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What do the words “Barack” and “Obama” literally mean?

We recently asked readers to suggest a name for us to research and write about. The name that received the most requests happens to belong to Barack Obama

The 44th President of the United States is named after his father, who was a Kenyan economist. Barack is an African name meaning “blessed.” It is a form of both the Hebrew name Baruch and the Arabic name Mubarak, which also mean “blessed” and relate to the Arabic barakah. Another common spelling of the name is Barak.

There is no connection between Barack and “barrack,” which has both a different spelling and pronunciation. A barrack is a building or group of buildings that lodge soldiers. It comes from the French barraque and the Spanish barraca, which means “cabin or hut.”

Obama is an ancient Kenyan surname. The name is found frequently among the Luo, the third largest ethnic group in Kenya. It is believed that the name derived from the root word obam, which means “to lean or bend.”

Obama’s middle name Hussein is the first name of his paternal grandfather. The name, which is of Arabic origin, means “good” or “handsome one.”

 Now, what do some of the most common last names in the United States, like Smith, mean? Find out here.

Here’s another chance to suggest names which you would like us to write about. Once again, the name with the most requests will be a blog topic in the near future.

Caribbean’s spice island An aromatic visit to Grenada, land of beaches, history–and nutmeg

Chicago Sun-Times August 19, 2001 | Paisley Dodds Gouyave, Grenada–Gliding into one of this island’s many tranquil ports, it’s hard to imagine anything beyond the smell of the sea, the hum of boat engines and the rhythm of the fishermen.

But away from the lap of the turquoise waters lies a lush interior of green mountains, wooden houses, waterfalls and dense nutmeg- scented forests, which give Grenada its nickname, “Spice Island.” Grenada offers visitors white sand beaches in the capital of St. George’s; posh hotels that overlook the bay; delicious Caribbean cooking; rugged hikes through mountains; charming guest houses; great scuba diving and history.

Grenada, however, is perhaps best-known for the bloody 1983 coup that prompted the United States to invade the island. After former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop fled to Ft. Rupert, a police and military installation, the revolutionaries stormed the building. A firing squad then executed Bishop and his Cabinet. site how to shave

The United States, fearing Grenada would become a political satellite of Cuba with an airfield capable of sending Cuban jets deep into South America, invaded six days later, thus putting Grenada on the map for many people who otherwise would have never taken notice of it.

But Grenada’s main attraction and its backbone has always been spice.

In the 1600s, expensive nutmeg was guarded jealously by Dutch colonizers bent on maintaining a monopoly while the British and French plotted to steal fertile seeds.

Some say the popular spice, used to flavor everything from apple pie in the Western Hemisphere to curries in the East, was brought to this Caribbean island by an Indian doctor who used the nuts in homeopathic remedies. Others say it ended up on Grenada’s shores after pirates looted a ship from the spice’s native Indonesia.

The tale given the most credence in this former French and then British colony, however, is that the trees arrived in the middle 1800s with local planters returning from Indonesia, where they had been taken to help expand cocoa production.

Whatever the case, Grenada is now the world’s largest producer of nutmeg after Indonesia.

“This island is so beautiful, and seeing the spices where they are grown, it’s just incredible,” says Damien Maeder, 50, of Mulhousa, France, bending down and taking a deep breath of grated nutmeg, held in the palm of a barefoot spice vendor. here how to shave

Gouyave (pronounced GWAHV), about 15 miles north of the capital of St. George’s, has become a major gathering point for people on the island, whether they be nutmeg farmers or tourists.

To the east are white sand beaches; to the west, 75-foot nutmeg trees and flowering bougainvillea. The town itself is sedate–small, dusty streets, a couple of brightly colored wooden stores and a local liquor store where people sip Carib beer to break the heat.

But what most people come for is the nutmeg.

At the 200-year-old Dougaldston Estate, about five minutes from the town center, cocoa and other spices are processed. The dilapidated farm is in the middle of a lush forest about a half-hour drive from the popular tourist destination of Concord Falls.

Visitors feel the branches of a nutmeg tree, are shown how to shave off the bark of the cinnamon tree and how to take slivers of the cocoa bean to make rich hot chocolate. The last part of the demonstration, given by tour operators, involves a jar of rum and spice.

“Ooh la-la,” exclaims Maeder, inhaling the aroma of the intoxicating brew.

