Islam, life, motherhood

What’s in a name? Oh nothing, except, you know, EVERYTHING

Waleed’s name was a fairly simple affair and when we were musing the prospect of a daughter we had a name picked out for ‘her’ too. But now? Now that we know its going to be another little munchkin of the male variety blessing our home, we are nervous, happy, excited and. . .

. . . trying to figure out what his name will be.

It’s not that there are a limited number of names to choose from, on the contrary, there are ten tons I’ve learned of since googling the question but we do have our parameters. They’re simple enough:

  1. Arabic and/or traditional Muslim name.
  2. With a good meaning. Either historical, personal, or literal.
  3. Easy to pronounce for mainstream America. We typically write it down for non-Muslim friends and if said friends approach the task as if reciting the scientific genus of an extinct species of leaf, its a no-go.
  4. Not so easy as to be confused for the non-Arabic version of the same name. i.e. Adam in Arabic would be pronounced Aw-dhum, Sarah would be Saw-raw, but they would likely not be pronounced as such since the names already have a decided pronunciation in the American lexicon and it would be silly to constantly correct it and yet it would not in keeping with our intention of the pronunciation we’d prefer.
  5. Won’t easily lend itself to playground torment. Think Anas, a lovely name to be sure but, well, yeah. And while kids will make fun of any name surely, I don’t want to hand it to them on a silver platter either.
  6. Isn’t a name already named by someone in our family. And considering 62% of the males in our families are named Omar this name is decidedly out.

K and I always have to pronounce our names three times each when introducing ourselves and we’ve learned to just wince and accept the butchering at doctor’s office and when the hostess tells us our table is ready, and while this is low on the totem pole of issues I’ve had in my life, if we can avoid it, it would be nice.

What parameters did you have when naming your own children? Did you plan the names in advance or wait until you laid your eyes on your little one before you made a final decision? We have narrowed down to a few names at the moment but nothing is set in stone, if you happen to have any Arabic names to share I would love to hear your thoughtst!

25 thoughts on “What’s in a name? Oh nothing, except, you know, EVERYTHING”

  1. Never commented before (but been reading for some months). I have a list of names that I keep after doing research for a cousin. Might not fit your #3 unless spelling's tweaked, but here's some of them. (Also not positive about the name-making-fun-of thing for all of these.)

    Aydin: Brilliant, Enlightened, Intelligent, Light of the moon.
    Ayyan: Gift of God
    Inam: Gift, present, prize, grant, reward.
    Iyad: Support, might, strength.
    Janan: Heart, paradise, heaven.
    Kayan: To be complete, to be fulfill.
    Liban: Succesfull, charmed
    Mahir: Skilled, skilful, proficient.
    Naeem: Happiness, comfort, ease, tranquil, felicity, peaceful, bliss, pleasure, bounty, anything given as gift.
    Nasif: Just
    Rayyan: Door of Heaven
    Safwan: Pure, clear, smooth stone, cloudless day.
    Taheer: Pure
    Taraz: Powerful, strong.
    Wilan: Friendship, affection.
    Yaamin: Blessed, auspicious.
    Yasar: Prosperity, wealth, affluence, ease.
    Yazan: Determined, resolved.
    Zaahir: A blooming flower, a bright and shining colour, lofty.
    Zaheer: Blooming, shining, luminous.
    Zahid: Devout, ascetic. One who renounces the world and is fully devoted to Allah.
    Zahil: Calm
    Zahin: Sagacious, intelligent.
    Zahir: Apparent, evident, one of the attributes of Allah.
    Zayd: Abundance, increase, increment, superabundance, addition, excess, surplus.
    Zayaam: Honour, right, share, place.


  2. We went with saint names that are the same in catholic and orthodox religions, since we are orthodox living in a mainly catholic area. And another filter was the easy pronounciation. And similar ortography in several languages – so basically we had names like Victor, Daniel, Gabriel on the list.
    One name I really liked since forever, Luca, does not work wirh our last name, it gives name to possible cacophony, so I was quite bummed to not be able to use it. But then we went with George and Stevie and it works so well for our children. So, so well.


