Definitions

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Indian name

Indian family names are based on a variety of systems and naming conventions, which vary from region to region. Names are also influenced by religion and caste and may come from religion or epics. India's population speaks a wide variety of languages and nearly every major religion in the world has a substantial following in India. This variety makes for subtle, often confusing, differences in names and naming styles. For example, the concept of a second name did not exist widely in Tamil Nadu until modern legal systems initiated the use of second names to reduce the occurrence of name clashes.

For many Indians, their birth name is different from their official name; the birth name starts with a letter considered auspicious on the basis of the person's horoscope. Some children are given three names: a given name, a second given name (middle name), and a family name. In communities that don't use family names, the third name can be a god's name, or the grandfather's or grandmother's name, depending on the sex of the child. Many children are given two names: a given name and a family name. Having four names is uncommon, as is having only a single name.

Geographical distribution

Sub-national divisions in India have been drawn up based on linguistic lines and therefore some clear geographical distribution of family names is apparent.
State(s) Language Last names
Andhra Pradesh Telugu Burujula,Chikkala, Gontu, yadav, Reddi, Sastry, Sarma,Tripurana, Varma, Murty, MudiRaj, Rao, Gupta,Gandavarapu, Setty, Reddy, Chowdary, Goud, Naidu, Vaka,Badam, Kalla, Potluri, Akurathi, Akkineni, nandamuri, Surapaneni, Paravathaneni, Sayala, Geddada, Dasari, Akkiyana, Vanukuru, Kanmuri, Kanuganti,Adhikarla, Allu, Alapati, Avuthu, Banothu, Jujjavarapu, Tumarada, Sasanapuri, Putta, Some villages, fruits, vegetables names in the native language.
Assam Assamese Barua, Baruah, Bora, Borah, Borkakoti, Bordoloi, Gogoi, Goswami, Sarma, Bhattacharya, Choudhuri, Das, Kalita
Bihar, Jharkhand Hindi Giri, Puri, Sinha, Verma, Pandey, Goswami, Bharti, Yadav, Mishra, Dubey, Thakur, Srivastava, Jha, Dhanjit, Choudhary,
Chhattisgarh Hindi, Chhattisgarhi Chandrakar, Verma, Agharia, Sahu, Dewangan, Bhoi, Nishad, Patel
Goa Konkani, Marathi Alphonso, D'Costa, D'Silva, D'Souza, Da Cunha, Fernandes, Lobo, Loliyekar, Mendes, Naik, Pinto, Prabhu, Rodrigues, Saldanha, Shirodkar, Timblo
Gujarat Gujarati Acharya, Adani, Ajmera, Ambani, Amin, Asher, Barot, Bhagat, Bhansali, Bhatt, Bunha, Chauhan, Chikhalia, Chokshi, Chudasama, Contractor, Dalal, Dave, Desai, Dhaduk, Doshi, Gaekwad, Ganjawala, Gajjar, Gandhi, Goswami, Grigg, Jadeja, Jobanputra, Juthani, Kanakia, Kapadia, Katira, Karia, Kotadia, Kotak, Kotecha, Kyada, Lal, Lalbhai, Makavana/Makwana, Mehta, Modi, Munim, Naik, Odedra/Odedara, Oza, Parekh, Parikh, Pathak, Patel, Pipalia,Prajapati, Rathod, Sampat, Sarabhai, Savalia, Shah, Sheladia, Sheth, Shroff, Solanki, Soni ,Sutaria, Suthar, Talati, Tandel, Tanti, Thakar, Thakkar, Trivedi, Visaria, Visariya, Vora, Vyas, Zariwala
Haryana Hindi, Haryanvi Ahlawat,Sheoran, Shangwan, Beniwal, Chauhan, Chautala, Rathee, Sharma
Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi Marwari, Hindi, Garhwali, Kumawani Rawat, Bisht, Gusain, Thapliyal, Naugai, Baurai, Kumavat, Niraniya, Juyal, Verma, Sharma, Trivedi, Mishra, Aggarwal, Agrawal, Yadav, Bansal, Mittal, Negi, Srivastava, Dhounndiyal, Nautiyal, Ghilidiyal, Dwivedi, Chaturvedi,Tripathi,Tiwari, Dixit, Singh, Asthana, Kaushal, Karamchand, Ghatori,Choudhary,Chaudhary,Chauhan,Thakur,Shekhawat,Rajawat,Bhati, Visariya
Jammu and Kashmir Dogri, Kashmiri Ahmed, Butt, Bhatt, Dhar, Ganjoo, Kakapuri, Handoo, Kaul, Koul, Maam, Ogra, Pandit, Raina, Syed, Tickoo, Wali, Wani, Dogra, Sharma, Khajuria, Mangotra, Balotra, Samyal, Charak, Dubey, Sadotra, Jasrotia, Gandotra, Upadhyaya, Sadathia, Salathia, Proach, Sangra, Baldotra, Rajwal , Bhat
