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FEBRUARY 7, 2009
© Amir Bey, 2007
The name Barak in Ancient Egyptian
The Etymology of the name Barak

© Amir Bey, 2009


It is often said that Barak Obama’s first name is Swahili. Actually, it is closer to the truth to say that it is a name that written records show that it dates back to the language of the pharaohs, Ancient Egyptian, an early branch of what is called the Afro-Asiatic language family, of which the Semitic languages Arabic and Hebrew are related but not descended from. The word Barak means “Blessing”, in all three languages. Here are the hieroglyphs for that word as they would be written in the form of a name in ancient Egyptian: These signs give an indication of its meaning: Reading from the left, the first two form the word “Ba”, which meant “Soul”; the third sign, the disk-like shape is an r sound, and with the vertical line underneath, it represented both the r sound and a mouth; the sign to its right is a bowl, and represented k sound, and also meant the second person masculine “your” or ”thy” and the kneeling figure with its hands upturned is called a determinative, and indicates the sense of the word, which in this case represents supplication or worship. Languages that were written in pictures like ancient Egyptian and Chinese often had composite ideas at play. One possible meaning of “Barak” in this form could be that a blessing was viewed as being “You speak soulfully” “your (k) verbal (r-mouth) praise (the figure) to the soul (Ba) or finally, to speak in a worshipful way, to bless.

To say that President Obama’s name is derived from Ancient Egyptian is based on it being possibly the earliest appearance of that word. While we can't say that it was an Ancient Egyptian name, the name stems from a word that may predate pharonic Egypt, and it could be much older. Its source appears to be North-African or possibly North East African. The Kiswahili form is actually written as “Baraka”, as in the writer Amiri Baraka’s last name. It is a loan word that was introduced by the Arabs when they traded in East Africa. “Barak” is an Arabic form of the name, and is also spelled that way in its Hebrew form. While Barak Obama is named after his father who was born and raised in Kenya as a Moslem, and probably spoke Kiswahili as well as the Luo language of his people, the form of that name is not Swahili, but Arabic.

Sources: E.A. Wallis Budge, An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary
Rainer Hannig, Grosses Handworterbuch Agyptisch-Deutsch (2800-950 v.Chr.)
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