At the heart of Gouyave’s activity is a three-story wooden warehouse where the country’s estimated 7,000 nutmeg farmers sell bags of nutmeg and mace, the lacy red sheath that blankets the nut. More than 130 people work at the plant, where the nutmeg is weighed, shelled and shipped to Europe and the United States.

“It’s my job to separate the good nuts from the bad ones,” says Lydia Harris, 43, one of dozens of women who earn $10 a day (19 Eastern Caribbean dollars) for work that often leaves them coated with a mixture of dust and nutmeg powder. “I’m so accustomed to nutmeg I don’t smell it anymore.” Once the nutmeg is sorted, it’s thrown into vats of water to determine which nuts have the most oil, making them the highest quality.

The next step is separating the different qualities of mace. No. 1 quality–the brightest shade of red–is used in cooking. No. 2, which is a little darker, is used as a preservative. And No. 3, the deepest shade of red, is used mostly as an industrial lubricant.

Visitors to the plant can see firsthand how the nutmeg ends up on supermarket shelves, or they can go directly to the tiny store that sells bags of nutmeg, nutmeg-flavored hot sauce and rum punch mix.

Also for sale are bags of black pepper, cinnamon, clove and ginger. They are all locally grown as well, but on this 12-by-21- mile island, nutmeg is the undisputed king.

“My grandmother used to get the nutmeg from the forests, and almost everyone in my family has worked with the spice in some sort of way,” said Delta Duprey, a 70-year-old spice vendor at the Dougaldston Estate. “I guess you could say nutmeg has become part of our culture.” Paisley Dodds

56 Comments

  1. Gelly -  December 6, 2013 - 10:13 pm

    Also barack means the “devil.” And it means “crooked.” It depends on what language meaning you search under. However, now these two meanings of barack are no longer searhable. If you would have researched his name in google way before he became president, like back in the late 90′s and early 2000′s these two meanings would have surfaced. Strangely enough, the internet search engines have been tampered with. And I wonder why? …

    Reply
  2. Shamoon -  August 5, 2013 - 12:11 pm

    The word Barack is an Arabic/Muslim name. In Arabic is written as براق which is the name of the donkey which was used by Prophet Muhammad (صلعم) to travel from Mecca to the Holly land-Palestine. براق was tied to the Barack Holly Wall and the Arc Angle carried the Prophet to visit the the seventh sky to meet all the Prophets. So that Barack is a Holly Muslim name.
    http://www.alarabiya.net/ar/sport/2013/08/04/-ميسي-ورفاقه-يزورون-حائط-البراق-.html
    The above link will shed more lights on Barack Holly Wall

    Reply
    • person -  July 2, 2014 - 9:18 am

      The word borax is from Arabic būraq (بورق), meaning “white”; which is from Middle Persian bwrk, which might have meant potassium nitrate or another fluxing agent, now known as būrah (بوره). Another name for borax is tincal, from Sanskrit…Traditional Arabic dictionaries say that it derives from the verb “to glisten”, which is also written بورق 〈bwrq〉, but it seems to actually derive from the Persian بوره būrah “borax”.[8]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borax

      Reply
  3. williampowhida -  January 31, 2013 - 7:53 pm

    A man’s character makes his name. In my opinion, Barrack Obama means a man of excellent character, good family man, smart politician, a fighter, fine orator and a man all together worthy of respect. He is a “Fusion” of the two major races of the United States and his being President can help to heal the curse of racism which haunts our people. Only silly people take a man’s name as more important than his character.

    Reply
    • Bolt -  May 30, 2014 - 10:38 pm

      Words mean all but only words. You my friend are a biggot, an inconclusive undeniably impassive biggot who passes everything for what beliefs they feel should be from what centuries of society’s substance has been from the beginning until now. Just please from this point on in life from your existence until further end speak with more prosperous welleaning that people can follow, respect, and comprehend.

      Reply
    • Jeff -  June 12, 2014 - 7:27 am

      Unless you consider Arabic to be one of the two major races of the United States, your comment is not quite accurate.

      Reply
    • Cheryl -  September 23, 2014 - 7:18 pm

      Well said!

      Reply
  4. Pomaikailani -  December 7, 2012 - 12:03 am

    Lucy Gould – Aunty Lou Lou,

    I think it’s great that you’re watching out for your niece. I don’t know how old your niece is or the story behind it all. All I see is that you’ve taken the time and energy to check what she’s doing. Some may say it’s teaching distrust and disrespect. I think you are correct in checking on her. You don’t know who she’s opening herself up to, the dangers of the internet are endless. Not to mention what you plainly stated, “at that hour”. You are setting a great example for all parents, guardians, aunts, uncles, and anyone else who has someone who they are responsible for. Keep up the good work and good examples!!!

