Arabic name

Arabic names have historically been based on a long naming system. Most Arabs have not had given/middle/family names but rather a chain of names. This system remains in use throughout the Arab world.

Name structure


The ism (اسم) is the given name, first name, or personal name; e.g. "Ahmad" or "Fatimah". Most Arabic names have meaning as ordinary adjectives and nouns, and are often aspirational of character. For example, Muhammad means 'Praiseworthy' and Ali means 'Exalted' or 'High'.

The syntactic context will generally differentiate the name from the noun/adjective. However Arabic newspapers will occasionally place names in brackets, or quotation marks, to avoid confusion.

Indeed, such is the popularity of the name Muhammad throughout parts of Africa, Arabia, the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia, it is often represented by the abbreviation "Md.", "Mohd.", "Muhd.", or just "M.". In India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, due to its almost ubiquitous use as a first name, a person will often be referred to by their second name:

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


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

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

Several nasab names can follow in a chain to trace a person's ancestry backwards in time, as was important in the tribal 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.


The laqab (لقب), pl. alqāb (القاب); agnomen; cognomen; nickname; title, honorific; last name, surname, family name.[1] The laqab is typically descriptive of the person.

An example is the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (of One Thousand and One Nights fame). Harun is the Arabic version of the name Aaron and al-Rasheed means "the Rightly-Guided".

In ancient Arab societies, use of a laqab was common, but today is restricted to the surname, or family name, of birth.


The nisbah (نسبة) surname could be an everyday name, but is mostly the name of the ancestral tribe, city, country, or any other term used to show relevance. It follows a family through several generations. It most often appears as a demonym, for example البغدادي al-Baghdadi, meaning that the person is of Baghdad or descendant of people from Baghdad.

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


A kunya (Arabic: كنية, kunyah)[2] is a teknonym in Arabic names. It is a component of an Arabic name, a type of epithet, in theory referring to the bearer's first-born son or daughter. By extension, it may also have hypothetical or metaphorical references, e.g. in a nom de guerre or a nickname, without literally referring to a son or a daughter.[3] For example, Sabri Khalil al-Banna was known as Abu Nidal, "father of struggle".

Use of a kunya implies a familiar but respectful setting.

A kunya is expressed by the use of abū (father) or umm (mother) in a genitive construction, i.e. "father of" or "mother of" as an honorific in place of or alongside given names in the Arab world.

A kunya may also be a nickname expressing the attachment of an individual to a certain thing, as in Abu Bakr, "father of the camel foal", given because of this person's kindness towards camels.

Common naming practices

Arab Muslim

A common name-form among Arab Muslims is the prefix ʿAbd ("Worshipper", fem. ʿAmah) combined with the name of Allah (God), Abdullah (عبد الله "Worshipper of God"), or with one of the epithets of Allah.

As a mark of deference, ʿAbd is usually not conjoined with the prophets' names.[4] Nonetheless such names are accepted in some areas. Its use is not exclusive to Muslims and throughout all Arab countries, the name Abdel-Massih, "Servant of Christ", is a common Christian last name.

Converts to Islam may often continue using the native non-Arabic non-Islamic names that are without any polytheistic connotation, or association.

Arab Christian

To an extent Arab Christians have names indistinguishable from Muslims, except some explicitly Islamic names, e.g. Muhammad. Some common Christian names are:

  • Arabic versions of Christian names (e.g. saints' names: Buṭrus for Saint Peter).
  • Names of Greek, Armenian, and Aramaic or Neo-Aramaic origin.
  • Use of European names, especially French, Greek and, to a lesser extent, Spanish ones (in Morocco). This has been a relatively recent centuries-long convention for Christian Arabs, especially in the Levant. For example: Émile Eddé, George Habash, Charles Helou, Camille Chamoun.
  • Names in honor of Jesus Christ:
Abd al-Yasuʿ (masc. ) / Amat al-Yasuʿ (fem.) ("Servant of Jesus")
Abd al-Masiḥ (masc.) / Amat al-Masiḥ (fem.) ("Servant of the Messiah")
Derivations of Maseeḥ ("Messiah"): Masūḥun ("Most Anointed"), Amsāḥ ("More Anointed"), Mamsūḥ "Anointed" and Musayḥ "Infant Christ". The root, M-S-Ḥ, means "to anoint" (as in masah) and is cognate to the Hebrew Mashiah.

