Nisba (onomastics)

In Arabic names, a nisba (Arabic: نسبة nisbah, "attribution"), also rendered as nesba or nesbat, is an adjective indicating the person's place of origin, tribal affiliation, or ancestry, used at the end of the name and occasionally ending in the suffix -iyy(ah). 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 can at times become a surname.

Original useEdit

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 onomasticsEdit

Traditional Arabic names do not include family names or surnames, but rather patronymics (nasab), where the 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 familiesEdit




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 alsoEdit