    Pomaikailani is my birth given middle name from my Hawaiian/Irish/and a bunch of other stuff father.

    Pomaikailani is a combination of words. “pomai” – “kai” – “lani” which are all words by themselves with their own separate meanings. But all together, it means fragrance from heaven, heavenly fragrance, heavenly flower, flower fragrance from heaven. The Hawaiian language was very limited on words so, many words had multiple meanings. For example, aloha… Meaning hello and goodbye.

    Reply
  5. elias -  December 2, 2012 - 3:08 am

    The sound of Obama means “He is with us” in Persian.

    Reply
  6. Julie Boyd -  September 13, 2012 - 8:18 am

    To Ashar Husain

    Deborah was not a queen she was an ISRAELI Prophet. She didn’t not defeat Israel she conquered the Cananites FOR her Israeli people. Read before you post.

    Reply
  7. computer mouses -  February 21, 2012 - 8:33 pm

    This is certainly my brand new Concerning visited your site. I ran across loads of interesting stuff within your blog. On the a great deal of comments with your articles, Perhaps I’m not the only person! sustain the impressive work.

    Reply
  8. Rachel -  May 7, 2011 - 2:18 pm

    @ElCraigo

    about the supposed ‘mispronunciation’, I don’t think it is possible to ‘mispronounce’ the name Barack, we all have accents and are inclined to pronounce words in certain ways. It does not make our pronunciation wrong, it just makes it different. In fact ‘Barack’ is an anglicized spelling or either the Hebrew or Swahili original names Baruch and Barak; so should we not pronounce it in any of the anglicized ways? If pronunciation is such a big issue why don’t we just say it like his daddy does, hey?

    Reply
  9. BETH WELSH -  February 14, 2011 - 4:50 am

    Hi cosmic,I’ve heard that ‘Stievenard’ is french. Hope that helps!

    Reply
  10. Lucy Gould -  September 28, 2010 - 5:08 am

    Hello, i am Naomi Booth’s aunt.
    i’d really appreciate it if no one answered her questions, as she shouldn’t be on these websites…especially not at this time of night.

    Yours sincerley,

    aunty lou lou

    Reply
  11. Magan -  September 24, 2010 - 10:04 am

    How about Oprah Winfrey?
    Or the last name Tiffany as in Tiffany and Company?

    Reply
  12. adi -  September 24, 2010 - 7:43 am

    Mittal!

    Reply
  13. laineypainey -  September 24, 2010 - 6:27 am

    I know what George W Bush means- it means lying @sshole

    Reply
  14. Cosmic -  September 24, 2010 - 3:45 am

    My friend’s surname is ‘Campbell-Stievenard’ and we’ve always wondered what it means. Can anyone help?

    Reply
  15. Seza Wade -  September 24, 2010 - 3:39 am

    What does sivapalarajah mean?

    Reply
  16. NAOMIBOOTH -  September 24, 2010 - 3:34 am

    Hii there guys! This is SUCH an interesting website!

    I was wondering if any one knew the origin of the surname’Booth’?

    It would mean a lot to me if anyone could give me some information.

    I’d also like to comment on how nice all of the people are that commented on this. There doesn’t seem to be any abuse at all, unlike other silly websites like youtube.
    Especially ‘teapo’, I think that’s a lovely thing you said about Rupert.

    All my love Nays xxx

    Reply
  17. teapo -  September 24, 2010 - 3:28 am

    I like Rupert. He seems cool.

    Reply
  18. Harish -  September 23, 2010 - 10:18 pm

    Barak is the name of missile system developed in Israel and exported to India.

    Reply
  19. Yawn -  September 23, 2010 - 2:22 pm

    @AMY-LOU What? Do you even know french, Amy has no significance in french (that I know of), unless you’re talking about “ami”, which means friend. Blair doesn’t mean beauty nor does it mean bell maker in french. However, if you’re talking about “belle, well then, yes, that means beautiful. I’m not sure where you got those definitions…

    Reply
  20. Lilanda Usham -  September 11, 2010 - 2:16 am

    Barack is the name of the largest river in Manipur, India.

    Reply
  21. AMY-LOU -  September 10, 2010 - 9:45 am

    Well i know what my name means AMY= BELOVED which is french, CATHERINE= PURE which is hebrew and BLAIR=BEAUTY/BELL MAKER which is french. So does that make me beloved pure beauty or beloved pure bell maker?