Dynastic or family name

Some people, especially in the Arabian Peninsula, when descendant of a famous ancestor, start their last name with Āl "family, clan" (آل), like the House of Saud ﺁل سعود Āl Ṣaʻūd or Al ash-Sheikh ("family of the sheikh"). Āl is distinct from the definite article (ال). If a reliably-sourced version of the Arabic spelling includes آل (as a separate graphic word), then this is not a case of the definite article, so Al (capitalised and followed by a space, not a hyphen) should be used. Ahl, which has a similar meaning, is sometimes used and should be used if the Arabic spelling is أهل.

Dynasty membership alone does not necessarily imply that the dynastic آل is used – e.g. Bashar al-Assad.

Arabic Meaning Transliteration Example
ال 'the' al- Maytham al-Tammar
آل 'family'/'clan of' Al Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
أهل 'tribe'/'people of' Ahl Ahl al-Bayt


محمد بن سلمان بن امین الفارسی
Muḥammad ibn Salmān ibn Amīn al-Farsī

Ism - Muḥammad (proper name, lit. "praised")
Nasab - Salmān (father's name, lit. "secure")
Nasab - Amīn (grandfather's name, "trustworthy")
Nisbah - al-Farsī ("the Persian").

"Muḥammad, son of Salmān, son of Amīn, the Persian"

This person would simply be referred to as "Muḥammad" or by his kunya, which relates him to his first-born son, e.g. Abū Karīm "father of Karīm". To signify respect or to specify which Muḥammad one is speaking about, the name could be lengthened to the extent necessary or desired.

Common mistakes

Non-Arabic speakers often make these mistakes:

  • Separating "the X of Y" word combinations (see iḍāfah):
    • With "Abdul": Arabic names may be written "Abdul (something)", but "Abdul" means "servant of the" or "follower 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. al-Ahmad, the latter being the family name.
    • People not familiar with Arabic sandhi in iḍāfah: Habībullāh = "beloved (Habīb) of 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 ʻalāʾ from Allah: Some Muslim names include the Arabic word ʻalāʾ (علاء "nobility"). Here, ⟨ʻ⟩ represents the ayin, a voiced pharyngeal fricative, ⟨ʾ⟩ represents the hamza, a glottal stop, and ⟨l⟩ is spelled and pronounced at ordinary length, /l/. In Allāh, the l is written twice (⟨ll⟩) and pronounced twice as long (a geminate), as /l/ or /ll/. In Arabic pronunciation, ʻalāʾ 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 them identically. For example, the name ʻAlāʾ al-dīn (Aladdin (name), "the Nobility of the Faith") is sometimes misspelled as Allāh al-dīn. There is another name ʻAlaʾ-Allah (Aliullah, "the Nobility of God"), which uses both distinctly.
  • Taking bin or ibn for a middle name: As stated above, these words indicate the order of the family chain. Westerners often confuse them with 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. Ben Ahmed. To correctly address the person, one should use Mr. Sami Ahmed or Mr. 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 internally displaced person whose name they stated as "Allah Muhammad". This may be a misspelling for ʻalāʾ, for if not, by the rules of Arabic grammar, this name means "the Allah who belongs to Muhammad", which, assuming the person is an Arabic speaking Muslim would be unacceptable religiously. However, by the rules of Iranian languages and most languages of India, this name does mean "Muhammad who belongs to Allah", being the equivalent of the Arabic "Muhammadullah". Most Afghans speak Iranian languages. Such Perso-Arab or Indo-Arab multilingual compound names are not uncommon in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan. There is, for example, the Punjabi name Allah-Ditta which joins the Arabic Allah with the Punjabi Ditta "given".

