- Origin/Meaning: unknown زُلَيْخا זוליכה
- Gender: female
- Usage: Arabic, Armenian, English, German, Italian, Ladino, Persian, Portuguese – Brazilian, Spanish
The name is of uncertain origin or meaning, since it appears in Muslim and Medieval Jewish tradition as the name of the wife of Potiphar (who is unnamed in the Old Testament), it is often suspected to be of Coptic origin, though the name is not traditionally used among contemporary Copts.
The wife of Potiphar is mentioned in the Bible as trying to seduce Joseph and later falsely claiming he tried to rape her, which leads to Joseph’s unjust imprisonment. In Medieval Islamic tradition, the story was reinterpreted as a popular love story, the subject of much poetry, she is named Zuleikha and her love for Joseph was interpreted by Sufi poets, especially Rumi and Hafez, to represent the longing the soul has for God. Zuleika is also attributed to be her name in the Sefer haYashar, also known as the Book of Jasher, a Jewish midrash of unknown authorship.
In the English-speaking world, the name first came into use in the early 19th-century, it was most likely popularized by Byron’s 1813 poem, The Bride of Abydos, in which it is the name of the heroine. It was also used by the German poet Goethe for his 1810 poem entitled, Book of Zuleika, in his collection of Eastern inspired poems called West–östlicher Divan. It is the name of the eponymous character in the 1911 novel, Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohn, which was later adapted into a musical.
The name is also used in Spanish-speaking countries and Brazil.
Other forms include:
- Zulejka (Albanian, Bosnian)
- Züleyxa (Azeri)
- Zuleica (Catalan, Portuguese, Spanish)
- Zulejha, Zulejka Зуле́йха, Зулейка (Chechen, Russian)
- Zelikah (Dutch)
- Zouleïkha (French)
- Züleyha (Turkish)
- Zulayho (Uzbek)
Other Arabic transliterations include: Zulaykha and Zulekha.
Spanish diminutives include: Zula & Zuzu.