Unisex Arabic Names

Names are fascinating. In America, our names are far removed from whatever they originally meant. That takes some of the fun out of it. Usually, when you’re learning a new language and choosing a name for yourself in that language, you base your choice on what the name means.

Arabic names are like English names in that men usually get names that evoke strength, while women usually get names that evoke beauty. If it’s a flower, a songbird, or something that smells sweet, it’s a woman’s name. If it’s a brawny animal or a desirable character trait, it’s a masculine name. (Except for compassion, which is usually a woman’s name.) *

(I think I’ve said it before, if I had three Arab sons I’d get a kick out of naming them Layth, Haydar, and Asad, all of which mean “lion.”)

But there are some names in Arabic that are unisex, so you if you see the name Widad, for example, on a roster, you don’t know if it’s a man or a woman.

I’ve even known of a man whose name is traditionally a woman’s name. I’m thinking of Ilham al-Madfai, the awesome Iraqi singer.

Here are some unisex Arabic names. In most cases, I’ve never actually met either a man or woman of that name, but I’ve been told they’re unisex.


*Oh yeah, and beauty, which is a man’s name. (Jamal)



Filed under arab, arabic, names

3 responses to “Unisex Arabic Names

  1. abu-jihad

    what about jihad? i grew up knowing a couple of palestinian women named jihad. in fact, i named my daughter that. then, of course, there are a ton of boys with that name…

    • I have never known anyone named Jihad, but I am happy to learn that it´s a unisex name. I wonder what ever happened in the case of that NY police cadet who had ¨jihad¨tattooed on his arm. I always wondered if he had the tattoo because it was a loved one´s name.

  2. Replying to an old thread here. I’ll never forget the Iraqi couple I met, where the wife was named Raja, and the husband was named, you got it, Raja. Wonder how it feels to say I love you to someone who shares your name?

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