|For those familiar with the European tradition of using just a forename, optional middle name and surname, names in the Arab world can seem perplexing, not least because they can run to enormous length.
However, there is a logical structure to the Arab naming convention that, once seen, makes it simple to decipher a person's recent ancestry.
A man's name is Ali bin Ahmed bin Saleh Al-Fulani.
He is called Ali by his friends and family.
His family name is Al-Fulani
What does bin Ahmed bin Saleh mean? This simply means that he is the son of Ahmed who is in turn the son of Saleh.
Bin means son of.
So we have the man's given name, his father's name and his grandfather's name, plus the family name.
As a matter of fact, many Gulf Arabs and Saudis can give their ancestors' names for at least five or six generations, and often many more.
Let's look now at the names of the present rulers of Gulf states.
The ruler of Saudi Arabia is Fahad bin Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al-Sa'ud.
His father's name was Abdul Aziz and his grandfather's name was Abdul Rahman.
The family name is Al-Sa'ud.
The ruler of Bahrain is Isa bin Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa.
His father's name was Salman and his grandfather's name was Hamad.
The family name is Al-Khalifa.
The ruler of Oman is Qaboos bin Said bin Taimur Al-Busaid.
His father's name was Said and his grandfather's name was Taimur.
The family name is Al-Busaid.
The ruler of Qatar is Hamad bin Khalifa bin Hamad Al-Thani.
His father's name is Khalifa and his grandfather's name was Hamad.
The family name is Al-Thani.
What about the The Crown Prince of the UAE? His name is Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan.
His father's name is Zayed and his grandfather's name was Sultan.
The family name is Al-Nahyan.
What about womens' names?
Our friend Ali (in the first example above) has a sister. Her name is Nura bint Ahmed bin Saleh Al-Fulani.
Bint means daughter of.
She is named Nura, the daughter of Ahmed who is the son of Saleh.
So we have her given name, her father's name, her grandfather's name and the family name.
It is interesting to note that when a Saudi or Gulf Arab woman marries, she does not change her name. When the above mentioned Nura marries, her name remains exactly the same. Her children, however, take their father's name.
In other words, Nura bint Ahmed bin Saleh Al-Fulani is born with this name and she dies with it. Let us say she marries a man with the name of Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Faisal Al-Hijazi.
Their sons are (Name) bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Faisal Al-Hijazi, and their daughters are (Name) bint Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Faisal Al-Hijazi.
Patronymics for unmarried women and used as a surname are "bint". Kahina bint Haidar would mean Kahina, the daughter of Haidar. After marriage, and when she has children, she would use the patronymic "umm" for mother of, and the name of her first-born son, i.e. "Kahina Umm Abu" (Kahina, the mother of Abu).
bint meaning "daughter of"
umm meaning "the mother of"
Abdah, Abia, Abida, Abir, 'Abla (pre-Islamic:full, fine figure), adara, Adila, Afaf, Afra, Ahlam, A'isha, Ain, Akram, Alima, Alya, Amal, Amani, Amimah, Aminah, Amira, Amna, Ara, Arub, Arwa (young goat), Ashraf, Asiya, Asma, Atifeh, Atikah, Awatif, Ayda, Aziza, 'Azza (pre-Islamic).
Badr, Bahiga, Bahija, Bahira, Banah, Barika, Basimah, Basma, Biba, Bibi, Bilqis, Budur, Busyna, Buthayna
Cab'ah, Calah, Cantara.
Dahah, Daifa, Dalal, Dalia, Danamir, Dima (thunder-free rain), Du'a, Duqaq
Ehteram, Elaheh, Elham, Elmira, Emine
Fadia, Fadila, Fadl, Faizah, Fakhirya, Farah, Faridah, Fatimah, Fatin, Fatma, Fayza, Fidda, Fukayna, Fayruz, Fayza, Fidda, Fizza
Ghada, Ghadir (brook), Ghaniyah, Ghaythah, Ghufran
Hababah, Habibah, Hadil, Hadya, Hafsa, Hagir, Haideh, Hajar, Haleh, Halima, Hamideh, Hana, Hiba, Huda, Humai, Husniyah
Ihab, Ihsan, Ilm, Iman, Inam, Inan, Ismat, Isra, Itidal
Jaida, Jalila, Jamal, Jamilah, Jannat, Jasmine, Javairia, Jawahir, Jinan, Juml
Kahena, Kahina, Karam, Karima (generous), Khalida, Khayriyya (charity), Kobra, Kokab
Laila, Lamya, Layla (pre-Islamic: wine), Leila, Leylah, Lina, Lissa, Lubna (pre-Islamic), Lujayn (small piece of silver), Luluah
Madihah, Maha, Mahasin, Mahlagna, Maiza, Malak, Maliheh, Manal, Manar, Manhalah, Mariyah, Marwa, Maryam, Marzieh, Maysa, Mayy, Mirvat, Monir, Muhsina, Muna, Munira, Munna, Muslimah, Myisha
Nabila, Nada (dew), Nadereh, Nadira, Nadra, Nadya (moist with dew), Nagat, Nagiba, Nagla, Nagwa, Naheed, Nahida, Nahla (drink of water), Na'ila, Na'ima, Najat, Najiba, Najila, Najwa, Naseem, Nasim, Nathifa, Nawal, Nibal, Nihab, Nihad, Nihal (sated with drink), Ni'mat, Nini, Noura, Nuha, Nu'm, Nuri.
