Kunya (Arabic)

Kunya (Arabic)

A kunya ( _ar. كنية) is an honorific widely used in place of given names through the Arab world. It is a component of an Arabic name, a type of epithet referring to the bearer's first-born son or daughter.

General use

"Abū" (father) or "umm" (mother) precedes the son's name, in a genitive construction (the "iđāfa"). The English equivalent would be to call someone whose eldest son is named John "Father of John." Use of the "kunya" normally signifies some closeness between the speaker and the person so addressed, but is more polite than use of the first name. The "kunya" is also frequently used with reference to politicians and other celebrities to indicate respect.

For example, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, is often referred to as "Abu Mazen". This refers to his first-born son, Mazen. Although Mazen died in 2002, Abbas still retains the name. His wife is accordingly called "Umm Mazen".

Men who do not yet have a child are often nevertheless addressed by a made-up "kunya". Most often the name chosen comes from a popular name in history, where he choses his kunya, sometimes it would be the name of their father. The kunya may also be totally made up, although less often.

When using a person's full name, the "kunya" will precede the proper name. Thus: "abū Māzin Maħmūd", for "Mahmud, the father of Mazen". In Classical Arabic, but not in any of the spoken dialects, "abū" can change into the forms "abā" and "abī" (accusative and genitive, respectively), depending on the position of the "kunya" in the sentence.

The kunya is also sometimes used metaphorically rather than literally. A modern example would be the Moro Islamist terrorist group Abu Sayyaf operating in Southern Philippines (Mindanao). The word "sayyaf" means "swordsmith", so "Father of the swordsmith" signifies the group's belligerent charter.

When westernized, the words "abu" and "abu'l" are sometimes perceived as an independent part of the full name, similar to a given name. For example, professor Abul Hussam is commonly referred to as Hussam, as if under an assumption that "Hussam" is a family name. See more on westernization of Arabic naming practices and names.

Kunya as a nom de guerre

A special practice evolved among Palestinian leaders, originally in the Fatah faction (of which Abbas is part), to use real or fictional "kunyas" as "noms de guerre".

For example, Yasser Arafat was known by the name Abu Ammar ("abū `ammār"), even though he never had a son named Ammar, it was based on Ammar ibn Yasir, a companion of Muhammad and a prominent figure in Arab history.

This usage of the kunya has gained currency outside of the Palestinian movement, and is now often used by Arab guerrillas and clandestine operators. Examples of this include the Lebanese leaders "Abu Anis" (used by George Hawi during the Lebanese Civil War) and "Abu Arz" (Etienne Saqr).

ee also

*Abd (Arabic)

External links

* [http://www.sca.org/heraldry/laurel/names/arabic-naming2.htm Page on Arabic naming practices] .

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