Egyptians - Surnames


Today, Egyptians carry names that have Egyptian, Greek, Arabic, Turkish, English and French origins, among others. The concept of a surname is lacking in Egypt. Rather, Egyptians tend to carry their father's name as their first middle name, and stop at the 2nd or 3rd first name, which thus becomes one's surname. In this manner, surnames continuously change with generations, as first names of 4th or 5th generations get dropped.

It is not entirely unusual for families of Egyptian origin (especially Coptic ones) to have names or family names beginning with the Egyptian masculine possessive pronoun pa (generally ba in Arabic, which lost the phoneme /p/ in the course of developing from Proto-Semitic). For example, Bayoumi (variations: Baioumi, Bayoumi, Baioumy) - meaning "of the sea", i.e. Lower Egyptian - Bashandi, Bakhoum ("the eagle"), Bekhit, Bahur ("of Horus") and Banoub ("of Anubis"). The name Shenouda, which is very common among Copts, means "slave of God". Hence, names and many toponyms may end with -nouda or -nuti, which means Of God in Egyptian and Coptic. In addition, Egyptian families often derive their name from places in Egypt, such as Minyawi from Minya and Suyuti from Asyut; or from one of the local Sufi orders such as el-Shazli and el-Sawy.

With the adoption of Christianity and eventually Islam, Egyptians began to take on names associated with these religions. Many Egyptian surnames also became Hellenized and Arabized, meaning they were altered to sound Greek or Arabic. This was done by the addition of the Greek suffix -ios to Egyptian names; for example, Pakhom to Pakhomios; or by adding the Arabic definite article el to names such as Baymoui to el-Bayoumi. Names starting with the Egyptian affix pu ("of the place of") were sometimes Arabized to abu ("father of"); for example, Busiri ("of the place of Osiris") occasionally became Abusir and al-Busiri. Some people might also have surnames like el-Shamy ("the Levantine") indicating a possible Levantine origin, or Dewidar indicating an Ottoman-Mamluk remnant. Conversely, some Levantines might carry the surname el-Masri ("the Egyptian") suggesting a possible Egyptian extraction. The Egyptian peasantry, the fellahin, are more likely to retain indigenous names given their relative isolation throughout the Egyptian people's history.

With French influence, names like Mounier, Pierre, and many others became common, particularly in the Christian community.

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