  3. We picked first names we liked the sound of, that weren't crazy, but that were not popular. Normal, but not in the top 300 names list kind of names. The middle names are the ones that have meaning to us. Big Ive got her dad's middle name and Little E got mine (which is my mother's, too) (and then we gave her a 2nd middle name).

    If we could go back, we might pick a different one for Big Ive since it is not an 'international' name. Little E's name is easily pronounced the same way in many languages. If/when we have another child we will look for a name that will be pronounced easily in many languages. (This consideration wasn't as big of an issue until we moved to Germany.)


  4. Names are so fun! And so hard! We were only particular in that we wanted a name that one of Hen's ancestor's had borne and that wasn't currently a 'hot' name. I didn't want Hen to have to go by his first and last name through school. Henry is a family name and wasn't a popular name when we named him, though that has since changed 😦 Two of his great-great grandfathers were 'Henry' (or the German equivalent!), and many of the other family names were already in use by second cousins so it was a relatively easy choice for us.

    Boys will tease no matter what. My husband's last name is 'Butler'–he was 'Butt-head' He had a friend whose last name was 'MacVeedeigh'–he got nicknamed 'Syphilis'! My point being that boys, especially, will tease no matter what, so don't stress too much about that. Kids'll also get used to names quickly because they won't have a lot of associations with any given name.

    Have fun with it and give him a name he'll love as an adult–not just one that will ease his way as a child! I look forward to hearing what you decide, and I'm sure it'll be perfect.


  5. Enaam is a nice name Anon, thanks

    Natasha, thanks so much for leaving this INCREDIBLY helpful comment. I have not come across some of these names before and am forwarding them on to my husband, thanks again!!!!

    Anon, Waseem is a nice name πŸ™‚ I am trying to avoid rhyming or similar sounding names since I've heard from some kids its get confusing when a mom is calling for one, all think they're being summoned, lol πŸ™‚ But Waseem is a very nice name!


  6. Mina, thanks for sharing your process, we had some names like your Luca, that we love that just don't work for other reasons which can be a real bummer, but your kids have beautiful names so great job πŸ™‚

    Susan, I never ever thought about that part, about it being so common that a child would be known by first AND last name to differentiate. We had Katie S. Katie P. and Jenifer B. and Jenifer D. I could imagine that must get old. Thanks for sharing your thought process, and yes I have at least one henry at Gymboree so I guess the name has caught on by your trendsetting ways πŸ™‚


  7. we wanted a name that was not common but also not unusual. there's really only one way to spell louise and it doesn't sound like any other name, so the chances of her being called the wrong name are slim. louise was my husband's mother's middle name, he wanted to name her carol, which was his mother's first name, but i vetoed that. and since we gave louise carl's mother's middle name as her first name, we decided to give her my mother's middle name as her middle name. my mom's name is mary christine, but the irish often give their children some biblical name as their first name and call them by their second name, my mom has always gone by christine. there are a bajillion marys in the irish community.


  8. We had a really hard time naming the girls. With no. 1 we ended up coming back to our first choice. It's not very common here in Canada and easily pronounceable etc. in all relevant languages.
    With no. 2 we could not agree and had to go for a compromise solution. My favourite was vetoed by my husband as too ethnic.
    So both of the girls have fairly international, short and easily pronounceable names. None of them are specifically muslim or arabic, but we did make sure they had no bad meaning, esp in a religious sense.

    As for boys names, some of my favourites are Omar (not an option for you, I know), Yunus/Yunis and Yaqub (or even the English equivalent Jacob).

    Good luck with the search!


  9. Good luck! We are not even remotely pregnant but at some point I said, “I like the boys' names Yusuf and Daoud,” both of which my husband promptly vetoed as “old-fashioned.” He said, “All the Yusufs I know are old men.” LOL! So there's also that ridiculous hurdle, apparently πŸ™‚ I'm sure you'll pick a good one. We have had some questionable name choices in my extended family but you pick what you love, and stand behind it πŸ™‚
    (Also, as a side note, you are wise to be mindful of how the name can be mispronounced. I am 31 and my whole life people have mispronounced my name “semen” instead of Simeen. People don't believe me until they're with me and it happens. I wish I was joking.)


