Nisba (onomastics)

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For other uses, see Genetive case.

Nisbah (Arabic :نسبة ) is originally an Arabic word that was passed to many other languages such as Turkish, Persian and Urdu. In Arabic names, a nisba (also spelled nesba ; Arabic: نسبةnisbah, "attribution") is an adjective indicating the person's place of origin, tribal affiliation, or ancestry, used at the end of the name and ending in the suffix -iyy(ah).

In the usage of Persian, Turkish and Urdu, it is pronounced/written exclusively nisbat. In Arabic usage, that pronunciation only occurs when the word is uttered in its genitive case only.

The practice has been adopted in Iranian name and South Asia Muslim names, where the nisba sometimes became a surname.

Original use[edit]

A nisba "relation" is a grammatical term referring to the suffixation of masculine -iyy, feminine -iyyah to a word to make it an adjective. As an example, the word ‘Arabiyy (عربي) means "Arab, related to Arabic, Arabian". Nisba forms are very common in Arabic names.

Use in onomastics[edit]

Arabic names do not include family names or surnames, but rather patronymics (nasab), where the name of the person is followed by the name of his father, usually linked by ibn or bin ('son'). Patronymics may be long as they may include all known forefathers. When a name is simplified to one or two ancestors, it may become confused with other persons' names, so an additional specifier, a nisba, may be added as an attribute.

A nisba is usually prefixed by al ('the') and may be to almost anything:

Nisba to a place[edit]

Nisba to a tribe of clan[edit]

Nisba to a person[edit]

Multiple nisba[edit]

One can have more than one nisba, one can be related to a city, a clan, a profession and a person at the same time. Examples include:

The nisba is optional but is quite widespread.


See also[edit]