|textile detail from Petra, Jordan, by Carl Welsby|
Recently, I came across a site which lists (in Arabic) the top 49 names for girls and boys in Jordan for the year 2009. I love finding lists from countries whose naming culture I know little to nothing about, because I always learn something. Beautiful new sound combinations, popular suffixes (like "-as" and "-een") or prefixes (like "Gh-" and "Lam-") that are almost unheard of in the US, and lyrical meanings that refer to images I've never seen and stories I've never heard.
Information like this is why I can't understand it when someone says, "Oh, but ________ is such a weird name." Rimas might seem unfamiliar to you, but it's the #1 girls' name in Jordan, a country of nearly 6.5 million people. Once you're aware of that, it's hard to look at a name you've never seen and automatically write it off as bizarre or unusable. So broaden those naming horizons, open your mind to new sounds — you never know where you might find something you really love.
Here are a few of the names I loved from the list. I asked a friend with knowledge of the country and language for some background. Thank you, Laura (and Trad!) —
Laith — means "young lion." I also like the similarity it bears to the English word "lathe," which, on a totally nerdy note, I find to be a very aesthetically-pleasing word
Malek — means "owner," or "proprietor." I see Malik more often, but somehow switching the "I" for an "E" makes a world of difference, for me. I love the "-lek" ending — it manages to sound soft and strong at the same time
Saleh — related to an Arabic word meaning "fixed," but refers to someone who is upstanding and virtuous
Tareq — similar ending here, though the "Q" lends it a bit more bite. Means, "knocking," or, "the one who knocks"
Other boy standouts: Aiham, Fares, Qais and Wissam
Batoul — another name for the Virgin Mary, I love the look
Jude — I was surprised to see Jude listed at #18 on the girls' list, but apparently it is a name commonly used for both boys and girls in Jordan, and it means "the highest generosity" (and is pronounced more or less like it is in English)
Layan — may be from the name Lena, meaning "soft," or "tender"
Lojain — the sound here is so fresh and sweet, like a name smush of Lo and Jane. Its meaning is lovely, too ("silver")
Mais — this one reminded me of the Greek name Thais/Thaïs which also enjoys some popularity in Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries, as Thaís. It has a great meaning: "to walk swaying side to side"
Malaak/Malak — listed at numbers #14 and #15, respectively, Malak has actually been a favorite of mine for quite some time (I do slightly prefer that spelling). I may have first heard it as the name of comedian Chris Rock's wife (whose name is, therefore, Malaak Rock — greatness). It means "angel"
Other girl standouts: Aseel, Mayar, Roa and Touleen