Qabihah, Qabul, Qaribah, Qubilah
Rabab, Rabiah, Radwa, Raful, Raghda, Raja, Rajya, Randa, Ranya, Rashida, Rawiya, Raym, Rayya, Rida, Rim (white antelope), Ruqayya, Ruqayyah, Rusa
Sabah, Sabra, Sadaf, Saduf, Safa, Safia, Safinaz, Safiyya, Safwah, Saham, Sahar, Sahba, Sajah, Sakan, Salameh, Salha, Saliha, Salwa, Samar, Sameen, Samiha, Samira, Samya, Sana, Sanam, Saniyya, Sara, Sarab, Sehba, Semeeah, Shadya, Shafiqa, Shahira, Shahrazad, Sharifa, Sheba, Shukriyya, Siha, Sisi, Su'ad, Suhad, Sulma, Sumnah, Surayya.
Taghrid. Taherah, Tahiyya, Talayeh, Tannaz, Tarifa, Tarub, Tayyebeh, Thara, Thuhayba (small bar of gold), Thurayya, Touba
Ulayyah, Umayma (little mother), Umniya, Utbah, Uzma.
Wafa, Wahiba, Wahshiyah, Warwar, Widad
Yasmin, Yusra, Yusriyya
Zada, Zahr, Zahrah, Zakiyya, Zara, Zaria, Zaynab, Zebeebah, Zizi, Zubaydah, Zuhayr, Zukha, Zulaikha
Patronymics are usually used as a surname. For a man who is unmarried, he may go by the patronymic of "ibn" or "bin", i.e. Amin bin Hamad (Amin, the son of Hamad). After marriage, and when he has children, he would use the patronymic "abu" for father of, and the name of her first-born son. An example would be "Amin abu Hashim", for Amin, the father of Hashim. Occupations are also used with the prefix "al".
ibn/bin - meaning "son of"
abu - meaning "the father of"
'abd-meaning "servant of"
al - meaning "the _______(occupation)"
Abbas (lion), Abbud, 'Abd al-Aziz (servant of the Mighty One), 'Abd al-Baki, 'Abd al-Hamid (servant of the Praiseworthy One), 'Abd al-Malik (servant of the king), Abd'Allah (servant of Allah), Abir, Abu (the father of),
Adel/ Adil (just), Adnan (pre-Islamic), Ahmad/Ahmed (more commendable), Akbar, Akil, Akram, Ala (supreme),
Ali (exalted), Amal, Amin (honest), Amir (prince), Amjad (more glorious), Amr (to thrive), Anbar, Arif, As'ad (happier) (luckier/happier), Asghar, Ashraf (more honorable), Asim (the protector), Aslam, Aswad, Attiah/Attiyah (prepared), Ayman (blessed), Ayub, Ayyub, Az'ar, Az'regh, Aziz (powerful, beloved), Azizudeen
Badda, Badr (full moon), Baha (magnificence), Bahir (dazzling) Bahjat (joy), Bakhtiyar, Bakr/Bakor (young camel), Balban, Balj, Baqiyya, Barmak, Basasiri, Bashshar, Basim (smiling), Bassam (smiling), Beddis, Berkan, Bezz'i, Bouid, Bursuq, Butrus
Dabir, Dali, Da'ud, Dawud (form of David, means beloved), Dekel, Dharr, Diya (radiant), Duqaq, Durayd
Ebi, Ebrahim, Ehsan, Emad, Esmaeel
Fadi (redeemer), Fadil (generous) Fadl (generousity, grace), Fahd (panther, also strength and courage), Fahim (intelligent one), Faiz, Fakhr/Fakhir (glory), Fakhri (to be proud), Faraj (remedy), Farraj, Farid (unique), Faruq,(one who knows right from wrong and truth from falsehood), Fathi (victor), Fawzi (victory), Fayiz (victor), Faysal (a judge, one who distinguishes right from wrong), Fihr, Fikri (intellectual), Firas, Firhun, Fu'ad (heart).
Gadi, Ghalib (conqueror), Ghanai'm, Ghanim, Ghassan (prime of youth), Ghayth (rain), Ghazi, Gildun, Gulussa, Gulzar (flourish).
Habib (beloved), Hadi (to guide in a religious sense), Hadya (to guide in a religious sense), Hafiz (guardian), Haidar, Hajjaj, Hakeem/Hakim (judicious), Hamdan, Hamet, Hamid (thankful), Hamza/Hamzah (to be strong), Hani (joyful), Hanef/Hanif (true believer of Islam), Harith (lion, a good provider), Haroun/Harun (exalted), Hasan (handsome), Hashim (to destroy), Hasim (decision maker), Hassan, Hatim (determined), Haytham (young eagle-pride), Hedayat, H'emmu, Heydar, Hiba, Hibah, Hikmat (wisdom), Hilal, Hilel, Himmi, Hisham (to crush), Hisein/Hossein/Hussain (handsome and good), Hotha, Huda (to guide in a rel. sense), Humam, Husam, Husayn (handsome and good), Husni (excellence).
