Misused terms: Abu and Abdul

Two commonly used names for Arabs in movies or in popular cultures are 'Abu' and 'Abdul'. These terms are incorrectly used. Read below to see why.

Abu: The Male Kunya

The word 'Abu' in Arabic is أبو. When used for a person, it often does not signify his real name, but the ancient Arab custom of 'kunya' كنية. This custom names the person as 'Abu ...' , meaning 'Father of ...', or 'Having something'.

The Arabs from ancient times commonly used the kunya as a nickname for someone, the second part being the eldest male son (if present), or the eldest daughter, so Abu Khalid means that the person probably has a son called Khalid.

Abu does not necessarily refer to the eldest son. In many cases, it referred to something associated to that person. For example, Abu Turab أبو ترابwas a nickname for someone who slept on his side and had dust (turab) on his clothes, Abu Hurayra أبو هريرة was a person having a small kitten, and Abu Dharr أبو ذر refer to ants.

In some cases, people with no children, and even little boys and girls were given a nickname as well.

Depending on the linguistic position of the word Abu in the sentence, it could take other forms, namely, Abu, Aba, and Abi أبو، أبا، أبي. This is too complex to explain, but basically related to classical Arabic grammar.

The term Abu therefore, never exists in isolation. It would be meaningless, since it is a partial concept. Modern contemporary usage in English and other Western languages is incorrect.

Unusual Usage

A rather unusual form of kunya is used in contemporary Eastern Egypt. In El Sharqeyya الشرقية, the term "X Abu Y" is used when X is a common name (e.g. Ahmed or Mohamed), and the Y is the father of X. For example, when saying Ahmed, it may be ambiguous, since there are lot of people named so, hence, to make it clear, Ahmed Abu Sameer means Ahmed Son of Sameer. This form is the exact opposite of the usual use of Abu elsewhere, but I observed it first hand in El Sakakra and surrounding areas in the late 20th and early 21st century.


Because of different dialects in different parts of the Arab world, Abu can be spelled and/or transliterated in varying forms. For example, in Egypt, it is mostly Abou, such as my maternal side of the family, Abou Youssef.

In the Maghreb region (Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco), it is more often spelled Bou. Hence Bou Regreg أبي رقراق is the river between Rabat and Sale, and Boutefliqa بوتفليقة and Bourgeiba بورقيبة.

Female Kunya

The female equivalent of Abu is 'Um' or 'Umm', Arabic for أم, meaning 'Mother of ...'. The same rules above apply, but there are no varying grammatical forms.

Abdul: Another Partial

The term Abdul is also often incorrectly used. In Arabic, it is an amalgamation of a word and a preposition. ِAbd عبد means 'slave' or 'servant', and 'ul' is ال, which is 'the' in English. So Abdul means 'Slave of the'.

In Arabic, Abdul is always followed by any one of the name of God, for example, Abdul Rahman عبد الرحمن means 'slave of The Compassionate', and Abdul Raheem عبد الرحيم means 'slave of the Merciful'. Abdulla means 'slave of Allah'.

So, the usage of 'Abdul' alone is not correct, since it is a partial concept again.


Both 'Abu' and 'Abdul' must be followed by a name, otherwise it does not convery a complete meaning.



arabic grammar

when should you use abu - and when abul -. E.g., is it correct to say abul Ali insread of abu Ali?

When the following word has "Al"

From a script point of view, Abu is written as a separate word from the word that follows it. From a context point of view, Abu is related to the word that follows it.

If the word that follows it has "Al" (which is Arabic for "the"), then it could be written as "Abul". Abul Ali will be wrong, because the word following it is Ali, not Al-Ali.

Here is an example:

The Jewish family name of Arabic origin: Aboulafia. It is originally "Abou El Afia" meaning "Father/Owner of The power/health".

As the original article explains, it is not right to mention Abu, Abdul, Abul in isolation without another word following it.
Khalid Baheyeldin

abo,or abu Jasim

if there is a man called Mohammed Mahmood and he is also called like abu or abo Jasim,that meen es got a son,or his the sun of Jasim????????

my life is on this...plz help me urgently

Father of ...

It means that he is "Father of Jasim".

But depending on the particular location/culture, it may not mean that he literally has a son, but rather, when he gets a son, he would name him Jasim. For example, Palestinians have this habit of giving a Kunya to even pre-marriage age kids.

In some cultures it is impolite to call someone by his given name, and as a sign of respect, they have to be called by their Kunya.

thankes a lot.it helps me

thankes a lot.it helps me werry much,but do you think Jasim has got any meening like ''abu Jasim''

Proper name

Jasim is a proper name popular in the Levant Arabic speaking countries. I am not sure what it means, but it could be derived from JISM (body), meaning heavily built or burly.

Someone with a kunya of Abu Jasim means that either they have a son called Jasim, or will call their son Jasim when they get one.

thank you verry much for your

thank you verry much for your help,and care that you are showing to me.It really nice form you

Abul meaning of names

Salamu alaikum,

I have read the above meaning of Abu and when it may be applied as Abul.

My full name is Abul-Hasanat, i know Hasanat means Good Deeds, right? so the full meaning would be having the good deeds? Please could you help me with meaning brother.

My brothers name is Abul-Kashim. Are both of our names correctly used?



Yes, Abul Hasanat is Abu-Al Hasana-t, where Abu = "father" or "having", Al = "the", and Hasana is good deed. Hasanat is the feminine plural form of Hasana. So you are correct that it means "One who has [many] good deeds".

As for Abul-Kashim, that form does not exist. It probably is a corruption of "Qasim" who was a son of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He had his kunya after him, and called Abul Qasim. Probably Kashim is a mispronounciation / mistransliteration of Qasim in Hindi/Urdu or whatever the local language of your parents is.

Meaning of Name

I am not sure what is meant by "Ayan".My full name is "Muhammed Ayan Miah" Is it come from arabic word which mean Eye(s).
Secondly, my friend name is "Abul Kalam".As i understand from your previous explanation Abu come with Al which form Abul. Abu al Kalam mean Father of Pen.Im i right?
Please let me know your wise conclusion.