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)