Arabic word (in Hebrew ) meaning "son," and having the shortened form "ben" or "bin" () when standing between the proper name of the father and that of the son, provided both names form part either of the subject or of the predicate of the sentence; plural, "banu" (nominative) and "bani" (accusative and genitive). It was common among the Semites and other peoples to designate a person as the son of so-and-so, the father's name being more usual than the mother's. In medieval Hebrew the Arabic word "ibn" was pronounced "aben" (comp. Geiger, "Moses ben Maimon," in "Nachgelassene Schriften," iii. 74), the change in the pronunciation of the first letter being due to the different value of א as a vowel-letter in the two languages. The abbreviation for is , noteworthy as being the only instance of a word in Hebrew shortened at the beginning instead of at the end. This form, "son of so-and-so," came to be used in Arabic (as it was used also in the Bible) as a simple surname or family name (compare the names "Mendelssohn," "Johnson" = respectively "son of Mendel," "son of John").Family Names Compounded of "Ibn."
In Hebrew writings the Jews rarely used "ibn" or "aben" before the proper name of the father, placing it more usually before the name of the supposed founder of the family. Naḥmanides (13th cent.) says that all the Arabs called themselves by the names of their respective ancestors, and all the Israelites who dwelt in Egyptby those of their families. Such family names, originally composed with , are, for example: Ibn
The Arabic "ibn" () as a designation for the "son" or "descendant" of some one became so naturalized in Hebrew that Josephibn Caspi (14th cent.) in his Hebrew lexicon really considered it to be a Hebrew word ( = "stone"), meaning the substance of a person or a thing.
In Spanish and Portuguese as well as in Latin translations of the Middle Ages (and hence in the rest of the European languages) "Ibn" is found in the forms "Iben" and "Iven," as in Hebrew, and in composition with other words formed such names as "Abenzabarre" ("Ibn Zabarra"), "Abendanan," "Abenshaprut," "Avengayet" ("Ibn Ghayyat"; see Jacobs in "J. Q. R." vi. 614), "Avencebrol," and finally "Avicebron" ("Ibn Gabirol"), "Averroes" ("Ibn Roshd"), "Avicenna" ("Ibn Sina"), etc.
- Steinschneider, An Introduction to the Arabic Literature of the Jews, in J. Q. R. ix. 228, 614; x. 120 et seq.;
- idem, Die Arabische Literatur der Juden, Introduction, pp. xv., xxxix.