I need to etymologize the city name Dubai (United Arab Emirates) for a project. Etymonline only lists the origins as "uncertain" and Wiktionary traces it to دُبَيّ, the Arabic term for it (pronounced dubayy), but goes no further. Wikipedia says the city name can possibly be traced to an Arabic word meaning "money", but provides no concrete proof of that. Uae-tour.com took a completely different angle on it and said that Dubai comes from the Arabic for "locust". In short, nobody agrees on its origin.

Is there any concrete research on this? What is the general conjecture among etymologists? Any help at all here would be great.

Thank you.

I already went through a period with my question about the etymology of "Djibouti"; this is an English word because it's listed in English dictionaries; thus there is no reason to close a perfectly reasonable question.

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    If it is possibly from "locusts" maybe you should contact entomologists. Mar 23, 2017 at 2:52
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    @SpehroPefhany - That is both punny and oddly practical.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 23, 2017 at 3:12
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    @SpehroPefhany I want to go look through all your answers and upvote everything
    – Unrelated
    Mar 23, 2017 at 4:06
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    @Unrelated Please don't do that. Votes are supposed to be based on the individual post quality, rather than the person, so serial voting is strongly discouraged. If you do it, it will result in your votes being automatically reversed by the system, and potential voting restrictions in the future.
    – Tonepoet
    Mar 23, 2017 at 5:07
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the etymology of 'Dubai' is not related to the English language, the question itself cites the Arabic origins..
    – Spagirl
    Mar 23, 2017 at 13:20

2 Answers 2



The name of this emirate and its capital came from the word “locust” (in Arabian “dibba” and diminutive - “ dubai"). It may be connected with the fact, that it was the place of locusts breeding, that like wet soil. According to the name of the district “Bur Dubai” (“locust well”) there was a well here long time ago.

Dibbas, one more emirate city has also originated from “locust”. The other district of Dubai means just “settlement”


Though, as this article states: "none of etymological theories can be truly verified"


Du=double Bai=bay Geography of the area includes a double bay

As concerns Djibouti, it is : bring tea Djibou= bring in Arabic Ti=tea

  • 2
    Any references for either of those? Both of those seems very new suggestions. I'm just wondering if there's any source that corroborates them.
    – Mitch
    Feb 26, 2020 at 14:17

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