Ab (Semitic)

Ab means "father" in most Semitic languages, sometimes extended to Abba or Aba.


"Abun" (أَبٌ), from a theoretical, abstract form "abawun" (triliteral '-b-w) is Arabic for "father. The dual is "abawāni" or "abāni" "two fathers" or "mother and father" ("abai-ka" meaning "thy parents"). The plural is "abiyna" (Sura 2:127 has "abiyka" " [the God] of thy fathers"). There is a diminutive "ubā' ", from original "ubayūn".

"li-llāhi abū-ka" is an expression of praise, meaning "to God is attributable [the excellence of] your father".

As a verb, " '-b-w" means "to become [as] a father to [somebody] " ("abawtu") or "to adopt [him] as a father" ("ta'bā-hu" or "ista'bā-hu").

In the construct state, "Abū" (أبو) is followed by another word to form a complete name, e.g.: Abu Mazen, another name for Mahmoud Abbas.

Abu may be used as a kunya, an honorific. To refer to a man by his fatherhood (of male offspring) is polite, so that "abū" takes the function of an honorific, and the use of Abu to describe a man will cause his real name to fall into disuse. Even a man that is as yet childless may still be known as "abū" of his father's name, implying that he will yet have a son called after his father.

The combination is extended beyond the literal sense: a man may be described as acting as a father in his relation to animals, e. g., Abu Bekr, "the father of a camel's foal;" Abu Huraira, "father of kittens." In some cases, a man's enemies will refer to him in such a way to besmirch him, e.g. Abu Jahl, "the father of ignorace". A man may be described as being the possessor of some quality, as Abu'l Gadl, "father of grace," or "the graceful one;" Abu'l Fida, "father of devotion," or "the devout one." An object or a place may be given a nickname, such as Abu'l hawl, "father of terror," (the Sphinx at Giza). Abu'l fulus, "father of money," is frequently used to refer to a place where rumors have been told of a treasure being hidden there.

The Swahili word "Bwana", meaning "mister," "sir," or "lord," is derived from the Arabic "Abuna" (أبونا), "our father."


The word אבא "’abba" in Aramaic corresponds to the emphatic or definite form of אב "’av", literally meaning “the father,” or “O Father.” It was the intimate name used by children for their fathers and combines some of the intimacy of the English word “papa” while retaining the dignity of the word “father,” being both informal and yet respectful. It was, therefore, an endearing form of address rather than a title and was among the first words a child learned to speak.

This Aramaic word appears three times in the Scriptures. It is always in transliterated form in the original Greek and usually is transliterated in English translations. Each time the term is followed immediately by the translation "ho pater" in Greek, which literally means “the father” or, used as the vocative, “O Father.” In each case it is used with reference to the heavenly Father, God.

Mark records that Jesus used the term when praying to Jehovah God in Gethsemane shortly before his death, saying: “"Abba", Father, all things are possible to you; remove this cup from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want.” (Mark 14:36) Here is the fervent appeal of a son to a beloved father, followed quickly by an assurance that, in any event, he would remain obedient.

The two other occurrences are in Paul’s letters, at Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6. In both places the word is used in connection with Christians called to be spirit-begotten sons of God and indicates the intimacy of their relationship with their Father. While they are “slaves to God” and “bought with a price,” yet they are also sons in the house of a loving Father, and they are made positively aware of this status by holy spirit through their Lord Jesus.—Romans 6:22; 1 Corinthians 7:23; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6.

Rather than as just a translation from Aramaic into Greek, some see in the use of both "’Abba" and “Father” together, first, the trust, confidence, and submissiveness of a child, followed by a mature appreciation of the filial relationship and its responsibilities. It seems evident from these texts that, in apostolic times, the Christians made use of the term "’Abba" in their prayers to God.

The word "’Abba" came to be applied as a title of honor to the Jewish rabbis in the early centuries of the Common Era and is found as such in the Babylonian Talmud. ("Berakhot 16"b) The one acting in the capacity of vice-president of the Jewish Sanhedrin already held the title of "’Av", or Father of the Sanhedrin. In later periods the title was also applied to the bishops of the Coptic, Ethiopic, and Syrian churches and, more particularly, became the title of the Bishop of Alexandria, thereby making him the “papa” or “pope” of that part of the Eastern church. The English words “abbot” and “abbey” are both derived from the Aramaic "’abba". Jerome, the translator of the Latin "Vulgate", objected to the use of the title “abbot” as applied to the Catholic monks in his time and did so on the basis that it violated Jesus’ instructions at Matthew 23:9: “Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One.”


אב "Av" means "father" in Hebrew. The exact meaning of the element "ab" (אב) or "abi" (אבי) in Hebrew personal names (such as Ab-ram, Ab-i-ram, Ah-ab, Jo-ab) is under dispute. The identity of the "-i-" with the first person pronominal suffix (as in Adona-i), changing "father" to "my father", is uncertain, it might also be simply a connecting vowel. The compound may either express a nominal phrase ("Ab [i] ram" = " [my] father is exalted") or simply an apposition ("Ab [i] ram" = "father of exaltedness"). Forms with the connecting vowel and with the pronominal suffix were likely confused, so that the translation will depend on what is meaningful in connection with the second element.


* [http://jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=122&letter=A&search=Abba Abba] (jewishencyclopedia.com)
* [http://jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=257&letter=A&search=Ab Abi and Ab in personal names] (jewishencyclopedia.com)
*Gray, "Hebrew Proper Names," pp. 22-34, 75-86;
*Edward William Lane, Arabic English Lexicon, 1893

ee also

* Abd
* Abuna
* Kunya
* Hebrew name
* Mama and papa
* Ibn, an Arabic particle meaning "son" used to form names.
* Ben (Hebrew), a Hebrew particle meaning "son" used to form names.

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