Arabic Surnames

Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by Setwale_Charm, Dec 18, 2006.

  1. Hi!
    I have been wondering: are there any regional peculiarities for Arabic names and surnames? In other words, can one consider certain types of those typical of a certain region and thus suggest that a bearer of a particular surname comes from a certain part of the Arabic-speaking world?
  2. Shlama_98 Member

    Syriac Aramaic/Iraq
    From where I come from there are no surnames, it's simply first name, father's name, then grandfather's name, usually the surname is the tribe or the clan's name, this is not used normally but it's put in some legal documents.

    As for the surnames (Tribe names in this case), sometimes you can tell their regional background and other times you can't, if it's a famous tribe then you can tell their background, if it's not you can't, usually most of the famous Arab tribes in Iraq (Where I'm from) are known to come from Arabia, of course I can only comment about Iraq.
  3. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    غریب الوطن
    Am. English
    Even people in South Asia have surnames which link them to certain tribes or even to the Prophet.
  4. mansio Senior Member

    It is possible to know where some Arabs come from by the way their surname is transliterated in Latin script.

    If it is done according to the French use then they come from former French North Africa.

    I can also recognize surnames from Mauritania which begin with "Ould".
  5. Can you give me an example?:confused:
  6. mansio Senior Member

    Setwale Charm

    The examples I give you are from French, not the way they are written in Arabic.

    The former president of Tunisia Bourguiba or from Algeria Boumédienne, Boubakeur (from Arabic Abû Bakr) head of the main Parisian mosque, Lamraoui (Ar. al-Amrawi), etc...
    So by the way the surnames are written in newspapers I sometimes can guess where the people come from which would be impossible if it were written in Arabic.

    Here a list of Mauritanian presidents:
    Ould Taya, Ould Daddah, Ould Haidallah.
  7. Thanks. I am not so well acquainted with Mauritania and have not heard so many of their typical names.
  8. MarcB Senior Member

    US English
    ould=ولد= son.sometimes found in other North African names, usually son in a name is ibn or ben. al-tikriti tribal and place name for Saddam Hussein.Some place names can indicate the origin but they can be found in other countries so it is not an exact way to know el-masri = the Egyptian but it can be found outside of Egypt. In Tunisia el-lajmi = from el-jem a town in Tunisia.Some names can be occupations and do not indicate the region Haddad=blacksmith.
  9. So is there any way of tracing the Arabic surname al-Rahhbi?
  10. Shlama_98 Member

    Syriac Aramaic/Iraq
    I'm not very sure about this but I think the Rahbi tribe comes from Oman, by Rahbi I'm assuming it's this in Arabic word "الرحبي".
  11. Taalib Senior Member

    United States
    United States
    Regional peculiarities are not predictable--as others have said, some large families/clans/tribes may be historically prevalent in certain geographic areas, and as a result their surname may be common in that area; but these are quirks that have to be confronted on a country-by-country basis.

    For instance, there are some rather large clans in the Palestine/Jordan area whose surnames are well-known because of their political or economic prominence, and whose settled genealogy can be trace back to certain towns and cities. There is a large and famous Masri family from Nablus, for instance, whose sons have been very successful (with one, Taher al-Masri, even serving as Prime Minister in Jordan for a short while back in the early 1990s).

    I would imagine the situation is the same in the Gulf. After all, look at the ruling families of the oil exporters: the Sabahs in Kuwait, the Khalifas in Bahrain, the Thanis in Qatar, etc. These clans are locally situated, and in these societies a handful of well-known families do tend to dominate.

    Not sure about North Africa, though.

