Etymology of the name Zuleika

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Camarilla, Nov 9, 2012.

  1. Camarilla New Member

    Zuleika (also found in the forms Zulekha, Zulaikha, Zulaykha, etc.) is the name of Potiphar's wife in Jewish and Islamic tradition. Does anyone know what it means? Some sites describe the name as Persian, meaning "brilliant beauty", while others say Arabic. What is the most likely origin and meaning of Zuleika?
  2. rayloom

    rayloom Senior Member

    Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
    Arabic (Hijazi Arabic)
    My opinion is that it's not Arabic.
    The oldest (and first) mention of the name (in Arabic) was in the 8th century by Wahb ibn Munabbih (not in the Quran), as زليخا zalīkhā (as vocalized by early early Arab traditionists and lexigographers).
    The form itself doesn't seem Arabic, especially with the long alif in the end written out with an alif (not a yaa maqṣura), a feature reserved to foreign names. Later traditionists have either changed the alif to ـاء -āʼ or to a taa marbuta ـة -at (hence zalīkhāʼ or zalīkhat). Another change in the vocalisation of the name was the diminutive form fuʻayl --> zulaikha (regarded as a common mistake in the vocalisation of the name by Arab lexigographers).
    Also the given meaning of the name isn't Arabic. If we look at the meanings of the root z-l-kh, nothing refers to brilliance nor beauty.

    As to what the origin of the name might be, I'm not sure. Wahb was a Yemenite and mostly versed in the Yemenite Jewish tradition, himself a convert from Judaism to Islam. He was of Persian origin from his father's side. His mother was Himyarite.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2012
  3. sotos Senior Member

    If it is not semitic, I dare to note the similarity with the royal Gr. name Seleucus (the female would be Seleuca), the diadoch who reigned over Middle East, Iran etc in Hellenistic period.
  4. origumi Senior Member

    As far as I know the name appeared in Hebrew / Jewish writing only during the 17th century, apparently from Arabic.
  5. shawnee

    shawnee Senior Member

    English - Australian
    Also found ın Turkey as Züleyka, but I doubt it is originally Turkish.

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