  10. I just finished the book. I'm shocked it came to
    An end 😦 what will I read now? Loved it Aisha you must be so proud to
    Have been a part of it! I'm proud of you too! Xx


  11. Thanks for the suggestions Anon!

    Kate, it sounds like the name ou picked had a lot of personal significance then. Louise is a pretty name and combined with your mom's name its perfect!

    Thanks Natalie! It's so tough with naming since as you saw yourself, spouses add to the diversity of opinions, and even though there are 100000s of names to choose from, its hard to find the exact right one .Ofcourse once ou settle on the name, it always works out most of the time πŸ™‚ Thanks for the name suggestions!

    Simeen, Really?! I know SO many Yusuf's that are under ten so for me its a very little kid name, its just about who you know lol. On the other hand Ibrahim feels VERY old, but many friends think I'm crazy because they only know kids under two with the name. And HOW AWFUL I can't imagine how anyone would mess up Simeen, its so phonetically spelled— UGH, its so hard to know what people can accidentally mispronounce and how badly they'll butcher it. Thanks for the reminder on taking that part of this very seriously.

    Bongi, Awwww thanks so much *hugs* means so much!!!!!


  12. Thanks anon πŸ™‚

    AliEN, Mos Def!!!! That's it! Thank you for your suggestion, baby Mos Def will thank you one day and Mike? Mike is a family name, so kudos on that suggestion! πŸ˜‰


  13. We had 2 names in my head, knowing child's gender. My parameter was a name acceptable in American as well as Desi/Muslim culture. We named her Tanya!


  14. I have to admit I now am making a mental note to check back on this blog and see what you end up picking.. πŸ™‚ I think the Muslim lexicon lends itself to some really beautiful names – the languages have a lot of unique sounds to them you don't find elsewhere, even if some leave western speakers tongue tied.


  15. My husband is Persian and we had the same problem with trying to come up with names. My mother-in-law sent us a Persian 'name your baby' book. That helped a lot! We had a lot of flack from family members (non Persian) who complained they couldn't pronounce then names, etc. We told them to deal with it (!!!) and also changed the spelling on the names so it would be easier for others to pronounce. That being said, our kids are now 16 & 18 and teachers/doctor's offices/everyone still butchers their names. But…my kids are so happy they don't have 'run of the mill' names. Good luck to you!


  16. Interesting challenges! Our cultural background is different (predominantly Irish/western and central european) but we also didn't want to name our children the same names everyone else was selecting, didn't want to go with “junior” anything, and wanted to choose names that had some history, cultural referent, or meant something to us. We wanted the names our children had to fit, to feel right, to be just…so.

    Before we knew the gender of either child, before even we embarked on pregnancy, the first girl child's name was picked – Anastasia, for my husband's grandmother (deceased) and because the name is beautiful, carries an Irish history and other cultural referents, and is not common. It was much, much later (our first was a boy, lol) that I learned of the Disney movie. Ah, well.

    Our son's name we picked when just 5 weeks pregnant. We had one of those moments. One of those easy conversations in the car, talking about not much, throwing out baby names, talking about our futures. Husband said, “What about Liam?” and it was an instantaneous electricity. That was it. (the name became more common afterwards. Ah, well.)

    Meanwhile, in your case – I've been researching Muslim names because I'm writing a story about a young Muslim girl (dystopia post 9-11 America where there have been more attacks) and have been choosing names with similar goals – names that can be easily pronounced, but have meanings that are significant for the roles the characters play, sometimes hidden or subtle/double-edged meanings. For instance, the main character's love interest's name is Saadiq, which means loyal or truth. Her name is Zuhayra, she goes by Zuha. Her name means bravery or courage, which of course she doesn't see in herself.

    I've also mined my friends' families for names – which is where I've found Rizwan, Rushdan, Subhaan, Jibraan, Samina, Sumaira, Safiya, Arman, Uzma. I haven't looked up all the meanings yet, though.

    I have really enjoyed the process of researching names and meanings in a non-judeo-christian context, and I envy you your task, as I'm done having babies! Congratulations and best wishes on both the naming and the pending baby arrival!


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