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Palestinians Names and Surnames

Contributed by Gamal Mustafa on 27.02.2012:

When (what year) did Palestinians started using fixed surnames and why? Was it before Ottomans, during Ottonmans, British or post British?As I undertand, Arabs did not use fixed surnames. Arabs with a common given name were often distinguished by a patronym, meaning that a father’s name was used in addition to a given name. For example, Mustafa the son of Ibrahim was called Mustafa Ibrahim or Mustafa ibn [son of] Ibrahim. If this was not enough to distinctly identify a person, a nickname was used. Such nicknames described a person in some way, such as a physical characteristic, occupation, or place of origin. An Arab named Mustafa ibn Ibrahim might also be called Ibrahim the copper merchant or Ibrahim red-beard. These nicknames were not permanent or inherited. They changed from one generation to the next. Fixed surnames often developed from these patronyms and nicknames.


Ibrahim Abu-Rish

on 31.07.2021

It must have been during the Ottoman period because my ancestors from before the British occupation had what we would consider surnames….I believe one’s surname would be associated initially with one’s tribe, but as a family or tribe became bigger families would naturally take on their own identifying name…sometimes a nickname as in the case of mine, Abu-Rish, originally Hamad from the tribe Hamdan. Sometimes they take on the name of whom they consider the patriarch of the family so you have last names that we commonly view as first names…I know of a couple instances where families belonging to one tribe will change their name to disassociate themselves from it because of a murder for example. The entire tribe would be considered responsible for compensating the victim so in order to distance one’s self from responsibility, they would change their last name…again this was the case with my family when they changed from Hamdan to Hamad at some point in time. Hope this helps.