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.

  • Md. Dinar ibn Raihan
  • Mohd. Umair Tanvir
  • Md. Osman

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:

  • Separating "the X of Y" word combinations (see idafa):
    • With "Abdul": Arabic names may be written "Abdul (something)", but "Abdul" means "servant of the" and is not, by itself, a name. Thus for example, to address Abdul Rahman bin Omar al-Ahmad by his given name, one says "Abdul Rahman", not merely "Abdul". If he introduces himself as "Abdul Rahman" (which means "the servant of the Merciful"), one does not say "Mr. Rahman" (as "Rahman" is not a family name but part of his (theophoric) personal name); instead it would be Mr. Ahmad, the latter being the family name.
    • People not familiar with Arabic sandhi in genitive constructions: Habību-llāh = "beloved (Habīb) of (ul) God (Allāh)"; here a person may in error report the man's name as 'forename "Habib", surname "Ullah"'. Likewise, people may confuse a name such as Jalālu-d-dīn ("The Majesty of the Religion") as being "Jalal Uddin", or "Mr. Uddin", when "Uddin" is not a surname, but the second half of a two-word name (the desinence -u of the construct state nominative, plus the article, appearing as -d-, plus the genitive dīn[i]). To add to the confusion, some immigrants to Western countries have adopted Uddin as a surname, although it is grammatically incorrect in Arabic outside the context of the associated "first name". Even Indian Muslims commit the same error. If a person's name is Abd-ul-Rahim (Servant of the Merciful), others may call him Mr. Abdul (Servant of the) which would sound quite odd to a native speaker of Arabic.
  • Not distinguishing "`alā'" from "Allah": Some Muslim names include the Arabic word `alā' علاء = "nobility". (Here, ` represents the ayin sound, the voiced pharyngeal fricative, and ' represents the hamza sound, the glottal stop, and L is spelled and pronounced once. In Allāh, L is spelled twice and pronounced separately.) In Arabic pronunciation, `alā and Allāh are clearly different. But Europeans, Iranians, and Indians may not pronounce some Arabic sounds as a native Arabic speaker would, and thus tend to pronounce these two names the same. For example, the Muslim male name `Alā'-ad-dīn = "the nobility of the religion" (commonly known to English speakers as Aladdin) is often misspelled as Allah-ad-din. Because these two words are different, there is an Arabic male given name "`Ala' Allah" (Aliullah), meaning "the nobility of God."
  • Taking "bin" or "ibn" for a middle name: As stated above, "bin" and "ibn" indicate the family chain. Westerns often confuse them for middle names, especially when they're written as "Ben", as it is the case in some countries. For example, Sami Ben Ahmed would be mistakenly addressed as Mr. Ahmed. To correctly address the person, one should use Mr. Ben Ahmed.
  • Grammar: As between all languages, there are differences between Arabic grammar and the grammar of other languages. Arabic forms noun compounds in the opposite order from Indo-Iranian languages, for example. During the war in Afghanistan in 2002, a BBC team found in Kabul an internal refugee whose name they stated as "Allah Muhammad". This may be a misspelling, as described in the previous paragraph, but if not, by the rules of Arabic grammar, this name means "the Allah who belongs to Muhammad", which would not be acceptable in Arabic language as a man's name and would be religiously incorrect for Islam. However, by the rules of Iranian and most Indian languages the same name means "Muhammad who belongs to Allah", which is acceptable, as it would be the Arabic equivalent of "Muhammad Ullah". Most Afghans speak Iranian languages. Such Arabic-and-Iranian or Arabic-and-Indian mixed-language compound names are not uncommon in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan. There is, for example, the Pakistani/Indian name "Allah Ditta" which combines the Arabic "Allah" with the Persian/Urdu "Ditta" which means "given".

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 has the name of Saleh ibn Tariq ibn Khalid al-Fulan.

  • Saleh is his personal name, and the one that his family and friends would call him by.
  • ibn translates as "son of", so Tariq is Saleh's father's name.
  • ibn Khalid means that Tariq is the son of Khalid, making Khalid the grandfather of Saleh.
  • al-Fulan would be Saleh's family name.