    Reply
  22. Anton -  September 8, 2010 - 9:43 pm

    Ashar Husain on September 4, 2010 at 7:23 am
    According to the Bible the name Barack is of a General who helps Queen Deborah fight and defeat Israelis! Wonder why this website doesn’t refer to it at all?

    -it’s actually General Barak and he helped
    defeat the canaanite army who oppressed the Israelites.

    Ehud Barak was the PM of Israel and currently is minister of defense..

    Reply
  23. mystical -  September 8, 2010 - 8:16 am

    teddy roosevelt, please.
    (do pardon my spelling if its wrong)

    Reply
  24. Curly Hair -  September 7, 2010 - 4:52 pm

    @bje: Silver didn’t ask what FDR stands for. He asked what the names mean. So there’s no reason to call him a doodle head.

    @Ashar Husain: Yes, that is true. But the Hebrew word “barak” means lightning. It’s a different root and different pronunciation from “baruch”, which the article did mention. But seeing as our president got his name from African which got it from Arabic which got it from Hebrew, the spelling and pronunciation were altered along the way, and it ended up pretty much the same as “Barak” (lightning). And, Zvi Kedem, I believe you are wrong to say that it “should” be spelled “Baraq”. It’s not an English word, and not even in the same alphabet, so there’s no “should” for it.

    @Julie: I believe that when Ashar Husain said “Israelis” he meant “people who lived in the land of Israel.” But I agree with you that that’s not the best word to use, seeing as the land was not called Israel at the time, as it wasn’t yet inhabited by the Israelites after whom it is named.

    @Faith: Who’s FDR? You’ve got to be kidding. I sincerely hope that, if you’re asking that (or at least meant to ask it – in actuality, you wrote “Who’d FDR?”), you are not American.

    Reply
  25. thedefenestrator -  September 7, 2010 - 3:15 am

    @ElCraigio

    I hardly think the mispronunciation of ‘Barack’ is either ‘deliberate’ or ‘willful’, and it most certainly does not apply to the entirety of Britain (I’m quite sure that BBC News and other broadcasters pronounce it ‘correctly’). It seems a little extreme to ‘comdemn’ such a natural linguistic process; names of people and places are adapted to suit the phonological system of a language variety all the time! Take ‘Iraq’ for example — I’ve heard it as [ıɹak] ‘irak, [ıɹa:k] ‘irahk’ and [aıɹak] ‘eyerak’ – from both Brits and Americans – and I’m sure none of them are entirely accurate! It just tends to depend on what is picked up by the masses, and what suits the existing langage of a country. I appreciate some Brits might not pronounce it how he pronounces it, but that’s hardly a crime!

    Reply
  26. Lori -  September 6, 2010 - 11:03 am

    Good info. Thanks!

    Reply
  27. Faith -  September 5, 2010 - 10:15 pm

    Who’d FDR? Wait I can pick any name? Um how about Stephenie Meyer? George Clooney? Colby Cailett? (or however you spell that) :P
    BTW @SEAN- that’s so rude can’t you see it’s a typo? Give these people a break!

    Reply
  28. jay linnell -  September 5, 2010 - 8:00 pm

    Franklin: Formerly “Frankeleyn”, borrowed English from Middle French “frankeleyn”, meaning “landowner who is free but not of noble origin”.

    Delano: Anglicized name (ca, mid-17th century) of the descendants of Philippe de Lannoy. “de Lannoy” itself comes from the town of Lannoy. “L’aunaie” means “alder plantation, from the Latin “altenum”.

    Roosevelt: From the Dutch “Van Rosevelt”, or “from the rose field”.

    So he was a free landowner, paradoxically from both an alder plantation and a rose field.

    Reply
  29. #1 Skillet fan -  September 5, 2010 - 3:03 pm

    I think FDR would be cool too.

    Reply
  30. Evelyn -  September 4, 2010 - 3:38 pm

    Espinoza De Los Monteros… and that’s just my father’s lastname… and no it’s not my grandfather’s and grandmother’s name, my grandmother’s was Braun.

    Reply
  31. Julie -  September 4, 2010 - 3:13 pm

    @Ashar Husain : No…both Barak and Deborah in the Bible were Israelis (or Israelites).

