He was born A.D. 728, and died at Busra A.D. 824, leaving nearly two hundred treatises, of which the names of many have been given by Ibn Khallikan, and most of them are of a purely philological character.
There are many anecdotes about him, and many sayings of clever men regarding him. Abu Nuwas took lessons from Abu Obaida, praised him highly, and decried Al-Asmai, whom he detested. When asked what he thought of Al-Asmai, he replied, 'A nightingale in a cage,' meaning probably that a nightingale in a cage is pleasing to hear, but there is nothing else good about it. Abu Obaida he described as 'a bundle of science packed up in a skin.