Research Article

The Interchange of Personal Names in Muslim Communities: An Onomastic Study


  • Reima Al-Jarf Full Professor of English and Translation Studies, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


This study investigates the interchange of personal names in nine Muslim communities to find out their linguistic, historical and cultural features. For that purpose, a corpus of personal names common in Arab countries, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Tatarstan was collected, analyzed and classified according to the Cultural, Ethnic and Linguistic (CEL) taxonomy and a text mining technique.  Data analysis showed that Arabic names such as "Mohammed, Ali, Fatimah" were borrowed by Muslim communities but underwent phonological changes in the borrowing language as in "Mehmet" in Turkish; "Reza" in Urdu; "Eldin" in Bosnian; and "Musavi" in Farsi and Urdu. Similarly, Arabs borrowed "Nariman, Shahrazad" from Farsi. "Mirvat" was originally borrowed from Arabic "Marwa", and phonologically adapted to Turkish during the Ottoman rule, but was re-adopted and orthographically adapted by Arabs.  Theophoric names as Abdullah & Abdul-Aziz are very common in Muslim communities. Some first names as "Iqbal" are feminine in Arab communities but masculine in Pakistan. Nour, Nehad are used for both sexes by Arabs. Historical and cultural interchange are also explicit in the origin of last names. Pakistani last names consist of Arabic, Farsi, and tribal ancestral names. Similarly, some Arabic surnames have Iranian, Indian and Indonesian origin. In many Muslim communities, surnames consist of an Arabic name and a native suffix meaning "son of" as in Mammad-ov in Azerbaijan; Mehmedo-vic in Bosnia; Davud-uglu in Turkey. Other surnames combine an Arabic name with–zadeh, -zai, -Allah (Yusuf-zai, Khalil-zadeh, Saleem-ullah) in Iran and Afghanistan. Muslim communities also borrowed some suffixes used in surnames from each other. The Arabic suffix –ani (Baraz-ani) was borrowed in Farsi, Urdu and Pashto; and the Turkish suffixes –gi and –li were borrowed in Arabic (Mousli, Quwattli, Qahwaji, sharabatli). Surnames containing the Arabic suffixes –ani and –i are added to names of localities (Kordestan-i, Tehran-i, Shiraz-i, Iraq-I, Masri, Hindi) are also common. Further features with examples, together with an overview of the phonological adaptions made in borrowed names are given in detail.

Article information


Journal of Gender, Culture and Society

Volume (Issue)

3 (1)





How to Cite

Al-Jarf, R. (2023). The Interchange of Personal Names in Muslim Communities: An Onomastic Study. Journal of Gender, Culture and Society, 3(1), 42–56.







Muslim communities, personal names, Arabic names, Muslim names, forenames, surnames, name suffixes, name systems, name morphological structure