Arab family naming convention

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.

  • Saleh is his personal name, and the one that his family and friends would call him by.
  • ibn and bin 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 Khalid; whom is of the family of al-Fulan."

The Arabic for "daughter of" is bint. A woman with the name Fatimah bint Tariq ibn Khalid al-Goswami translates as "Fatimah, daughter of Tariq, son of Khalid; whom is of the family al-Goswami."

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 were an Egyptian, he would be called Saleh Tariq Khalid al-Fulan and Fatimah would be Fatimah Tariq Khalid al-Goswami.

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

The Arabic names listed below are used in the Arab world with correspondent Hebrew, English, Syriac and Greek equivalents in many cases. Most are derived from Syriac transliterations of the Hebrew Bible.

Arabic name Hebrew name English name Syriac name Greek name
ʿĀbir /ʾĪbir عابر / إيبر Éver
ʻĒḇer עֵבֶר
Alyasaʿ اليسع
Elišaʿ אֱלִישָׁע
Elisha Ἐλισσαῖος
ʿĀmūs عاموس Amos
ʿĀmōs עָמוֹס
Amos Ἀμώς
Andrāwus أندراوس Andrew - Ἀνδρέας
ʾĀsif آصف Asaph
ʾĀsaf אָסָף
ʾAyyūb أيّوب Iyov / Iov
Iyyov / Iyyôḇ איוב
Job Ἰώβ
Āzar / Taraḥ آزر / تارح
Téraḥ / Tharakh תֶּרַח / תָּרַח Terah Thara Θάρα
Azarīyā أزريا Azaryah עֲזַרְיָהוּ Azariah
Barthulmāwus بَرثُولَماوُس
bar-Tôlmay בר-תולמי Bartholomew - Βαρθολομαῖος
Bārak بارك
Bārûḵ בָּרוּךְ
Baruch Βαρούχ
Binyāmīn بنيامين Binyamin
Binyāmîn בִּנְיָמִין
Benjamin Βενιαμίν
Būlus بولس Paul - Παῦλος
Butrus بطرس Peter - Πέτρος
Dabūrāh دبوراه Dvora
Dəḇôrā דְּבוֹרָה
Dānyāl دانيال Daniel
Dāniyyêl דָּנִיֵּאל
Daniel Δανιήλ
Dāwud / Dāwūd / Dāʾūd داود / داوُود / داؤود David
Davīd  דָּוִד
David Δαυΐδ, Δαβίδ
Fīlīb/Fīlībus فيليب / فيليبوس Philip - Φίλιππος
Fāris فارص Péreẓ
Pāreẓ פֶּרֶץ / פָּרֶץ
ʾIfrāym إفرايم Efraim
Efráyim אֶפְרַיִם/אֶפְרָיִם
Ephraim Ἐφραίμ
Ḥūbāb حُوبَابَ Chobab
Ḥovav חֹבָב
Ḥabaqūq حبقوق Ḥavaqquq חֲבַקּוּק Habakkuk Ἀββακούμ
Ḥajjai حجاي Ḥaggay חַגַּי Haggai Ἁγγαῖος
Ānnāh آنّاه
Ḥannāh חַנָּה Anna (Bible) Ἄννα
Hārūn هارون Aharon אהרן Aaron Ἀαρών
Ḥawwāʾ حواء Chava / Hava
Ḥavvah חַוָּה
Eve ܚܘܐ Εὔα
Hūshaʾ هوشع Hoshea
Hôšēăʻ הושע
Hosea Ὡσηέ
Ḥassan حسن Choshen
ẖošen חֹשֶׁן
Ḥazqiyāl حزقيال
Y'ḥez'qel יְחֶזְקֵאל
Ezekiel Ἰεζεκιήλ
ʾIbrāhīm إبراهيم Avraham אַבְרָהָם Abraham Ἀβραάμ
Idrees / Akhnookh
Idrīs / Akhnūkh أخنوخ / إدريس
H̱anokh חֲנוֹךְ Enoch / Idris Ἑνώχ
ʾIlyās إلياس
Īliyā إيليا
Eliahu / Eliyahu
Eliyahu אֱלִיָּהוּ
Elijah 'Eliya Ἠλίας
ʾImrān عمرام / عمران Amrām עַמְרָם Amram Ἀμράμ
ʾIrmiyā إرميا Yirməyāhū יִרְמְיָהוּ Jeremiah Ἱερεμίας

