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There is a logical structure to the Arab naming convention that, once seen, makes it simple to decipher a person's recent ancestry.

If a man's name is     Ali    bin Ahmed bin Saleh    Al-Fulani

  • He is called Ali by his friends and family
  • Bin means son of. Therefore bin Ahmed bin Saleh means that he is the son of Ahmed who is in turn the son of Saleh. Ibn is a varient of Bin.
  • His family name is Al-Fulani
So we have the man's given name, his father's name and his grandfather's name, plus the family name.

All Arabic names are translated phonetically into English. Therefore there are bound to be some differences between two translations of the same name. However there are some conventions used.

  • If the person is a Sheikh/Shaikh (this is the male version, the female version is Sheikha/Shaikha):
  • The family name often begins with Al, al or al-. These are all the same but one is usually preferred by the person whose name it is. al- is often seen as el-, and both al- and el- assimilate to some consonants (sun letters), as in Anwar as-Sadat.

Thanks to Gritchka for the additional information.

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