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Male and female slaves were different–so different that there were different words to refer to them. Male slaves were köle, and female slaves were cariye (pronounced “jariyeh”). Cariye literally means “runner,” one who runs to perform her master’s bidding, but even now it’s synonymous with “concubine.”

So it’s not surprising that when masters (and mistresses) renamed their new female slaves, they chose concubine-like names. Exotic, romantic Persian confections were popular: Gülizar, Servinaz, Mahidevran. Flower names: Yasemine (jasmine), Lalezar (field of tulips), acres upon acres of roses in names like Gülaçmaz, Gülendam, Gülruh, and Gülşah. Names celebrating the women’s charm: Gülşen (laughing), Hürrem (cheerful), Dudu/Duti/Tuti (“parrot,” denoting pleasant chatter). At a time when most freeborn women bore solid, respectable Muslim names like Ayşe, Fatma, and Emine, slave women’s names marked them as frivolous–playthings rather than women of substance.

This was no reflection of reality. Concubines often had the same duties, and almost the same status, as wives, and it was common for a man to free his concubine and make her his legal wife. Polygamy was rare, so a freed slave might become a man’s only wife, a position of great power and authority.

At the very height of wealth and privilege, in the sultan’s palace, where the sultan could afford to have hundreds of women employed solely for his pleasure, concubines’ role in the running of the empire was deadly serious. Each woman was allowed to bear only one son, and when the boy reached adolescence, he was given the governorship of a province and dispatched to rule under the guidance of his tutor and his mother. There he was expected to build up a power base, so that when his father died, he could compete in the mad and bloody rush to get to the capitol and claim the throne. His mother’s influence was essential. She might be a Hungarian peasant taken as a child and raised to be a slave, but [unfinished]

Most slaves who entered Muslim households were renamed. Theoretically, they weren’t renamed because they were slaves, but because they converted to Islam and, like all converts, took on a new Islamic name. However, most of them converted because they were slaves and didn’t have a say in the matter; and once converted, male slaves were given names from the same name pool as freeborn Muslim men, but a significant proportion of women were given names that marked them unquestionably as slaves.


Afitab: Persian aftab, “sunlight”

Belagat: Eloquence

Benefşe: Violet

Beşaret: Ottoman Turkish, “beauty” or “the announcement of a joyful event”


Çeşmisiyah: Probably “black eyes,” from Ottoman Turkish Çeşm “eye” + siyah “black”

Cihan Banu: Cihan “the world, the universe; earthly pleasures” + banu “lady, mistress, princess”

Devlet: Persian Dawlat, “wealth, authority” [link]

Dilaver: Persian, “brave, courageous”

Dilşad: Persian Dil Shâd, “happy heart” [link]

Dudu, Tuti: Parrot, a name denoting pleasant, friendly speech.

Felek-naz/Feleknaz: Possibly Ottoman Turkish felek, “the sphere of the heavens” + Persian naz “coquettishness” or “pride”


Gazal: Persian, “gazelle”

Gülaçmaz: Probably gül açmaz, “the rose that does not open” or “the impenetrable rose.” A poetic term.

Gülahmer: Possibly “as red as a rose”

Gülendam: “Whose body is as beautiful as a rose”

Gülistan: Persian, “rose garden”

Gülizar: Persian gülzâra, “rose garden.” Used in poetry as a metaphor for the day. [link]

Gülruh: Persian, “rose-cheeked” or “rosy-faced”

Gülşah: Persian Gul Shâh, “rose king” [link] or “imperial rose”

Gülşan: Persian golshan, “rose garden”

Gülşen: Laugh, smile upon

Gülsima: Persian, “flower-faced.”

Handan: Persian khandan, “laughing, smiling”

Hemnişin: Turkish, “together”

Humayun: Blessed, auspicious

Hürrem: Persian khorram, “smiling, cheerful, merry, fresh, blooming.”

Hurşid: Persian Khurshid, “shining sun”


Kamile: The feminine of kamil, “complete, perfect”

Laleruh: Persian lale “tulips” + Turkish rukh “cheeks, face”

Lalezar: Persian, “field of tulips”

Mahi: Possibly “moon”

Mahıdevran: Moon of fortune


Mehlika: Arabic Malika, “queen”


Meleksima: Also Malaksīmā. “Like an angel.”

Mercan: Turkish, “coral”

Meserret: Ottoman Turkish, “joyful, rejoicing”

Mihman: Ottoman Turkish, “to receive guests”

Mihriban: Kindness

Mihrinaz: Possibly Arabic mihri “sun” + Persian naz “coquettishness” or “pride”


Muhti: Ottoman Turkish, “bashful”

Mülayim/Mülayime: “Good-tempered”

Münevver: Enlightened


Nazenin: Ottoman Turkish, “delicately beautiful, graceful” or “caressed, petted”

Nazyurur: Possibly naz “coquettish” + yurur “pride”

Nevbahar: The season of spring

Niyazi: Arabic, “beloved, desired”

Nur-saba/Nursaba: According to Quranic Names, “Noursaba is an Arabic-Persian name for girls that is made up of two Arabic words joined in the Persian fashion: Noor (‘light’) and Saba (‘dawn breeze’). The figurative meaning of Saba is ‘inspiration,’ ‘blessings,’ thus the name means ‘ray of inspiration,’ ‘a light that brings blessings.'”


Perviz: Possibly Persian parviz, “fortunate, happy”

Peymane: Possibly a term that means a measure of wine, or metaphorically, “the heart of a perfected devotee, filled with divine love.” [link]

Reftar: Ottoman Turkish, “graceful way of walking”

Riyazi: Possibly Ottoman Turkish, “training and discipline”


Şakire: Arabic Shākira, “thankful.”


Şehla: Possibly Ottoman Turkish shehla, “bluish or light grey eyes”

Selvar, Selver

Semenzar: Field of jessamine, a flower associated with whiteness and sweet fragrance


Semra: Possibly “a tree in fruit; fruitful,” or “dark brown; swarthy”

Şemsi: Ottoman Turkish, “pertaining to the sun”

Server: This name has consistently stumped me. It may be a form of the Armenian name Sirvard, “love rose.”

Servinaz: Possibly servi “cypress” + naz “coquetry” or “pride”

Şirin: Persian Shîrîn, “sweet.” [link]


Yasemin: Jasmine. One of the most common slaves’ names.


Zamane: Possibly the feminine of zaman, “thirsting, longing”


Names Shared with Freeborn Muslim Women

These are the names borne by both slaves and freeborn Muslim women in the records I analyzed. Review of other records suggests that there were no names that were specifically off limits to slave women, so, for example, the absence of slaves named Ismihan in this sample is just a reflection of the small sample size. If you’re selecting a name for an SCA character, any of the names on the freeborn women’s list are fair game.

Şah Huban

Non-Muslim Slaves’ Names

Very few non-converted female slaves appear in the shar’ia court records–only two out of the entire batch, plus mention of the birth names of one or two converts. There were certainly more non-Muslim slaves in the Istanbul area, but they must have belonged mainly to Jews and Christians, who were forbidden to own Muslim slaves and who didn’t appear frequently in the Muslim religious courts. Muslim families clearly had a powerful preference for converted slaves.

I give these names mainly for completeness. The names were recorded in Turkish style, [given name] bint [father’s given name], regardless of the native form of the women’s names.

Asparance: Asparance bt. Petro

Betnoz: This was possibly the original name of a slave renamed Şah Hûbân bt. Abdullah.

Bigidost: Bigidost bt. Seyyid Kemal

Olku: Olku bt. İko, the birth name of Mehlika bt. Abdullah.