ʿĪsā / Yasūʿ عيسى / يسوع
Yešuaʿ   יֵשׁוּעַ / יֵשׁוּ
Jesus Eeshoʿ Ἰησοῦς
ʾIsḥāq إسحاق
Yitzhak / Yitzchak
Yitsḥaq יִצְחָק
Isaac Ἰσαάκ
ʾIshʻiyāʾ إشعيا Yeshayahu
Yəšạʻyā́hû יְשַׁעְיָהוּ
Isaiah Ἠσαΐας
ʾIsmāʿīl إسماعيل
Yišmaʿel / Yišmāʿêl יִשְׁמָעֵאל
Ishmael Ἰσμαήλ
ʾIsrāʾīl إِسرائيل
Israel / Yisrael
Yisraʾel / Yiśrāʾēl ישראל
Israel Ἰσραήλ
Ǧibrīl / Ǧibra'īl جِبْريل / جَبْرائيل Gavriel
Gavriʾel גַבְרִיאֵל
Gabriel Γαβριήλ
Ǧād / Jād جاد Gad גָּד Gad Γάδ
Ǧālūt / Jālūt / Julyāt جالوت / جليات Golyāṯ גָּלְיָת Goliath Γολιάθ
Ǧašam / Ǧūšām جشم / جوشام
Geshem גֶשֶׁם Geshem (Bible) Gashmu
Ǧūrğ / Ǧirğis / Ǧurğ / Ǧurayğ جيرجس George (given name) Γεώργιος
Kilāb / Kalb كلاب/ كلب Kalev כָּלֵב Caleb
Lāwī لاوي Lēwî לֵּוִי Levi Λευΐ
Layā'ليا Leah לֵאָה Leah Λεία
Madyān مدين Midian מִדְיָן Midian Μαδιάμ
Majdalā مجدلية Migdal Magdalene Magdala Μαγδαληνή
Māliki-Ṣādiq ملكي صادق malki-ṣédeq מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶֿק Melchizedek Μελχισεδέκ
Malākhī ملاخي Mal'akhi מַלְאָכִי Malachi Μαλαχίας
Maryam / Miriam
Maryam   مريم
Miriam / Miryam
Miryam מרים
Mary ܡܪܝܡ Μαρία
Mattūshalakh مَتُّوشَلَخَ Mətušélaḥ
Mətušálaḥ מְתֿוּשָלַח
Methuselah Μαθουσάλα
Mattā Amittai אֲמִתַּי Amittai
Mattā / Matatiyā متى / متتيا Matatiahu / Matatyahu
Matatyahu מַתִּתְיָהוּ
Matthew Mattai Ματθαῖος
 / Mikhāʼīl ميخائيل
Michael / Mikhael
Miḵaʾel מִיכָאֵל
Michael Μιχαήλ
Mūsā موسى Moshe
Mošé מֹשֶׁה
Moses Μωϋσῆς
Nahamiyyā نحميا Nekhemyah נְחֶמְיָה Nehemiah Νεεμίας
Nūḥ نُوح Noach / Noah
Nóaḥ נוֹחַ
Noah Νῶε
Qarūn / Qūraḥ قارون / قورح Kórakh
Qōraḥ קֹרַח
Rāḥīl راحيل Rakhél
Raḥel רָחֵל
Rachel Ραχήλ
Ṣafnīyā صفنيا Tzfanya  / Ṣəp̄anyā
Tsfanya צְפַנְיָה
Zephaniah Σωφονίας
Ṣaffūrah صفورة
Tzipora  / Tsippora
Ṣippôrā צִפוֹרָה
Sām سام
Shem שֵם Shem Σήμ
Sāmirī سامري Zimri זִמְרִי Zimri Zamri
Ṣamu’īl / Ṣamawāl صموئيل / صموال
Shmu'el / Šəmûʼēl
Shmu'el שְׁמוּאֶל
Samuel Σαμουήλ
Sārah سارة Sara / Sarah
Sarā שָׂרָה
Sarah / Sara Σάρα
Shamshūn شمشون Shimshon / Šimšôn
Shimshon שִׁמְשׁוֹן
Samson Σαμψών
Sulaymān /  سليمان
Šlomo שְׁלֹמֹה
Solomon Σολομών