Karnataka Kannada Poojari, Kotian, Salian,Kunder,Nairi, Papanashi, Bhadranavar, Chetti, Hukkeri, Jamakhandi, Sonnad, Kanthi, Sinnur, Sukali, Kulkarni, Patil, Mayachari, Sangati, Chikkatumbal, Halemani,Hosamani, Dharawadkar, Doddamni, Jadhav, Madivalar, Hiremath, Jituri, Benakannakarvar, Torath, Talwari, Jakkannavar, Kogilagaddi, Ponarkaar, Noorkhan, Kodhanch, Bellubbli, Lohar, Basidoni, Kabadagi, Jalageri, Mallammanavar, Giddananavar, Menashinakayi, Ullagaddi, Bhajentri, Nayak, Gondkar, Huded, Datanal, Kallanagowdar, Marigodar, Wali, Walishettar, Dundur, Shetty, Dixit, Dasar , Kumbar, Jolad, Hoskeri, Hubli, Uppin, Bapakar, Badni, Hanchinal, Athani, Turamri, Gourishetty, Hurkadli, Akki, Kalal, Chatnis, Khatawakar, Bargi, Kadni, Kabboor, Reddy, Yadav, Dasegouda, Bhandarkar, Padki, Dasannanavar, Simi, Belgavi, Naravatte, Navalagi, Bellad, Malagi, Shettar,Goudar, Gowda, Rao, Hegde, Udupa, Handhe, Shasthri, Kamath, Shanbhag, Shanubhogue, Murthy, Aithal, Shenoy, Tantry, Pai, Upadhya, Prabhu, Kini, Bijapur, Veerapur,Devarmani, Gangannavar, Kattimani, Math, Tatpatti, Akkur, Jambagi, Khavatekar, Beedi, Zalaki, Hallur, Negalur, Hondadakatti, Itagi, Koluvailu, Hosagrahara,Naregal, Paramshetti, Kanthi, Iyengar, Padukone, Kulkarni, Lingayat Setty, Pandit,Nayaka,Anna,Swami,Eshwar,Prasad,Rai,Bahudur,Deshpande,Wodeyar,Prasad,Rao,Nadig,Sheshadri
Kerala Malayalam Adikal, Adiyodi, Asaan, Bhattathiri, Chakyar, Channar, Chekavan, Chekavar, Chovan, Eradi, Ilayath, Kaimal, Kartha, Kurukkal, Kurup, Marar, Menon, Moosad, Nair, Nambiar, Nambudiri, Nayanar, Nayar, Nedungadi, Pandala, Panikkar, Pillai, Pisharody, Pothuval, Samoothiri, Thampi, Thangal, Thankkal, Unnithan, Unnithiri, Vaidyan,Vaidyar, Valiathan, Valodi, Variar, Varma
Madhya Pradesh Hindi Jaitley, Jadhav, Scindia, Goyal, Mistry, Asthana, Kalsangrah, Patidar, Gurjar
Maharashtra Marathi Agarkar, Ahirrao,Angre,Atre, Bade, Bhamare,Bhadane, Bapat, Bhat, Bedekar, Bhave,Bhoite, Bhinge, Bhonsale, Birnale, Borse, Borkar, Chavan, Chitale, Chitnis, Chitre, Dahake, Dahanukar,Dahapute, Dalvi, Damle, Dandekar, De, Deshmukh, Deshpande, Deulkar, Devre, Dikshit, Donde, Gaikwad, Gadgil, Gaekwad, Gaitonde, Galvankar, Gantare, Ghatge, Gholkar, Ghorpade,Godambe,Gire, Gite, Godbole, Godse, Gokhale, Gore, Gothe, Gujarati, Gulgule, Gupte, Hardas, Hegde, Holkar, Jadhav,Jagtap,Joshi,Kadam,Kaamat, Kadam,Kale, Kamath, Khalfe, Khandke, Khare,Kulkarni,kokate, Landge,Mali, Mapkar, Marudkar,More, Matondkar, Mhatre, Mukaddam, Mulge, Mulye,Nikam, Naik, Nakhtare,Nimbalkar, Pathak, Patil, Patwardhan, Pavaskar, Pawar, Penkar, Phadke, Phadnis, Phule, Rao, Rane, Rasam, Raundal, Raut,Sawant, Surve, Sonawane, Shikhare, Shinde, Shirke Soman, Sonde,Solunke,Salunkhe, Tambey,Tupe, Telang, Thackeray,Thorat,Thatte, Undre, Walkhede,Wankhade, Wasgare, Welling,Wagh
Manipur Manipuri Ahanthem, Atom, Chakpram, Kamei, Oinam, Nandeibam
Orissa Oriya Patnaik,biswal,Samal,Satpathy,Dutta,Das,Mohanty,Sahoo/Sahu,Pati,Mishra,Sarangi, Raut/Rout,Ray,Pani,Ratha/Rath,Acharya,Tripathy,Naik/Nayak,Patra,Mohanta,Singh Deo,Senapati,Sandha,Bagh,Hati,Paschimakabata,Gochhayata,Singh,Raj, Khandayata,Dehuri,Basantaray,Behera,Kaibarta,Sarangi,Panda,Mohapatra,Mahapatra, Parija,Parida
Punjab Punjabi Sehgal, Singh, Kaur, Khalsa, Khosla, Gabbi, Dhonsi, Sidhu, Sandhu, Bal, Brar, Poddar, Dullo, Shergill, Walia, Cheema, Chishty, Boparai, Badal, Gill, Gulati, Sarai, Dhillon, Benipal, Padda, Dulay, Multani,Khanna, Kapoor, Arora, Malhotra, Saigal, Suri, Puri, Soni, Tuli, Gupta, Agarwal, Malik, Sahani, Saini, Talwar, Chopra, Bajaj, Sharma, Verma, Bhardwaj, Vashisht, Sood, Bhatia,Dhawan
Sikkim Nepali, Tibetan Bhutia, Chetri, Sungte, Dolma, Dorjee
Tamil Nadu Tamil Gounder, Chettiar, Iyer, Iyengar, Mudaliar, Nadar, Lebbai, Rowther, Maraikayar, Naicker, Pillai, Thevar, Vellalar
West Bengal Bengali Banerjee (Bandyopadhyay), Mukherjee (Mukhopadhyay), Chatterjee (Chattopadhyay), Ganguly (Gangopadhyay), Bagchi, Basak, Bose/Basu, Ghatak, Ghosh, Guha, Mitra, Kumar, Kundu, Sen, Bhattacharya, Roy/Ray, Das, Sengupta, Sinha, Sarkar, Dasgupta, Gupta, Banik, Dutta/Datta, Dastidar, Ray, Chakrabarti, Dey/De, Haldar, Saha, Poddar, Acharya, Pal/Paul, Maitra, Lahiri, Brahma, Thakur, Chanda, Rudra, Majumdar, Mal, Nandan, Sensharma, Bhatta, Dhar, Pramanik, Deb, Mandal, Biswas, Mallick, Nag, Chakladar, Baidya, Guhathakurta, Laha, Bid, Sur, Kabiraj, Bhanja, Manna

