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Nisba and Kunya

In Arab culture, we don't have middle names. Instead, we have نَسَب, which literally means "lineage". (Linguistically, the word نَسَب comes from نِسبَة, which literally means "relation".) This refers to the practice of using family lineage in names, specifically the paternal family lineage. We put our father's name, followed by our grandfather's name, followed by our great-grandfather's name, etc. Some people can trace their nasab back many generations.

So our names look something like this: [first name] [father's name] [grandfather's name] [great-grandfather's name] [great-great-grandfather's name] [family name]

In some countries, the word بن (son of)  or بنت (daughter of) is used between the names:

Man's name: [first name] بن [father's name] بن [grandfather's name] بن [great-grandfather's name] بن [great-great-grandfather's name] [family name]

Woman's name: [first name] بنت [father's name] بن [grandfather's name] بن [great-grandfather's name] بن [great-great-grandfather's name] [family name]

We also have something called كُنيَة (literally, "nickname"), and it's a nickname derived from the eldest son's name. For example, if your name is Muhammad and you're the eldest son, your father is called أبو محمد (father of Muhammad) and your mother is called أم محمد (mother of Muhammad).

The kunya is not used in official documents, but it's used a lot in everyday life.

What are the naming practices in your culture? Do you have a similar naming practice?

Feb 18, 2018 6:33 PM
Comments · 10
The Gaelic naming practice is almost identical to the Arabic one. Traditionally people are known by their first name + father's name + grandfather's name, etc. (usually two generations back is enough, but it would be possible to add more; sometimes a mother's or grandmother's name is used as well). Officially everyone has a surname too (though these are little used in Irish-speaking areas), and the majority of Irish surnames are based on such patronymics prefixed with mac ("son") or ó ("grandson" or "descendent") for males and nic or for females (the female forms a made up of iníon "daughter" + mic or , the genitive case of mac and ó respectively). Nicknames are also commonly incorporated into people's names, but Irish nicknames are not the same as Arabic ones, they are usually descriptive, often indicating size/age or hair colour (e.g. mór "big", rua "red-haired", dubh "black haired"). So a person officially called Pádraig Ó Dónaill (or anglicised as "Patrick O'Donnell", the surname meaning "Descendent of Dónall", presumably the name of some ancestor) might colloquially be known as Pádraig Mór ("Big Patrick") or Pádraig Chonaill dhuibh ("Patrick [son of] black-haired Conall") or Pádraig Chonaill Dhaithí ("Patrick [son of] Conall [son of] Daithí"), etc.
February 19, 2018


That's really interesting. I never knew that about Gaelic culture. Thanks a lot for sharing!

@K P

Thanks for the correction. :)

February 21, 2018
Abdullah, just to be precise not exactly the same thing, it is a suffix. It doesn't mean "son". But it is only used this way, as a patronimic (or, in South Slavic lands, as a family name for a whole clan). Its female counterpart in patronimics would be -ovna: a daughter of Ivan is Ivanovna (never used in family names:)).
February 19, 2018

@ K P

That's very interesting. I'm familiar with "-ovich", but I didn't know that it means the same thing as "ibn". Thanks for sharing!

@kimchi samurai

It's common in Arab culture for children to be named after their grandparents, so some cousins have the same name as each other and as their grandparent.

February 19, 2018

This is really interesting.  I really like this naming system a lot.   Typically in the US the name of the father is passed down through the generations.  Now that I think about it, I don't even know what the first name of my great grandfather on my father's side is.

February 19, 2018
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Arabic, Arabic (Gulf), English, Spanish
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