Ṭālūt / šāwul طالوت / شاول
Šāʼûl שָׁאוּל
Saul Σαούλ
Ṭūmās/Tūmā طوماس / توما
Thomas (name) te'oma Θωμᾶς
ʻUbaydallāh / ʻUbaydiyyā عبيد الله / عبيدييا
ʻOvádyah / ʻOvádyah עבדיה
Obadiah Ὁβαδίας, Ἀβδιού
ʻAmri عمري Omri
ʻOmri עמרי
ʻUzāir عُزَيْرٌ Ezra
Ezrá עזרא
Yaʿqūb يَعْقُوب Yaakov
Yaʿaqov יַעֲקֹב
Jacob, (James) Ἰακώβ
Yaḥyā / Yūḥannā** يحيى / يوحنا Yochanan / Yohanan
Yôḥānnān יוחנן
John Ἰωάννης
Yahwah يهوه
Yahweh יְהֹוָה
Yashshā يَسَّى
Yishay יִשַׁי Jesse Ἰεσσαί
Yathrun (?)
Yathrun / Shu'ayb / شعيب
Yiṯrô יִתְרוֹ
Yūʾīl يوئيل
Yoel יואל) Joel Ἰωήλ
Younos / Younes
 / Yūnus يونس
Yona / Yonah
Yônā יוֹנָה
Jonah Yuna Ἰωνάς
Youssof / Youssef
Yūsuf /  يوسف
Yosef יוֹסֵף Joseph Ἰωσήφ
Yūshaʿ / Yashūʿ يُوشَعُ / يَشُوعُ
Yôshúa יְהוֹשֻׁעַ
Joshua Ἰησοῦς
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 ʿĪsā 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: H-N-N ("grace") vs H-Y-Y ("Life"). 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.


According to the Chicago Manual of Style, Arabic names are indexed by their surnames. Names may be alphabetized under Abu Abd and ibn, while names are not alphabetized under al- and el- and are instead alphabetized under the following element.[5]

See also

  • List of Arabic star names
  • List of Arabic place names


  2. Shahpurshah Hormasji Hodivala, Historical Studies in Mug̲h̲al Numismatics, Numismatic Society of India, 1976 (Reprint of the 1923 ed.)
  3. Pedzisai Mashiri, "Terms of Address in Shona: A Sociolinguistic Approach", Zambezia, XXVI (i), pp. 93–110, 1999
  4. Metcalf, Barbara D. (2009-09-08). Islam in South Asia in Practice. Princeton University Press. p. 344. ISBN 1-4008-3138-5. One must avoid names whose ambiguity suggests something unlawful. It is for this reason that the scholars forbid having names like 'Abd al-Nabi (Slave of the Prophet).
  5. "Indexes: A Chapter from The Chicago Manual of Style" (Archive). Chicago Manual of Style. Retrieved on December 23, 2014. p. 25 (PDF document p. 27/56).
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