Wednesday, December 7

Names from Jordan

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


  1. Wow these are all beautiful names!

    Malik/Malek and Tariq are names I see occasionally; very cool sounding.

    Layan and Mais are gorgeous.

  2. They're lovely. I love Layan and her meaning of 'tender'. I can't really get on board with Mais. If you translate it into Portuguese, it means 'more', and is an everyday word.

  3. The first time I came across the name Jude - it was on a then-teenaged female! I have yet to completely shake that name association.

  4. These are lovely.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. I really like Arabic names, and I'd love to see them more widely used in the West. Of these, Qais and Tareq have long been favorites of mine, while of the girls, I do rather like Lojain and Mais, and Batoul definitely has a certain something...

  6. Thanks for sharing. I have been looking hard to find Jordanian names to add to my list. I think Jordanian Christian names are especially really interesting.


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