Arabic Name Formation Patterns from Various Sources
by Basil Dragonstrike

Some time ago, while gathering names from The Diary of Ibn al-Bannāʼ, I made a page listing the formats of all Arabic names in that book.

I have decided to expand that page, by adding name formations found in the first volume of The Travels of Ibn Baṭūṭṭa, the Memoirs of Usāmah Ibn Munqidh, and The Travels of Ibn Jubayr. It is not possible to add formations from The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, as that work alphabetizes people by the best-known element of their names, thus making it impossible to be completely sure of the formation actually used. Note that while there are slightly over 50 name formations in the first list, this list contains over 150. Note that any time I do another list of names, I will update this page ASAP.

A quick overview of how Arabic names are formed: There are five different types of name elements. Note that not all names contain all five types, but those that are present are given in a specific order, regardless of which types are used --- except for a very few, odd names.

The first is what I shall call "Titular names." They originally were given out by khalīfas, sulṭāns, etc., and only to persons of importance or who had accomplished remarkable things. As time went on, these Titulars became of less and less importance, and were assumed by people (rather than given out), at first persons of great distinction, but later even the poor came to use Titular names. These name elements are usually of the form "______ al-Dīn"; though "_____ al-Daula," "______ al-Mulūk," and "______ al-Mulk" are also found. NB: such names are not, currently, allowed in the SCA. Please see my article "Titular Names" for more on the changing use of such names.

The second name element is the kunya, a name using Abū or Umm usually followed by the ism of the eldest son; rarely a daughter's name will be used. Sometimes one comes across a "metaphorical kunya," that is, a kunya such as "Father of a Kitten" or "Father of Craziness".

Next is the ism, the personal name (SCAers should note that this is the only type of name element that corresponds to what the College of Arms calls a "given name").

Fourth is the nasab, using "ibn" or "bint" to denote the father (rarely the mother) of the person; this can extend to a number of generations, and sometimes generations are skipped (i.e., the nasab does not come from the name of the father, but of the grandfather, great-grandfather, etc.). Very rarely, other terms are used, to indicate one is the son-of-the-daughter, the brother, etc. of a specified person; there's only one such formation in this list (given as "other relationship"). This is for Sibṭ ibn al-Jauzi, "the son-of-the-daughter {Sibṭ} of the son {ibn} of al-Jauzi".

Fifth and last comes the laqab/nisba, which I simply call a byname; this is a description of the person. Descriptions can be based on appearance, occupation, tribe, etc. Note that I have combined laqabs and nisbas because, frankly, the difference is of little or no importance to amateur onomasts.

The only formations I have found used for women's names are: A kunya only, a kunya based on a byname, a kunya plus an ism, an ism only, an ism with four consecutive nasabs, an ism plus three nasabs plus a byname, an ism plus two nasabs plus a byname, and an ism plus a byname. These formations will be marked with an asterisk in the following list. Note: there is no reason why a woman cannot have any of the following name formations (though the relationship word "Sibṭ" wouldn't apply); I simply haven't found any documented examples thereof. Note also there's no reason a man can't use the name formations marked with an asterisk; indeed, some of them were used by men.

One final note: the names used by caliphs, often called "throne names" are so complex, and so different from the name formations of ordinary people, that I have not included them in this list.

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Titular
Titular + Titular
Titular + Titular + ism
Titular + Titular + ism + nasab based on a byname + byname +byname
Titular + kunya based on a byname
Titular + kunya + ism
Titular + kunya based on a byname + ism
Titular + kunya + ism + nasab
Titular + kunya based on a byname + ism + nasab
Titular + kunya based on a byname + ism + nasab based on a byname
Titular + kunya + ism + nasab + nasab
Titular + kunya + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab
Titular + kunya based on a byname + byname/ism  + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab
Titular + kunya + ism + nasab + nasab based on a byname  + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab based on a byname + byname
Titular + kunya + ism + nasab (possibly on a kunya) and a byname (or ism) + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab (possibly on a byname) + nasab + byname + byname + byname
Titular + kunya + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + byname
Titular + kunya based on a byname + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + byname
Titular + kunya + ism + nasab + nasab + byname
Titular + kunya + ism + nasab + nasab + byname + byname
Titular + kunya + ism + nasab + byname
Titular + kunya + ism + nasab (perhaps on a kunya) + byname + nasab
Titular + kunya + ism + nasab + byname +byname + byname
Titular + kunya based on a byname + nasab
Titular + kunya based on a byname + nasab based on a byname
Titular + kunya based on a byname +nasab + byname
Titular + kunya/ism + nasab + byname + byname
Titular + kunya/ism + byname
Titular + ism
Titular + ism + nasab
Titular + ism + nasab based on an Titular
Titular + ism + nasab based on a kunya
Titular + ism + nasab based on a kunya that's based on a byname
Titular + ism + nasab based on a byname
Titular + ism + nasab + nasab
Titular + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab
Titular + ism + nasab based on a kunya that's based on a byname+ nasab + nasab
Titular + ism + nasab based on a kunya + nasab based on a kunya based on a byname + nasab + nasab + nasab based on a Titular and an ism + byname
Titular + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + byname
Titular + ism + nasab + nasab based on a kunya + nasab based on a byname + byname
Titular + ism + nasab + nasab + byname
Titular + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + byname
Titular + ism + nasab + nasab based on a byname + byname
Titular + ism + nasab based on a kunya + nasab + byname
Titular + ism + nasab + byname
Titular + ism + nasab (perhaps based on a kunya) + byname
Titular + ism + nasab + byname + nasab based on a byname
Titular + ism + nasab + byname + byname
Titular + ism + byname
Titular + nasab
Titular + nasab based on a byname
Titular + nasab + nasab
Titular + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab based on a byname
Titular + nasab + byname
Titular + nasab based on a byname + byname
Titular + nasab based on an Titular + byname
Titular + byname
Titular + byname + byname

