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:


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, 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 (ألقاب) can be translated to English as 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), which uses the definite article al-. Harun is the Arabic version of the name Aaron and al-Rasheed means "the Rightly-Guided".

Another common form of laqab are compounds ending with al-Dīn (lit.'of the faith' or 'of the religion'), al-Dawla ('of the State'), al-Mulk ('of the Kingdom'), or al-Islām ('of Islam').[2] Examples include Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn, Shams al-Dīn, Nūr al-Dīn, Nāṣir al-Dawla, Niẓām al-Mulk, Sayf al-Islām.

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)[3] 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.[4] 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. Amah) 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.[5] 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:

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 أمین الفارسی
Muḥammad ibn Salmān ibn Amīn al-Fārisī

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

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.

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

Biblical names and their Arabic 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 Lēvî 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 Matitiahu / Matityahu
Matityahu מַתִּתְיָהוּ
Matthew Mattai Ματθαῖος
 / Mikhāʼīl ميخائيل
Michael / Mikhael
Miḵaʾel מִיכָאֵל
Michael Μιχαήλ
Mūsā موسى Moshe
Mošé מֹשֶׁה
Moses Μωϋσῆς
Nahamiyyā نحميا Neḥemyah 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
Zipporah Σεπφώρα
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


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.[6]

See also[]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Bearman, P.; Bianquis, Th.; Bosworth, C.E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W.P., eds. (1960–2007). "Ism". Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_3641.
  3. ^ Shahpurshah Hormasji Hodivala, Historical Studies in Mug̲h̲al Numismatics, Numismatic Society of India, 1976 (Reprint of the 1923 ed.)
  4. ^ Pedzisai Mashiri, "Terms of Address in Shona: A Sociolinguistic Approach", Zambezia, XXVI (i), pp. 93–110, 1999
  5. ^ Metcalf, Barbara D. (2009-09-08). Islam in South Asia in Practice. Princeton University Press. p. 344. ISBN 978-1-4008-3138-8. 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).
  6. ^ "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).

External links[]