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Bahrain : The complete guide for visitors and expatriates - The story behind Arab names
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The story behind Arab names
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By Amira Al Hussaini » “Does your name mean anything?” I am often asked. Well, yes, actually it does. In fact, most Arab names have a little story behind them; to know mine, you’ll just have to read on…


Unlike in the West where it is now increasingly common for parents to make names up in an effort to bestow a unique moniker on their children, Arabs tend to draw from a rather smaller, commonly used pool of names, all of which have deep-rooted meanings or are derived from the Quran, Islam’s Holy Book.

In the Arab world, children are sometimes named after their grandfathers, to keep the spirit of their ancestors alive. For instance, a man named Ali would opt to name his son Hassan who, in turn, would call his son Ali and so on.

The most common name for a boy is Mohammed, named after Prophet Mohammed. Ahmed and Mahmood are derivatives of the same name and are very widespread across the Muslim world. They all mean “praiseworthy” and are derived from the Arabic word hamida, meaning “to praise”.

Many boys are also named after religious figures who feature in both the Quran and the Bible. Some of the most common names are Isa (named after Jesus), Ibrahim (Abraham) and Dawood (David). Some of the other names drawn from the Holy Book are Yousif, Yahya, Zakariya, Nooh and Ismail, to name a few.

Children are also named after the Prophet’s friends and members of his immediate family. Bahrainis hope giving their children such names will bless them and motivate them to follow in the steps of those whom they have been named after.

Common names for boys include the names of Prophet Mohammed’s cousin Ali (meaning lofty or sublime) and grandsons Hassan and Hussain (both of which are derived from the Arabic word hasuna, which means “to be good”).

Another very common name in Bahrain is Khalid (eternal), after the army leader Khalid bin Al Waleed. Khulood (immortality) is its feminine derivative and is also common among girls from different backgrounds.