Saudi Arabian Culture

Naming

  • In Saudi Arabia, names say a lot about people’s ancestry and follow the lineage of names passed through the male side of their family. Children will be named after their father, grandfather, etc. However, Saudi women traditionally do not adopt their husband’s names when they marry.
  • Most Saudis use Arabic naming conventions. This is formatted as: [personal name] [father’s personal name] [grandfather’s personal name] [FAMILY/TRIBAL NAME]. For example, Ahmad Hussain Khan AL-SAUD (male), Noura Hussain Khan AL-SAUD (female).
  • Sometimes names may have a conjunctive word between two names, e.g. Muhammad ibn Abdullah. This means “Muhammad son of Abdullah”.
  • Occasionally, people may add a fourth name that is their great grandfather’s from their father’s side of the family: [personal name] [father’s personal name] [grandfather’s personal name] [great grandfather’s name].
  • One’s family/tribal name is inherited from the father and relates to the heritage of the family. It has become common for Saudis to use it as their last name (instead of their grandfather’s personal name) to fit Western naming conventions: [personal name] [father’s personal name] [FAMILY NAME]. For example, Ahmad Hussain AL-SHAMMARI.
  • Arabic names can be transliterated into English in various ways. For example, the same name can be written as "Majid", "Majeed" or "Mejeed". The spelling can also differ depending on whether one uses contractions. For example, “Saladdin” could also be spelt “Sal-ad-Din” or “Sal-Addin”. However, Saudi Arabian drivers’ licences and passports have English transliterations of people's names in the Roman alphabet so they can’t be misspelled.
  • Common male names include Abdullah, Muhammad, Ahmad, Ibrahim, Ali and Saad.
  • Common female names include Fatemah, Maryam, Nura, Layla, Ayasha, Sarah and Maha. 
  • In some traditional families, first-born male children may be given the same name as their grandfather (which is also their third personal name): e.g. Ahmed Abdulrahman Ahmed AL-OTABIBI.
  • Be aware that many Saudi men may not feel comfortable telling unrelated friends the names of their female family members.
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