    Finally, in some Arab countries, religious or communal minorities often carry distinctive surnames. Circassian Muslims in Jordan, for instance; or Armenian Christians in Lebanon--but this is, like most things in Arabic, not a strict rule.
  12. zooz

    zooz Senior Member

    Arabic & Syrian Arabic
    The answer to your question is definitely yes. Surnames take a great deal in the Arabic culture since the ancient history. As a general rule, one can tell whether the surname comes from Asia or Africa (though the Egyptians do not tend to use them - for unknown reason(s) to me). In the Gulf countires, the family names, which descend from the tribes names, indicate the origin of the bearer (country, region, city...etc.). Same thing goes with most surnames in the Levant where they may carry a certain pattern. In Syria and Lebanon, the family names could be considered as preliminary ID's cards marking out other aspects -beside the geographic origin- such as the religion.
  13. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    I able to tell that Gaafar is an Egyptian because of the way it's pronounced and romanised :) it would be Jaafar otherwise. I wouldn't be able to tell if it were written in Arabic ;)

    I think it should be spelled جعفر , so it's pronounced Ja`far/Ga`far.
  14. MarcB Senior Member

    US English
    Yes you are right but. جعفر النميري Gaafar Nimeiry or Jaafar Nimeiry as seen in the Western press, the former president of Sudan, his name is pronounced J, and جمال عبد الناصر‎ Gamal Abdel Nasser or Jamal ( occasionally) former president of Egypt as seen in the western press, His name is pronounced G. The western press has used both spellings for both names, perhaps because Sudan is very influenced by Egypt, we see the G for Jaafar. So as mansio mentioned and your example, in transliteration, sometimes we can figure out the origin but sometimes we can not. Tribal names can sometimes be good indications but some of them can be found in many countries. Names that just use the fathers name usually do not give an origin. Occupation names do not give the origin. Place names do but they also can be found in several countries. Zooz’s comments sometimes work in other countries also.
  15. kschreid New Member

    English, USA
    I am trying to find out which Muslim countries have surnames associated with geographical locations, such as towns or cities? I know the majority of Pakistan surnames are based on tribes. If anyone could point me in the right direction I would greatly appreciate it! As you can see I have many more to find answers too :(
  16. zooz

    zooz Senior Member

    Arabic & Syrian Arabic
    I can't specify but I can tell most of the Arab countries do have such surnames. For instance, in Syria those surnames correspond to some big families: الحمصي، الحلبي، الديري، الطرابلسي، الجزائري، المصري.

    In Saudi Arabia a lot of surnames comes from the origin of the family. E.g. المدني، النجدي، اليماني، البخاري. Another example are the surnames that start with ب which refers to city of origin (حضرموت - اليمن) like: بانافع، باوارث، باناجة، بابكر...إلخ.

    Hope this would help a bit.
  17. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Is the custom of naming an adult after one of his / her sons (Abu X, Umm X) still alive?
  18. kifaru Senior Member

  19. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Indeed, a remarkable study. Thanks a lot for this link.

    P.S. The titles listed p. 9-10 as being equivalent to the Frankish system is extremely artificial, but interesting. You will also have noticed that the title of xaliifa(t) is missing. Perhaps they could have used it to translate "emperor".
  20. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    There is a curious mistake p. 2.
    The authors claim ism
    [ism] "name" is pronounced like -ism [Iz@m] in for instance "dogmatism". It's wrong! Either he mispronounces Arabic or he mispronounces English.

    Also he doesn't seem to have heard of the rules concerning solar letters. He writes Salah al-Din (p.2) instead of Salah ad-Din.

    I'll pass on the fact that as he only uses the English alphabet, he cannot represent long vowels and the consonants particular to Arabic.

    Despite these shortcomings, this article remains a good one. Again, thanks a lot Kifaru for the URL.

    P.S. Unless it is his father's forename, he translates his surname Appleton (apple town) as Auda. Does he mean 3auda(t)
    I think tuffaa7ii
    from tuffaa7
    "apple" would have been more appropriate. :)
  21. gameroftheuk Senior Member

    London, UK
    What does the surname Farhan mean in Arabic?
  22. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    It means joyeful.
  23. gameroftheuk Senior Member

    London, UK
    Pretty weird, I know a friend of mine, his first name is jehad which means holy war, combined with last name is holy war joyful, how is a war joyful?
  24. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    This is the strangest comment I've heard about a person name so far.
    Why should we make a sentence from a person's name ?!!!:confused:
    It's ture we sometimes comment on a person name as sounding good, bad, strange... but we don't comment on it this way.

