Girl names in Arabic, for me, have always fallen on my ears like willowy music. Zaafirah, Aliya, Layla, Aisha are all common names that roll off our tongues like a pleasant day’s breeze. While all these baby names have unique meanings and are commonly used, it is important for us to know the naming conventions used in Arabic systems. Sometimes we may end up searching for monosyllabic names and end up naming our kids after a preposition, case in point – “binta” means “daughter of”. So words like these, of their own, have no meaning but when used correctly they invoke the spirit of the Arabic language.
Arabic names have five parts, each of which was uniquely situated to explain a person’s identity during the nomadic lifestyle of Arabs. While this was an essentiality that belonged to the yore, it is not necessary to follow this naming convention today. But it would be very helpful to select baby names that are pleasant and strong while being semantically correct. I have explained this system below with an example.
Ism– refers to the given first name of the child. These are usually influenced by the things or attributes that are considered positive and sacred.
Laqab– refers to the quality or significance of the person, for example, “girl of righteousness”.
Nasab– refers to the patronymic part. “Daughter of” comes from “ibnta” or “binta”. This could even extend to 2 generations.
Nisba– also a family or surname comes from a range of professions and tribes of historical or geographical significance.
Kunya– refers to the nickname or stems from the honorific used in the social setting, like ”Father of” or “Mother of”.
So for the name Umm Ibrahim Maryam binta Isma’il ibn Mahmud al-Kubra al-‘Amiriyah, the meaning would be:
|Umm Ibrahim||Maryam||binta Isma’il||al-Kubra||al-’Amiriyah|
|Mother of Abraham (kunya)||Star of the sea (ism)||Daughter of Ishamel (Nasab)||The Elder (Laqab)||woman of 'Amiri's tribe (Nisba)|
It is seen recently that Laqab and Nisba are used interchangeably, and mostly just one of these is present. In Arab traditions, though the woman keeps her maiden name intact after marriage, her children will all be named patronymically after her husband. The kunya associated with a woman also is in reference to the first born-son only. Girl names (ism or the first name) usually allude to objects or attributes of respect and admiration.
Though we could say patriarchy is evident in these naming conventions, it is no reason to say that we can’t bring the winds of change now. It is also interesting to note that, contrary to popular beliefs, Arabic names are not just Muslim names. There are Arab Christians, too, who have been historically influencing these names and conventions. So explore through these Arabic girl names and gift your newborn with a name that is profound and carries the essence of history with it.
Popular and striking Arabic girl names
With more than 300 million Arabic speakers worldwide, Arab name options are plentiful and varied. Or take a look at our complete list of the most popular baby girl names across all origins. You can also see the most popular Arab names for boys (in case you’re not sure who’s on board!).