History of Arabic Naming System

History of Arabic Naming System

A Deep Dive into the History of Arabic Naming System

Arabic culture and nomenclature have a long history, as Arabic is the oldest known culture. Therefore, many significances have been followed in the Arabic naming system, which is completely different and unique from any other naming system. Besides, Arabic culture is also best known for being primitive and unique. Besides, the Arabic culture also has many mythological stories that are said to have existed hundreds and thousands of years ago.

Let’s learn more about the history of Arabic nomenclature in this article, but before that, let’s learn about the history of Arabic culture.

History of Arabic Culture

Arabic history is the oldest history that has ever been recorded. As a result, Arabic culture has influenced all the other religions and cultures worldwide. Furthermore, Arabs are said to be descended from Ishmael, Abraham’s son. The Syrian Desert is the home of the first “Arab” groups and numerous Arab groups that expanded throughout the nation and existed for millennia.

The Islamic religion is inextricably linked to Arabic culture. The Islamic religion is the primary religion in Arabic civilization. People still practice other religions, but because Islam is the religion of most of the population, most names in Arabic culture are tied to the Islamic religion.

Furthermore, practically all Arabians think that the Almighty controls their lives and all occurrences and that the Arabic way of life is inextricably linked to the deity and the Islamic religion. Furthermore, culture, tradition, and religion are taught to children at school. As a result, the Islamic religion is so widely practiced in Arabic society that people adhere to Islamic law (Sharia) as rigidly as any other law in the country or state.

Traditional Arab values were influenced by urbanization, industrialization, detribalization, and Western influence in the twentieth century. As a result, nearly half of Muslim Arabs live in cities and towns where familial and tribe ties are weaker, women and men have equal educational and career opportunities, and a newly rising middle class of technicians, professionals, and bureaucrats has gained clout.

Most Arabs still live in small, secluded rural villages where traditional values and activities, such as female subservience and home seclusion (purdah), prevail. However, several Arab people have started living life influenced by western culture and lifestyle. However, they are still devoted to their culture and history.

How did the Arabic Naming System Originate?

Historically, Arabic language names were based on a lengthy naming system. As a result, many people from Arabic-speaking and Muslim nations have a chain of names rather than given/middle/family names. This system is still used in Arabic and Muslim nations.

Also Read: Why Are Arabic Names So Long? Structure of Arabic Names in 5 Simple Parts

The Arabic culture existed before the religions were found, and the first religion that the Arabs followed was Islam. Therefore, almost all the names in the Islam religion are based on the Arabic naming system. As a result, many Islam people have Arabic names no matter where they reside.

arabic naming system

After the civilization and founding of Christianity, many Arabs converted to Christianity and started forming names based on the Christian religion. However, the naming system remained the same. Gradually, many Arabs started getting different names, but the primitive naming system remained the same.

Christian Arab names can be derived from the Bible. Butros, for example, is the Arabic equivalent of Peter. These names often follow the same pattern as other Arabic names. Western names, often employed by Christian Arabs or persons living in places affected by the West, are relatively recent—and surprising—additions to the list of isms. 

For example, names like Emile Safwad Youssef and Chantal Sameh Issa can be found in Beirut, Amman, and Tunis. There are hundreds of isms; those included below are only a small sampling.

Furthermore, the Arabic culture also consists of several brave warriors and kingdoms. As a result, some names have originated from the names and surnames of those warriors. These types of names can be categorized as Dynasty Names.

When descended from a prominent ancestor, some people, particularly in the Arabian Peninsula, begin their last name with l “family, clan” (), such as the House of Saud l ad or Al ash-Sheikh (“family of the sheik”). 

The letter l differs from the definite article (). Therefore, if a reliable source of Arabic spelling includes (as a separate graphic word), this is not a case of the definite article, and Al (capitalized and followed by a space, not a hyphen) should be used. Ahl, which has a similar meaning, is also used occasionally and should be used if the Arabic spelling is.

The prefix Abd (“Worshipper”, fem. Amah) paired with the name of Allah (God), Abdullah ( “Worshipper of God”), or one of Allah’s epithets, is a frequent name-form among Arab Muslims.

As a symbol of respect, the name Abd is rarely combined with the names of the prophets. Nonetheless, in some locations, such names are acceptable. Its use is not limited to Muslims; in all Arab countries, the name Abdel-Massih, which means “Servant of Christ,” is a common Christian last name. Converts to Islam may use non-Arabic non-Islamic names with no polytheistic connotation or association.

Naming Categories of Arabic Names

Arabic naming traditions are classified into seven broad types. People are frequently mentioned:

  1.  A single personal name by an ‘ism, such as Muhammad (Mohammed), Musa (Moses), Ibrahim (Abraham), Hasan, or Ahmad. Adults are rarely addressed by their given names; it is considered impolite to address an elder or parent by their first name.
  2.  As the father or mother of specific people (typically the eldest son) by a kunya, for example, Abu Da’ud [the father of David], umm Salim [the mother of Salim]. Married ladies are referred to as the mother of their first son, e.g., umm Ahmad [the mother of Ahmad].
  3.  By a nasab, a surname or lineage, as the son or daughter of a specific one, e.g., ibn ‘Umar [the son of Omar], bint ‘Abbas [the daughter of ‘Abbas]. The nasab is usually a surname, the of. The one prominent exception, a matronymic, was a rare case: ‘Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus the son of Mary).
  4.  By a lakab, a combination of words into a cognomen or epithet, generally religious, connected to nature, descriptive, or of some excellent characteristic the person possesses (or would like to have), e.g., ‘Abd Allah (Abdullah) [Servant of God], Harun al-Rashid [Aaron the Rightly-Guided].
  5. Through a harmless signification nickname, This type of “harmless connotation” was frequently used to deflect the evil eye or unwelcome attention of jinn (“genies”) and other evil spirits.
  6. An occupational hisba derived from a person’s trade or profession, such as Muhammad al-Hallaj [Mohammed the cotton dresser].
  7. By a geographical hisba derived from residency or birthplace, such as Yusuf al-Isfahani [Joseph of Isfahan].


Being one of the oldest cultures that existed even before the origination of religion, the naming system of Arabic culture is also very unique and primitive. Besides, the Arabic culture has also left its imprint on many other cultures through its unique naming patterns and terminology.

As naming practices vary across Arab cultures, there are numerous exceptions to naming practices within cultures. Therefore, it is challenging to balance oversimplification and a thorough description of Arabic naming practices in the space available here.

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