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kunya *
kunya based on a byname *
kunya + Titular + ism + nasab + byname
kunya + ism
kunya + ism *
kunya based on a byname + ism
kunya + ism + nasab
kunya + ism + nasab based on an Titular
kunya + ism + nasab based on a kunya
kunya + ism + nasab based on a Titular and an ism
kunya based on a byname + ism + nasab
kunya + ism + nasab + nasab
kunya + ism + nasab + nasab based on a byname
kunya based on a byname + ism + nasab + nasab
kunya + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab
kunya + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab based on a byname
kunya + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab
kunya based on an ism and a byname + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab
kunya + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab + byname
kunya + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab + byname
kunya + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab based on a byname + byname
kunya + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + byname
kunya based on a byname + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + byname
kunya + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + byname + byname
kunya + ism + nasab + nasab + nasab based on a byname + byname + byname
kunya + ism + nasab based on a kunya + nasab + nasab + byname + byname
kunya + ism + nasab + nasab + byname
kunya + ism + nasab based on a kunya + nasab + byname
kunya + ism?? + nasab + nasab + byname
kunya based on a byname + ism + nasab + nasab + byname
kunya + ism + nasab + nasab + byname + byname
kunya + ism + nasab based on a kunya + nasab + byname + byname
kunya + ism + nasab + nasab + byname + byname + byname + byname
kunya + ism + nasab + byname
kunya + ism + nasab based on a kunya + byname
kunya + ism + nasab based on a byname + byname
kunya based on a byname + ism + nasab + byname
kunya + ism + nasab + byname + byname
kunya + ism + nasab + byname + byname + byname
kunya + ism + byname
kunya + ism + byname + byname
kunya + nasab
kunya + nasab based on a kunya
kunya + nasab based on a byname
kunya/ism + nasab
kunya based on a byname + nasab based on a byname
kunya + nasab + nasab
kunya + nasab based on a kunya + nasab + nasab
kunya + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab
kunya + nasab based on a kunya + nasab + byname +byname
kunya + nasab + byname
kunya + nasab based on a kunya + byname
kunya + nasab based on a byname + byname
kunya/ism + nasab + byname
kunya + nasab + byname + byname
kunya + byname
kunya based on a byname + byname
kunya + byname + byname

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ism *
ism + nasab
ism + nasab based on a kunya
ism + nasab based on a byname
ism + nasab based on a kunya that's based on a byname
ism + nasab based on an Titular
ism + nasab based on a Titular and an ism
ism + nasab + nasab
ism + nasab + nasab based on a Titular and an ism
ism + nasab + nasab based on a kunya
ism + nasab + nasab based on a byname
ism + nasab based on a Titular and an ism + nasab
ism + nasab based on a Titular and an ism + nasab based on kunya based on byname
ism + nasab + nasab + nasab
ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab *
ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab
ism + nasab + nasab based on an ism and a byname + nasab based on two isms and a byname + nasab + nasab
ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab
ism + nasab based on a kunya + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab based on a byname
ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab + nasab based on a kunya + byname
ism + nasab + nasab based on an ism and a byname + nasab + nasab based on two isms + byname
ism + nasab + nasab + nasab + byname
ism + nasab + nasab + nasab based on a byname + byname
ism + nasab based on a kunya + nasab + nasab + byname
ism + nasab + nasab + byname
ism + nasab + nasab based on a Titular and an ism + byname
ism + nasab +nasab based on a kunya + byname
ism + nasab + nasab based on a byname + byname
ism + nasab + nasab +byname + byname *
ism + nasab + byname
ism + nasab based on a kunya + byname
ism + nasab (possibly based on a byname) + byname
ism + nasab based on a kunya + byname + byname
ism/byname + nasab + byname + byname
ism + byname *
nasab
nasab based on a kunya
nasab based on a byname
nasab + byname
nasab based on a kunya + byname
nasab based on a byname + byname
byname
byname + nasab
byname + nasab based on a byname
byname + nasab based on a kunya
byname + byname
byname + byname + byname
other relationship + nasab based on a byname

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Return to "General Introduction"