    Besides, the word Jihad is not an exact equivalent of holy war (that would be 7arb muqaddasa حرب مقدسة ) the word jihad literally means making great effort with something /someone that's replying with another effort from it/his/her side. That's why there's the concept of "jihad(u) 'n-nafs جهاد النفس ) which means fighting the temptation, doing an effort to resist the bad inclinations of oneself.
  25. gameroftheuk Senior Member

    London, UK
    Is Lakhan an arabic surname?
  26. Meerlicht New Member

    English UK
    Quote "I am trying to find out which Muslim countries have surnames associated with geographical locations, such as towns or cities?"

    Some Palestinian surnames from Palestinian place names:
    Nabulsi (Nablus), Dajani (Bayt Dajan), Karmi (Tulkarm), Qaddumi (Kafr Qaddum), Rantisi (Rantis), Salfiti (Salfit), Talhami (Bayt Lahm, Bethlehem).
    Lebanese: Bayruti (Beirut), Tarabulsi (Tarablus, Tripoli), Ba'lbaki (Baalbek).
    Iraqi: Ani (Ana) Duri, Douri (Dur), Hadithi (Haditha), Samarra'i (Samarra).
    Some surnames are not necessarily closely associated with their original homeland: Qudsi (al-Quds, Jarusalem), Halabi (Aleppo), Fassi (Fez).
  27. Meerlicht New Member

    English UK
    Is Lakhan an Arabic surname?
    I know for certain that there is a South Asian surname, Lakhan, apparently a modern version of Lakshman. It is also a forename among Hindus.
    There is also a surname Lakhani, borne by Hindus and Muslims. There are several possible explanations for this name but it looks like a variant of Lakhan to me.
  28. peacefield New Member

    United States-English

    I've been working on genealogy for my family, and thought this may be a good resource in helping me find out about my maternal grandfather's background. When he came to the US from Beirut in the 1910's, he changed his name to Albert Omar. His original name however (according to my mom) was Mohammed Ahmed Amer Kareem. Forgive the incorrect spelling if I've done so, but is there something to be learned as far as where he came from based on his name? I'm also having difficulty when searching for him in census and immigration records, because when they ask for a surname, etc, I'm not quite sure what to put.

    Thanks very much-
  29. Wadi Hanifa

    Wadi Hanifa Senior Member

    Well the name doesn't point to a specific country but rather sounds like it could have come from anywhere in the Levant (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, or Jordan), or from Egypt. Iraq is also possible, but I don't think a lot of Muslim Iraqis (and the name is definitely Muslim) were emigrating to the US back then. You say he left from Beirut, so that makes it more likely he came from the Levant than from Egypt, because Egypt has its own ports, but you're going to have to research where Egyptian immigrants tended to come from (what if many of them left from Lebanon?). Jordan was sparsely populated at that time (mostly by bedouins), so maybe Jordan is not as likely. That would leave you with Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine.

    As for the surname, Kareem is obviously the most likely, but I think you're going to have to try Ahmed and Amer as well, because the point where an ancestor's name becomes a surname is not subject to any specific rules, and Arabs can sometimes have multiple surnames depending on the context.
  30. peacefield New Member

    United States-English
    Thanks very much for the information. Hopefully I'll be able to find out more details about the ports in the Levant that he could have left from and on what ship. There aren't a lot of written records about his past, but maybe searching for all of those names as a surname will make my chances a little better in discovering more info.

    Thanks again,
  31. suma Senior Member

    English, USA
    That name Mohammed Ahmed Amer Kareem is very generic. almost like an American named John Wayne George Smith.

    It's too bad because there's nothing in it that indicates a city, or region, or tribal affiliation, or trade, that you often see in Arab names that help you pinpoint and trace the background of the individual. makes me wonder if even that name was made up? Are you sure your mom is remembering correctly?
  32. kifaru Senior Member

    How common would it be for a person who isn't a Muslim to be named Mohammed in the Levant now and in the past?
  33. suma Senior Member

    English, USA

    I'd say that never happens, certainly not in an Arab country.

