A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

what’s in a(n Arabic) name?

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 20, 2008

Today’s post comes from ST, who sends some of the funniest Arabic- and English-language forwards that reach my inbox. Its a list of the names of famous Lebanese (mostly) figures and how these names would translate into English.

Asking “what does your name mean?” is a particular type of question in English: no one asks someone named George or Tom or Sam or Caroline or Sara or Abigail what meaning their name has. Its a question that follows one about “what kind” of name Reem or Anupama or Suneil or Kwame is, or where it comes from – i.e., its a question that gets asked of names that sound foreign.

So, for anyone who has heard the name “Rafiq Hariri” and wondered “What does that name mean?”, here are some answers (I’ve put the more famous names in English transliteration for non-Arabic readers):

Right Appearance

Ayman Al Zawahiri

أيمن الظواهري

Constructive Bomber

Moammar al Qadhafi

معمر القذافي

Victorious Jellyfish

ناصر قنديل

Lantern the Humpback

مصباح الأحدب

Comrade the Silky

Rafik al Hariri

رفيق الحريري

Happy the Silky

Saad al Hariri

سعد الحريري

Thankful Frowner

Shaker al-Abssi

شاكر العبسي

Mother of All Garlic

Um Kulthoum

أم كلثوم

Morning Pride

صباح فخري

Sultan Father of Two Eyes

سلطان أبو العنين

Loyal Makes Pretty

Amin Gemayel

أمين الجميل

Frame Honored

برواز مشرّف

Decent Seed

نزيه البزري

Beautiful Sir

جميل السيد

Alert My Righteousness

Nabh Berri

نبيه بري

Heart of the Beautiful Lady

Fouad Siniora

فؤاد السنيورة

Slave of the Meek Diaper

عبد الحليم حافظ

The Son of the Teacher

عبد الحليم خدام

Salute Karaoke

تحية كاريوكا

Michael the Bitter

Michel al Murr

مشال المر

The Stealer of My Meter

طارق متري

Sigh BlacksmithGem

نهاد حداد (فيروز)

Unique the Deaf

Farid al-Atrash

فريد الأطرش



Desiring a Mark

راغب علامة

Diver Priest

غطاس خوري

Unique the Stock Keeper

فريد الخازن

Unique the Donkey Herder

فريد مكاري

Age of Generosity

عمر كرامي

Guide of Generosity

رشيد كرامي

Honor the Gardener

نبيل البستاني

Nobel We Say No

نبيل نقولا

Receive Compensation

نيلا معوّض

Goody Blessed

حسني مبارك

Knight of Little Grouchy

فارس بويز

Complete the Happiest

كامل الاسعد

Loyal the Perfumer

أمين الريحاني

Happy Brain

سعيد عقل

Stealer of Turkey

طارق حبشي


5 Responses to “what’s in a(n Arabic) name?”

  1. ajnabiya said

    I love Arabic for these very reasons! My first name means nothing in english, or not really anything…but I used to call my late husband Smiley the camel herder! 😉 Hehe….

  2. Kheireddine said

    Lantern the Humpback

    مصباح الأحدب

    I am from the same family 😉 Actually, our last name comes from the shape of the sword of Islam.

  3. Maria said

    Great post! I love that Saad means Happy!

  4. Ajnabiya, I love it – what a sweet, funny name for your husband!

    My first name in English is also pretty generic: it means “womanly”, as do hundreds of other women’s names. Helpful if I ever have a gender identity crisis; not so interesting otherwise.

    Kheireddine, I didn’t realize that you are from the same family. But you are right about a7dab/7adab – so perhaps your cousin’s name is more accurately The Most Curved Lantern :).

    Maria, thank you! ST deserves the real credit, though – she sent the forward that had me giggling yesterday morning :).

  5. Nora said

    Arabic is a really nice language actually; so many meanings for a simple word like Love or “my dear” (Habibi?) :), we speak Spanish and English at home. However, Arabic sounds more like ocean waves crashing –> apologies… I know my analogy is a little far-fetched, but the sounds are soothing none-the-less! 🙂

    “Nora” in Arabic means…. ? Light? I am not sure In English it means, Honor from it’s British roots of Honoura….

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