    Reply
  32. patchouli girl -  September 4, 2010 - 12:41 pm

    I know MacDowell (from MacDougal) means [son of] dark stranger, but I’d love to know the meanings or origins of my other family surnames, like Russell, Pile, and mainly, Peart. I have a spicy family history, but we had a Rabbi in our family associated with the name Russell, which makes things a bit more interesting.

    Reply
  33. Steve Herron -  September 4, 2010 - 12:09 pm

    What does the name of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad (spelling) mean? What language is it?

    Reply
  34. Zvi Kedem -  September 4, 2010 - 10:51 am

    “According to the Bible the name Barack is of a General who helps Queen Deborah fight and defeat Israelis! Wonder why this website doesn’t refer to it at all?” Excellent point, but there is an explanation.

    Because it is a different name that should actually be spelled “Baraq,” just like mine should be spelled “Qedem.” It is the same as the last name of the former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak. It means “thunderbolt,” as does the last name of the Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca, though it is better to look at his father’s entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilcar_Barca. I do not know Arabic, but it seems to mean the same in Arabic.

    Reply
  35. saiful islam -  September 4, 2010 - 9:13 am

    Thanks……….
    Want more meanings of names.

    Reply
  36. Betsy -  September 4, 2010 - 8:36 am

    I was just listening to the audiobook yesterday of Dreams of My Father. Barack himself offers a definition of Obama in the book. According to him, the meaning of Obama has some “warrior” meaning. I don’t recall the detail. It was also the name of his great-grandfather. It’s common in that part of the world for children to take on their father’s or grandfather’s names as family names. Consider the story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She took the name of an atypical grandfather when she came to the West in order to hide from her family.

    Reply
  37. Kate -  September 4, 2010 - 8:27 am

    I think FDR would also be cool

    Reply
  38. a late show -  September 4, 2010 - 7:52 am

    What about Russel.

    Reply
  39. Sean -  September 4, 2010 - 7:29 am

    “There no connection between Barack…” A website about the English language should really have proper grammar. “There *IS* no connection…”

    Reply
  40. Ashar Husain -  September 4, 2010 - 7:23 am

    According to the Bible the name Barack is of a General who helps Queen Deborah fight and defeat Israelis! Wonder why this website doesn’t refer to it at all?

    The name Smith mentioned at the bottom of the link have Dutch origins and when Will…iam of Orange conquered England many Smits went to England in his invading army, hence the name Smith who obviously then went on to the US

    Reply
  41. sharon -  September 4, 2010 - 6:37 am

    What does the name WORDRAN mean?

    Reply
  42. Jones -  September 4, 2010 - 6:30 am

    What does the name Briana mean? What about Ingrid? Or what about Franklin?

    Reply
  43. bje -  September 4, 2010 - 3:29 am

    You’re kidding right? It’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt you doodle head

    Reply
  44. wondwossen -  September 4, 2010 - 3:00 am

    In Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia, Bereket means Blessing. Bereket is a common name in that country….it is mostly used for men

    Reply
  45. Raven -  September 4, 2010 - 1:42 am

    Hi,

    How about, “RODRIGUEZ”, ???

    Reply
  46. abc123 -  September 3, 2010 - 11:40 pm

    Woodrow WILSON!

    Reply
  47. GrayKat -  September 3, 2010 - 10:29 pm

    How about George W. Bush?

    Reply
  48. ElCraigo -  September 3, 2010 - 9:22 pm

    Brits mispronounce “Barack” as “barrack” (báa.rak) all the time. What kind of arrogance does it take to willfully mispronounce the name of the President of the United States, in order to give it a British twist when it is not British in the slitest? I listen with incredulity to this endless, deliberate mispronunciation on BBC News and other foreign sources. Why hasn’t anybody condemned this?

    Reply
  49. [...] WHO put the Barrack in the Bomp de bomb de Bomp? — Who put the BAM in Obamallama Ding Dong — Who put Hussein in the slop de bop de slop — Who put the economy in the dipshedipshitshedipdedip — Who were those guys? — OIL Ringers with crooked eyes — They made BamaLama look mighty good to we. Yeah.–>>Rupert L.T.Rhyme [...]

    Reply
  50. Bertha Ansley -  September 3, 2010 - 8:36 pm

    Verrrrrry Interesting! Thanks for the the info.

    Reply
  51. Silver -  September 3, 2010 - 8:34 pm

    I really want to know FDR, what does each of his name mean?

    Reply
  52. eminy -  September 3, 2010 - 8:26 pm

    In Hungarian, barack means peach or apricot.

    Reply

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