hobab
Habaqooq
Ḥabaqūq حبقوق
Ḥavaqquq חֲבַקּוּקHabakkukΑββακούμ
Hajjay
Ḥajjai حجاي
Ḥaggay חַגַּיHaggai
Aanaa
Anna آنّاه
Ḥannāh חַנָּהAnna (Bible)
Haroun
Hārūn هارون
Aharon אהרןAaronΑαρών
Hawaa
Ḥawwāʾ حواء
Chava / Hava
Ḥavvah חַוָּה
EveܚܘܐΕύα
Hosha
Hūshaʾ هوشع
Hoshea
Hôšēăʻ הושע
Hosea
Ḥassan حسنChoshen
ẖošen חֹשֶׁן
Hassan
Hazkiel
Ḥazqiyal حزقيال
Y'khez'qel 
Y'ḥez'qel יְחֶזְקֵאל
EzekielΙεζεκιήλ
Ibraaheem
ʾIbrāhīm إبراهيم
Avraham אַבְרָהָםAbrahamΑβραάμ
Idrees / Akhnookh
Idrīs / Akhnūkh أخنوخ / إدريس
H̱anokh חֲנוֹךְEnoch / Idris
Elias
ʾIlyās إلياس
Īliyā إيليا
Eliahu / Eliyahu
Eliyahu אֱלִיָּהוּ
Elijah'EliyaΗλίας
Imran
ʾImrān عمرام / عمران
Amrām עַמְרָםAmramΑμράμ
Irmiyaa
ʾIrmiyā إرميا
Yirməyāhū יִרְמְיָהוּJeremiahΙερεμίας
Eisa / Yasoua
ʿĪsā / Yasūʿ عيسى / يسوع
Yeshua
Yešuaʿ   יֵשׁוּעַ / יֵשׁוּ
JesusEeshoʿἸησοῦς
Ishak
ʾIsḥāq إسحاق
Yitzhak / Yitzchak
Yitsḥaq יִצְחָק
IsaacἸσαάκ
Isaiah
ʾIshʿiyāʾ إشعيا
Yeshayahu
Yəšạʻyā́hû יְשַׁעְיָהוּ
IsaiahἨσαΐας
Ismail
ʾIsmāʿīl إسماعيل
Yishmael
Yišmaʿel / Yišmāʿêl יִשְׁמָעֵאל
Ishmael
Israail
ʾIsrāʿīl إِسرائيل
Israel / Yisrael
Yisraʾel / Yiśrāʾēl ישראל
IsraelΙσμαήλ
Jibreel /Jibraaeel
Jibrīl / Jibraīl جِبْريل / جَبْرائيل
Gavriel
Gavriʾel גַבְרִיאֵל
GabrielΓαβριήλ
Jad / Gad
Ǧād / Jād جاد
Gad גָּדGadΓαδ
Jalut / Galut
Ǧālūt / Jālūt / Julyāt جالوت / جليات
Golyāṯ גָּלְיָתGoliath
Jasham / Gushaam
Jašam / Ǧūšām جشم / جوشام
Geshem גֶשֶׁםGeshem (Bible)Gashmu
Jorj
Jūrj / Jirjis / Jurj / Jurayj جيرجس
George (given name)Γεώργιος
Kalb??
Kālb??!!??
Kalev כָּלֵבCaleb
Lawi
Lāwī لاوي
Lēwî לֵּוִיLevi
Leya
Layā'ليا
Leah לֵאָהLeahΛεία
Madyan
Madyān مدين
Midian מִדְיָןMidianΜαδιάμ
Majdala
Majdalā مجدلية
MigdalMagdalene (given name)Magdala
Malikisadiq
Māliki-Ṣadiq ملكي صادق
malḵi-ṣédeq מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶֿקMelchizedekΜελχισεδέκ
Maliki
Malākhī ملاخي
Mal'akhi מַלְאָכִיMalachiΜαλαχίας
Maryam / Miriam
Maryam   مريم
Miriam / Miryam
Miryam מרים
MaryܡܪܝܡΜαρία
Methuselah
Mattūshalakh مَتُّوشَلَخَ
Mətušélaḥ
Mətušálaḥ מְתֿוּשָלַח
MethuselahΜαθουσάλα
Matta
Mattā
