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February 8, 2009 2:21 AM   Subscribe

What is the etymology, meaning, or connotation of the first/personal name Maher in Arabic culture?

So, my name is Dana Maher. My understanding is that Maher is an Ellis Island Americanization of an Irish name that is something along the lines of "O'Maegher." Whatever, I really like my name despite the lost parts.

Recently, three people from the Middle East with the first name Maher have friended me on facebook. One of them is actually Maher Dana, which leads me to wonder what the surname Dana means in Arabic culture (bonus answer!).

I've been shirking school for the past half hour and googling around, but all I've turned up is that Mahir as a first name means "skilled." Is Mahir another possible translation of a name that also translates into the Latin alphabet as Maher? What is this name in the original alphabet? Is Maher a common first name in the arabic world? Does it have any jokes or cultural memes attached to it? What else is interesting about it? Why are these random college age dudes from Lebanon, apparently Iraq, and somewhere unknown befriending me?
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... to Writing & Language (11 answers total)
Mahar, Mahir, Maher, much of a muchness, vowels don't work the same way in arabic and transliteration varies.

Why do any college age guys friend strange girls on facebook?

Btw, here is some more on the Irish versoin of your name. Dana apparantly means wise in persian or white pearl in arabic.
posted by Iteki at 4:13 AM on February 8, 2009

Response by poster: I guess it's worth mentioning that I'm a guy, and very obviously so in my facebook profile picture (I'm rather large and hairy).
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 5:27 AM on February 8, 2009

Best answer: Cultural references? Oh lady, you're gonna love this. His name is Mahir and he Kiss you. Some people think this man was Sacha Baron Cohen's inspiration for Borat.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:36 AM on February 8, 2009

Oops, sorry I called you lady. I guess it's no different than saying "oh man, you're gonna love this", though.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:37 AM on February 8, 2009

Best answer: Point of interest: A friend's brother is named Mahar, but the pronunciation (their dialect anyhow) is much closer to MA-hat.
posted by oflinkey at 8:41 AM on February 8, 2009

Sorry, yes, that is with a "t".
posted by oflinkey at 8:42 AM on February 8, 2009

Best answer: محر = "mahr" = motor
محير = "maheer" = perplexing
محور = "mahoor" = axis
ماحر = "mAhr" = oysters
Those are the phonetic spellings that return definitions in my dictionary.
posted by The White Hat at 8:58 AM on February 8, 2009

Best answer: Skilled.
posted by greatgefilte at 1:28 PM on February 8, 2009

Response by poster: I guess I should have been more clear that by "googling" I meant "been through all the genealogy and name websites and found the one sentence or less info-bytes contained therein lacking." I really appreciated the responses with some specific cultural or linguistic insight.

Going from The White Hat's phonetic spellings, Maher as my family pronounces it means "motor." Fun.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 5:00 PM on February 8, 2009

Whoops. Greatgefilte actually has it. I forgot the letter ه -- it shows that I haven't had a lot of arabic practice recently. Maher can also be spelled ماهر, which would translate to skilled or clever. A more complete dictionary listing for that spelling can be found here.
posted by The White Hat at 7:16 PM on February 8, 2009

Oh, lord, how did I miss that you actually had 'skilled' already? I don't deserve a 'best answer,' take it away, take it away!
posted by greatgefilte at 4:56 AM on February 9, 2009

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