    I think it does occur somewhat in west Africa and maybe south east Asia (like Indonesia, Malaysia) where in some villages the religious distinctions are not so quite concrete.
  34. peacefield New Member

    United States-English
    It is possible that my mom is not remembering correctly. The only concrete evidence I have on him is the date he married my grandma and his history beyond that, so it's going to make this whole project difficult.

    An another note, my maternal grandmother was born in New Brunswick, but her father's name was Ismaih Abraham Asfour. When they came to the US they changed their name to Bird, which I'm assuming is english for Asfour? Is there anything to be learned from a name like his as far as where he came from?

    Thanks again everyone,
  35. suma Senior Member

    English, USA
    It's possible, Asfour as a surname sounds less common and maybe used in only some limited regions, so that should help in isolating a location. Some of the native speakers here will have better knowledge about which names are used in which regions.

    this Ismaih looks like is was probably Ismail, a common name used by Arab Muslims
  36. Seekermu New Member

    My maternal grandfather name was Sidi Housean Patmah. He came from Singapore to Mauritius and married a Mauritian lady and my mother Sarifa Muznah bint Housean Patmah was born in 1900.
    I am compiling a Family Book and would welcome any information about the origin of my grand father probably Yemen. He spoke Arabic currently.
    Thanks for any information, I am told that my grandfather was an Alwin Arab and a Sayyid.
  37. Spectre scolaire Senior Member

    Moving around, p.t. Turkey
    Maltese and Russian
    Sarifa Muznah is “daughter” (bint) of Housean Patmah. Sidi Housean and Sarifa Muznah are all Arabic names, but I thought patma was a sort of flower in Malay, and therefore most likely to be a female name.:confused: Could it be the previous generation that came from Yemen?

    By the way, Mauritius is one of the most fascinating places on earth. People from many different countries must have discovered the beauty of the place, but my fascination is rather due to the incredible mix of its people! This mix also has linguistic consequences.
    ;) :)
  38. ayed

    ayed Senior Member

    As far as I know that al-Asour/asfoor family are in some GCC such as Kuwait , Oman , Bahrain and in (al-Ahsa--in the eatern region of Saudi Arabia) and in Palestine as well.
  39. Seekermu New Member

    Merçi pour les renseigments, Spectre scolaire.
    Mauritius is indeed a melting pot of races and languages.We speak creole which is a mixture of mainly French, English, some Hindi and Malagasy. The official language is English but French is widely read and spoken.
    Please tell me the meaning of Muzanah. Thank you
  40. Spectre scolaire Senior Member

    Moving around, p.t. Turkey
    Maltese and Russian
    A dictionary of names claims that Muznah means “the cloud that carries the rain” - poetic enough for a female name. The word muznah has an undeniable Arabic structure, but I’d like to see how it is written in Arabic; the z outside Arabic could reflect many different sounds. A Turkish corresponding name would be Müzne, but I am not familiar with it. I wonder if it is made up far east of Turkey...

    We seem to be going off-topic, by the way - unless Muznah can also be the designation of a tribe.
  41. ayed

    ayed Senior Member

    1.Muznah : a white cloud/showering cloud( مزنة )
    2.Muzainah : a name of tribe( مزينة ).It is a diminutive of Muznah as well.
    3.Miznah :a woman's name( مزنة )
    There are many derivatives of this word
  42. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Patmah seems to be the Malay version of Arabic faaTima(t) فاطمة- a common female forename among Arabs.

  43. Seekermu New Member

    It was reported to Omar that some boys in the service of Hatib Ibn Abi Balta'a had stolen the she-camel of a man from the tribe of Muznah. When Omar questioned the boys they admitted the theft so he ordered their hands to be cut. But on second thoughts he said, By God I would cut their hands if I did not know that you employ these boys and starve them so that they would be permitted to eat that which is prohibited unto them". Then he addressed their employer saying: By God, since I have not cut their hands I am going to penalize you with a fine that shall pain you" and he ordered him to pay double the price of the she-camel".

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