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 name Hebrew name English name Syriac name Greek name
Aabir
ʿĀbir /ʾĪbir عابر / إيبر
Éver
ʻĒḇer עֵבֶר
Eber
Alyasaa
Alyasaʿ اليسع
Elisha
Elišaʿ אֱלִישָׁע
Elisha Ελισαίος
Aamoos
ʿĀmūs عاموس
Amos
ʿĀmōs עָמוֹס
Amos
Andraaoos
Andrāwus أندراوس
Andras אנדראס Andrew - Ἀνδρέας
Asif
ʾĀsif آصف
Asaph
ʾĀsaf אָסָף
Asaph
Ayoob
ʾAyyūb أيّوب
Iyov / Iov
Iyyov / Iyyôḇ איוב
Job Ιώβ
ʾĀzar
Āzar / Taraḥ آزر / تارح
Téraḥ / Tharakh תֶּרַח / תָּרַח Terah Thara Θάρα
Azaria
Azarīyā أزريا
Azaryah עֲזַרְיָהוּ Azariah
Bartholmaos
Barthulmāwus بَرثُولَماوُس
bar-Tôlmay בר-תולמי Bartholomew - Βαρθολομαῖος
Baraka
Baraka
Bārak بارك
Barukh
Bārûḵ בָּרוּךְ
Baruch
Benyamin
Binyāmīn بنيامين
Binyamin
Binyāmîn בִּנְיָמִין
Benjamin Βενιαμίν
Boulus
Būlus بولس
Paolos פאולוס Paul - Παῦλος
Boutros
Butrus بطرس
Putros פטרוס Peter - Πέτρος
Daborah
Dabūrāh دبوراه
Dvora
Dəḇôrā דְּבוֹרָה
Deborah
Daniel
Dānyāl دانيال
Daniel
Dāniyyêl דָּנִיֵּאל
Daniel Δανιήλ
Dawoud / Dāwud / Dāwūd / Dāʾūd داود / داوُود / داؤود David
Davīd  דָּוִד
David Δαβίδ
Fileeb
Fīlīb/Fīlībus فيليب / فيليبوس
Pīlīpos פיליפוס Philip - 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 חֲבַקּוּק Habakkuk Αββακούμ
Hajjay
Ḥajjai حجاي
Ḥaggay חַגַּי Haggai
Aanaa
Anna آنّاه
Ḥannāh חַנָּה Anna (Bible)
Haroun
Hārūn هارون
Aharon אהרן Aaron Ααρών
Hawaa
Ḥawwāʾ حواء
Chava / Hava
Ḥavvah חַוָּה
Eve ܚܘܐ Εύα
Hosha
Hūshaʾ هوشع
Hoshea
Hôšēăʻ הושע
Hosea
Ḥassan حسن Choshen
ẖošen חֹשֶׁן
Hassan
Hazkiel
Ḥazqiyal حزقيال
Y'khez'qel 
Y'ḥez'qel יְחֶזְקֵאל
Ezekiel Ιεζεκιήλ
Ibraaheem
ʾIbrāhīm إبراهيم
Avraham אַבְרָהָם Abraham Αβραάμ
Idrees / Akhnookh
Idrīs / Akhnūkh أخنوخ / إدريس
H̱anokh חֲנוֹךְ Enoch / Idris
Elias
ʾIlyās إلياس
Īliyā إيليا
Eliahu / Eliyahu
Eliyahu אֱלִיָּהוּ
Elijah 'Eliya Ηλίας
Imran
ʾImrān عمرام / عمران
Amrām עַמְרָם Amram Αμράμ
Irmiyaa
ʾIrmiyā إرميا
Yirməyāhū יִרְמְיָהוּ Jeremiah Ιερεμίας
Eisa / Yasoua
ʿĪsā / Yasūʿ عيسى / يسوع
Yeshua
Yešuaʿ   יֵשׁוּעַ / יֵשׁוּ
Jesus Eeshoʿ Ἰησοῦς
Ishak
ʾIsḥāq إسحاق
Yitzhak / Yitzchak
Yitsḥaq יִצְחָק
Isaac Ἰσαάκ
Isaiah
ʾIshʿiyāʾ إشعيا
Yeshayahu
Yəšạʻyā́hû יְשַׁעְיָהוּ
Isaiah Ἠσαΐας
Ismail
ʾIsmāʿīl إسماعيل
Yishmael
Yišmaʿel / Yišmāʿêl יִשְׁמָעֵאל
Ishmael
Israail
ʾIsrāʿīl إِسرائيل
Israel / Yisrael
Yisraʾel / Yiśrāʾēl ישראל
Israel Ισμαήλ
Jibreel /Jibraaeel
Jibrīl / Jibraīl جِبْريل / جَبْرائيل
Gavriel
Gavriʾel גַבְרִיאֵל
Gabriel Γαβριήλ
Jad / Gad
Ǧād / Jād جاد
Gad גָּד Gad Γαδ
Jalut / Galut
Ǧālūt / Jālūt / Julyāt جالوت / جليات
Golyāṯ גָּלְיָת Goliath
Jasham / Gushaam
Jašam / Ǧūšām جشم / جوشام
Geshem גֶשֶׁם Geshem (Bible) Gashmu
Jorj
Jūrj / Jirjis / Jurj / Jurayj جيرجس
George (given name) Γεώργιος
Kalb??
Kālb??!!??
Kalev כָּלֵב Caleb
Lawi
Lāwī لاوي
Lēwî לֵּוִי Levi
Leya
Layā'ليا
Leah לֵאָה Leah Λεία
Madyan
Madyān مدين
Midian מִדְיָן Midian Μαδιάμ
Majdala
Majdalā مجدلية
Migdal Magdalene (given name) Magdala
Malikisadiq
Māliki-Ṣadiq ملكي صادق
malḵi-ṣédeq מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶֿק Melchizedek Μελχισεδέκ
Maliki
Malākhī ملاخي
Mal'akhi מַלְאָכִי Malachi Μαλαχίας
Maryam / Miriam
Maryam   مريم
Miriam / Miryam
Miryam מרים
Mary ܡܪܝܡ Μαρία
Methuselah
Mattūshalakh مَتُّوشَلَخَ