Ibrahim (form of Abraham, means father of many), Ifni, Ifser, Iften, Ighlaf, Igider, Igmi, Ihab (a gift), Iher, Ihsan (charity), Iken, Ilyas, Imam, Immeghar, Immel, Iraten, Irgen, 'Isa (Jesus), Isfahan, Isli, Issam (to protect), Ishaq (Isaac), Isma'il (God hears), Ismat (to protect), Isra'il, Itbir, Itri, It'ij, Ixzi.
Ja'bar, Jabir/Jabbar (the comforter), Jabr (consolation), Ja'far (small river), Ja'lal (greatness), Ja'mal (beauty), Jamil (handsome), Javad, Jawdat (excellence), Jawhar, Jericho, Jibril, Jinan (paradise), Jubair, Jurdik
Kadar, Kadidu, Kadin, Kadir, Ka'im, Kalil, Kamal (perfection), Kamil (perfect), Karam (generosity), Kardal, Karidena, Karif, Karim (noble, great), Kasib, Kateb (writer), Kenan, Keraja, Khalid (eternal), Khalil (best friend), Khayrat (good deed, or charity), Khayri (charity), Khayrat (charity), Khurdadhbih, Kutaiba
Labid, Lahab, Lu'la'a, Lu'lu, Luqman
Madidu, Mahir, Mahbub, Mahmud (praiseworthy), Maimun, Majdi (glorious one), Majduddin, Majid (glorious), Majnun, Makram (noble), Malik, Malu, Mamduh (praised), Ma'mun (trustworthy), Manal (achiever), Manar (to illuminate), Mansur (victorious), Marid, Masgaba, Masmud, Masruq, Massin, Mas'ud (fortunate one), Masudi, Maudad, Maziba, Mazin (rain clouds), Meddar, Mehdi, Mejdan, Mellal, Meq'wran, Mezwar, Mika'il, Mimum, Mojtaba, Mubarak (blessed one), Muhammad (praiseworthy), Muhsin (charitable), Muhyiduddin, Mu'in, Mukhtar (chosen), Mun'im (to bestow), Munir (to illuminate), Murshid, Musa (form of Moses, means drawn out of the water)), Mus'ad (lucky one), Musaykah, Mushtaq, Mu'tasim (one who seeks refuge in Allah), Muwas, Mutawakkil, Mu'taz/Mu'tazz (powerful one).
Nabil (noble), Nadim (drinking companion), Nadir (precious; rare), Na'il (attainer), Na'im (content one), Naji (saved), Najib (of noble descent), Namdar, Nasawi, Nasir (victorious), Nasr (victory), Nguna, Nizar (uncertain origin), Nuh, Numair, Nur (to illuminate).
Omar, Othman, Owais, Oukesson
Qadir (capable), Qamar, Qaraja, Qasim (charitable one; a giver to the people), Qays, Qusay (distant), Qutaiba, Qutuz
Rabi, Ra'd, Radi, Radwan, Rafi, Rafiq, Raghid, Rahim, Rahman, Raisul, Rajab (to glorify), R'akibum, Ramadan, Rashad (to guide), Rashid (to guide in a religous sense), Ra'uf (merciful), Reza, Rida (contentment), Ridwan, Riyad (garden), Rushdi (to guide), Ruzbihan, Ruzzik
Sabah, Sabir (enduring), Sa'd (luck; fortunate), Sadaqat, Sadiq, Safwat (choice), Sa'id (lucky), Sajid, Sakhr (solid rock), Salah (righteous), Salih (virtuous), Salama (secure), Salim (safe), Sami, Samir, Sattar, Sayyar, Sayyid, Sbaih, Seghada, Seif, Sekla, Selim, Sha'ban, Shadi, Shafiq, Shahriar, Shakir, Shamit, Sharif, Shukri, Sifal, Sifaks, Soheil, Suggut, Suhayl, Sulaiman, Sulayman, Sunqur
Tabat, Takfren, Tahir, Talal (fine rain), Talib, Tamir, Tammam, Tarafa, T'ar'iq, Tashfin, Tayyib, Tegama, Tiljad, Todros, Tulun, Tutush
Ubaida, Ugdada, Uksem, Umar, Uqessun, Urz'ig, Usama (lion), Usman, Uthman, Uzmir
Wafid, Wagih, Wahib, Wa'il, Wasim, Wathiq, Watt'as, Wayaasi
Yaghoub, Yahyah, Yanni, Ya'qub, Yasar, Yasin, Yasir, Yazdanyar, Yazid, Yeften, Yeh'lem, Yellel, Yidir, Yildirim, Yousef, Yuba, Yusri, Yusuf
Zafar, Zahir, Zaid, Zaki, Zang, Zayd, Zayn, Z'effun, Zer'wal, Zia, Z'idan, Ziyadatallah, Zubair, Zuhayr (little flower).