Syrian Culture

Naming

  • Most people use Arabic naming conventions in Syria. This formatted as: [personal name] [father’s personal name] [grandfather’s personal name]. For example, Youssef Khalil Hamed (male), Fadwa Khalil Hamed (female). It is important to understand that this naming convention does not involve the use of a surname. 
  • Sometimes people may use their family’s name instead of their grandfather’s personal name: [personal name] [father’s personal name] [FAMILY NAME]. For example, Youssef Khalil AL-NOURY.
  • One’s family name is often linked to a person’s heritage and may indicate their region of origin or ethnicity. However, some are chosen for their meaning. For example, the President’s family changed their name to “Al-Assad” which means “the Lion”. Family names frequently begin with ‘Al-‘ or ‘El-’.
  • Traditionally, Arab Muslim women do not alter their name upon marriage, although some women may adopt their husband’s family name.
  • The English spelling of Arabic names can vary depending on whether one uses contractions. For example, Saladdin could also be spelt Sal-ad-Din or Sal-Addin. 
  • Many Syrian Muslims use names derived from Islam (e.g. Muhammad). Syrian Christians may use biblical names, such as Mariam (Mary) or Ittack (Isaac).
  • Some Syrian’s personal names are compounded words. It is common for a name to begin with ‘Abd’, ‘Abd al’ or ‘Abdul’ (meaning ‘servant of’) followed by one of the names of God. For example, ‘Abdul-Aziz’.
  • Parents are commonly referred to as the “mother” (Umma) or “father” (Abu) of their child by their community. For example, President Hafez al-Assad was sometimes referred to as “Abu Bassel”, after his son Bassel al-Assad died.
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