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Arabic name

Table of contents
1 Introduction
2 A Simple Example
3 Name Length
4 Family Names
5 Naming Females


Arabs use a very sophisticated naming system: most don't just have first/middle/last names, but a full chain of names. This system is still in use in many Arab countries. It is important to note that ethnic groups in different modern Arab countries (by broad definition, any country that employs Arabic as mother tongue, one of its common languages or as a lingua-franca) adjusted to different modern naming conventions or stick with their traditional naming conventions. Modern Iraqi Muslim Arabs, for example, don't usually use the prefix "bin" before their father's names, whereas people in other Arabian countries usually do. Some of the "kuniyyat" are passed down generations and became surnames. Some surnames are simply derived from age-old tribal, professional, or clan names. It is usually possible to guess one's Palestinian origin from their popular use of "Abu" names. Syrian Arabs' contain heavy Turkish elements which is reflected in some of their Turkish surnames (Shishekli, for example). Maghribi names are quite distinctive due to heavy Berber (Tamazigh) influences. Some Christian Arabs, such as some from Palestine, like to have names indistinguishable from those of their Sunni neighbors but there are as many Christian Arabs who retain names of Greek, Armenian, or Syriac origins. Adoption of European names, especially French ones, has been a centuries-long convention for Arab Christians not only from the Levant, but from the Maghreb to Iran. Many Israelis of "Oriental" origins often maintain Arab surnames and adopt Arab names common to Arab Jews. In certain countries like Malaysia and Singapore, male Muslim's names often begin with Mohammed or Muhammed, continued by the given name, followed by the prefix "bin", then his father's name.

A Simple Example

Lets assume somebody is named Mohammed bin Abdullah bin Omar bin Othman al-Ahmed.

We notice the use of the optional word bin, sometimes spelled "ben" which means "son of"

That means his name translates to Mohammed son of Abdulla son of Omar son of Othman al-Ahmed.

It means his first name is Mohammed, his father's first name is Abdulla, his grandfather's first name is Omar, his great grandfather's first name is Othman and his family name is al-Ahmed.

Name Length

A name can be described to any precision required, some people carry the exact same sequence of names up to the fourth or fifth level, so they use that as a full name, others just use first/last or first/father/last.

Family Names

Arabs have a tribal way of describing family, a person could have two or three family names, each one of them is a smaller group within the larger one.

Naming Females

Women and girls are still named the same way, but they substitute the word bin with bint (daughter of) after their first name, the sequence then continues with her father, etc.