Mətušélaḥ
Mətušálaḥ מְתֿוּשָלַח
Methuselah Μαθουσάλα
Matta
Mattā
Amittai אֲמִתַּי Amittai
Matta
Mattā / Matatiyā متى / متتيا
Matatiahu / Matatyahu
Matatyahu מַתִּתְיָהוּ
Matthew Mattai Ματταθίας / Ματθαῖος
Mikhail
 / Mikhāʼīl ميخائيل
Michael / Mikhael
Miḵaʾel מִיכָאֵל
Michael Μιχαήλ
Moussa
Mūsā موسى
Moshe
Mošé מֹשֶׁה
Moses Μωυσής
Nehemiaa
Nahamiyyā نحميا
Nekhemyah נְחֶמְיָה Nehemiah Νεεμίας
Nouh
Nūḥ نُوح
Noach / Noah
Nóaḥ נוֹחַ
Noah Νῶε
Qaroon / Qoorah
Qarūn / Qūraḥ قارون / قورح
Kórakh
Qōraḥ קֹרַח
Korah
Raaheel
Rāḥīl راحيل
Rakhél
Raḥel רָחֵל
Rachel Ραχήλ
Safniyaa
Ṣafnīyā صفنيا
Tzfanya  / Ṣəp̄anyā
Tsfanya צְפַנְיָה
Zephaniah
Safurah
Ṣaffūrah صفورة
Tzipora  / Tsippora
Ṣippôrā צִפוֹרָה
Zipporah
Sem
Sām سام
Shem שֵם Shem Σημ
Samiri
Sāmirī سامري
Zimri זִמְרִי Zimri Zamri
Samuel
Ṣamu’īl / Ṣamawāl صموئيل / صموال
Shmu'el / Šəmûʼēl
Shmu'el שְׁמוּאֶל
Samuel Σαμουήλ
Sara
Sārah سارة
Sara / Sarah
Sarā שָׂרָה
Sarah / Sara Σάρα
Shamshoon
Shamshūn شمشون
Shimshon / Šimšôn
Shimshon שִׁמְשׁוֹן
Samson
Suleiman
Sulaymān /  سليمان
Shlomo
Šlomo שְׁלֹמֹה
Solomon Σολομών
Saul
Ṭālūt / Sāwul طالوت / شاول
Sha'ul
Šāʼûl שָׁאוּל
Saul
Tomas
Ṭūmās/Tūmā طوماس / توما
tomas תומאס Thomas (name) te'oma Θωμᾶς
Obaidullah
ʿUbaydallāh / 'Ubaydīyā عبيد الله / عبيدييا
Ovadia
Ovádyah / Ovádyah עבדיה
Obadiah Οβαδίας / 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
John Ιωάννης / Γιάννης
Yahwah
Yahwah يهوه
YHWH
Yahweh יְהֹוָה
Jehovah
Yessa
Yashshā يَسَّى
Yishay יִשַׁי Jesse Ἰεσσαί
Yathrun (?)
Yathrun / Shu'ayb / شعيب
Yitro
Yiṯrô יִתְרוֹ
Jethro
You'il
Yūʾīl يوئيل
Yoel יואל) Joel
Younos / Younes
 / Yūnus يونس
Yona / Yonah
Yônā יוֹנָה
Jonah Yuna Ιωνάς
Youssof / Youssef
Yūsuf /  يوسف
Yosef יוֹסֵף Joseph Ιωσήφ
Youshaʿ
Yūshaʿ / Yashūʿ يُوشَعُ / يَشُوعُ
Yĕhôshúa
Yôshúa יְהוֹשֻׁעַ
Joshua Ιησούς
Zakaria
Zakariyyā / Zakarīyā زَكَرِيَّا
Zecharia /Zekharia
Zeḵaryah זְכַרְיָה
Zachary or Zechariah Ζαχαρίας
  • The popular romanization of the Arabized and Hebrew names are written first, then the standardized romanization are written in oblique. Notice that Arabized names may have variants.
  • If a literal Arabic translation of a name exists, it will be placed after the final standardized romanization.
  • If an Arabic correlation is ambiguous, (?) will be placed following the name in question.
  • * Yassou' is the Arab Christian name, while `Īsā is the Muslim version of the name, as used in the Qur'an. There is debate as to which is the better rendition of the Aramaic Yeshua' because both names are of late origin.
  • ** Youhanna is the Arab Christian name of John, while Yahya is the Muslim version of the name, as used in the Qur'an. They have completely different triconsonantal roots (e.g. Grace : H-N-N vs Life : H-Y-Y). Specifically, Youhanna may be the Biblical John the Baptist or the apostle. Yahya refers specifically to John the Baptist.
  • El, the Hebrew word for strength/might or deity, is usually represented as īl in Arabic, although it carries no meaning in classical and modern Arabic. The only exception is its usage in the archaic Iraqi dialect.

See also[edit]

References[edit]


External links[edit]