Amittai אֲמִתַּיAmittai
Matta
Mattā / Matatiyā متى / متتيا
Matatiahu / Matatyahu
Matatyahu מַתִּתְיָהוּ
MatthewMattaiΜατταθίας / Ματθαῖος
Mikhail
 / Mikhāʼīl ميخائيل
Michael / Mikhael
Miḵaʾel מִיכָאֵל
MichaelΜιχαήλ
Moussa
Mūsā موسى
Moshe
Mošé מֹשֶׁה
MosesΜωυσής
Nehemiaa
Nahamiyyā نحميا
Nekhemyah נְחֶמְיָהNehemiahΝεεμίας
Nouh
Nūḥ نُوح
Noach / Noah
Nóaḥ נוֹחַ
NoahΝῶε
Qaroon / Qoorah
Qarūn / Qūraḥ قارون / قورح
Kórakh
Qōraḥ קֹרַח
Korah
Raaheel
Rāḥīl راحيل
Rakhél
Raḥel רָחֵל
RachelΡαχήλ
Safniyaa
Ṣafnīyā صفنيا
Tzfanya  / Ṣəp̄anyā
Tsfanya צְפַנְיָה
Zephaniah
Safurah
Ṣaffūrah صفورة
Tzipora  / Tsippora
Ṣippôrā צִפוֹרָה
Zipporah
Sem
Sām سام
Shem שֵםShemΣημ
Samiri
Sāmirī سامري
Zimri זִמְרִיZimriZamri
Samuel
Ṣamu’īl / Ṣamawāl صموئيل / صموال
Shmu'el / Šəmûʼēl
Shmu'el שְׁמוּאֶל
SamuelΣαμουήλ
Sara
Sārah سارة
Sara / Sarah
Sarā שָׂרָה
Sarah / SaraΣάρα
Shamshoon
Shamshūn شمشون
Shimshon / Šimšôn
Shimshon שִׁמְשׁוֹן
Samson
Suleiman
Sulaymān /  سليمان
Shlomo
Šlomo שְׁלֹמֹה
SolomonΣολομών
Saul
Ṭālūt / Sāwul طالوت / شاول
Sha'ul
Šāʼûl שָׁאוּל
Saul
Tomas
Ṭūmās/Tūmā طوماس / توما
tomas תומאסThomas (name)te'omaΘωμᾶς
Obaidullah
ʿUbaydallāh / 'Ubaydīyā عبيد الله / عبيدييا
Ovadia
Ovádyah / Ovádyah עבדיה
ObadiahΟβαδίας / Αβδιού
Umri
ʾAmri عمري
Omri
Omri עמרי
Omri
ʿUzair
ʿUzāir
Ezra
Ezrá עזרא
Ezra
Yaakoub
Yaʿqūb يَعْقُوب
Yaakov
Yaʿaqov יַעֲקֹב
Jacob, (James)Ἰακώβ
Yahia / Yehia / Youhanna
Yaḥyā /  / Yūḥannā ** يحيى / يوحنا
Yochanan / Yohanan
Yôḥānnān יוחנן
JohnΙωάννης / Γιάννης
Yahwah
Yahwah يهوه
YHWH
Yahweh יְהֹוָה
Jehovah
Yessa
Yashshā يَسَّى
Yishay יִשַׁיJesseἸεσσαί
Yathrun (?)
Yathrun / Shu'ayb / شعيب
Yitro
Yiṯrô יִתְרוֹ
Jethro
You'il
Yūʾīl يوئيل
Yoel יואל)Joel
Younos / Younes
 / Yūnus يونس
Yona / Yonah
Yônā יוֹנָה
JonahYunaΙωνάς
Youssof / Youssef
Yūsuf /  يوسف
Yosef יוֹסֵףJosephΙωσήφ
Youshaʿ
Yūshaʿ / Yashūʿ يُوشَعُ / يَشُوعُ
Yĕhôshúa
Yôshúa יְהוֹשֻׁעַ
JoshuaΙησούς
Zakaria
Zakariyyā / Zakarīyā زَكَرِيَّا
Zecharia /Zekharia
Zeḵaryah זְכַרְיָה
Zachary or ZechariahΖαχαρίας

See also[edit]

References[edit]


External links[edit]