Nisba (onomastics)

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In Arabic names, a nisba (Arabic: نسبة nisbah, "attribution"), also rendered as nesba or nesbat, is an adjective surname indicating the person's place of origin, ancestral tribe, or ancestry, used at the end of the name and occasionally ending in the suffix -iyy for males and -iyyah for females. Nisba, originally an Arabic word, has been passed to many other languages such as Turkish, Persian, Bengali and Urdu.

In Persian, Turkish, and Urdu usage, it is always pronounced and written as nisbat. In Arabic usage, that pronunciation occurs when the word is uttered in its construct state only.

The practice has been adopted in Iranian names and South Asian Muslim names. The nisba to a tribe, profession or a town is the most common form of surname in Arabic.

Original use[edit]

A nisba "relation" is a grammatical term referring to the suffixation of masculine -iyy, feminine -iyyah to a word to make it an adjective. As an example, the word ‘Arabiyy (عربي) means "Arab, related to Arabic, Arabian". Nisba forms are very common in Arabic names.

Use in onomastics[edit]

Traditional Arabic names are patronymics (nasab), where the full name of the person is followed by the name of his father, usually linked by ibn or bin ('son'). Patronymics may be long as they may include all known forefathers. When a name is simplified to one or two ancestors, it may become confusing to distinguish from other similar names; in such cases, the nisba may be added as an additional specifier.

A nisba is usually prefixed by the definite article 'al-' and can take a number of forms:


Tribes, clans or families[edit]




One can have more than one nisba, one can be related to a city, a clan, a profession and a person at the same time. Examples include:

The nisba is optional but is quite widespread.


See also[edit]