Names by caste

For Hindus belonging to the upper castes, the lineage of a person is known through his or her gotra, which is usually the name of the first traceable paternal ancestor in their lineage, like Atreya, Koundinya etc. For some people, it may be the ancestral profession or village name. Two people of the same gotra cannot wed, as they are supposed to be related filially. Some use place names or caste names as family names.

Many upper caste Indians use ancestral village names, occupations, honorifics, titles, caste or clan derivatives as their family names. The subcaste names are themselves derived from occupations or characteristics of the subcaste, for example, within subcastes among Telugu brahmins: "Niogi" derives from ancestral appointments as ministers of the royal court. "Vaideeki" denotes an ancestor who followed the profession of religious teaching, and "Velanati" and "Telaganya" indicate the ancestral places of their origin. These are used for subcaste identification and not necessarily used routinely as part of a person's official name or daily use name.

Due to caste-based discrimination or favouritism (mostly in government jobs), many people started adopting generic last names such as Kumar. Many film stars such as Dilip Kumar, Manoj Kumar and, more recently, Akshay Kumar have adopted Kumar as their last names for marketing reasons. As Kumar became too common, people adopted names such as Ranjan and Anand as their last names e.g. Rajesh Ranjan or Abhishek Anand. Many people have two given names as their name e.g. Amit Vikram.

Sometimes a family name is added on to the end of the name as an initial, eg. Noushad S. U. (or S. U. Noushad) the shortened form of Noushad Shafi Ulooji, which is interpreted as Noushad, son of Shafi of the Ulooji family.

Names by religion

Hindu names

Typically, a Hindu name will have a given name, may or may not have a second name (which can be a given name, in some regions like Maharashtra and Gujarat, a patronymic Maharashtra & Gujarat, or simply Kumar for boys and Kumari for girls), and a family name. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an example of this; he was the son of Karamchand Gandhi, and his own sons all had the middle name Mohandas.

After marriage usually the Hindu woman's family name is changed to husband's family name or, in communities that don't use family names, the husband's given name. In south India if a married woman's name is Sudha Ramesh this means that Sudha is married to Ramesh. In some areas of India, the wife's given name is also changed to one chosen by her husband. Some Indian women have, as some western women have, chosen to keep their original family names and add to them their husbands' family names, such as "Anjali Guha Sharma." In urban areas, increasing numbers of women choose to retain their original family name, especially for professional purposes.

In many South Indian communities, it is typical to abbreviate all but one name, such as in "K.V.M.M. Shastry." Traditionally, the unabbreviated name is the person's principal given name, but in some cases it can also be the family name. The abbreviations usually stand for the patronymic, the name of the family's home village, the family name, and the caste name.

In North India, it is more usual to follow the pattern of given name (one or two) followed by the family name, which is familiar in the West. Unlike South Indian names, North Indian names are unlikely to include home village, caste, patronymic, or clan names, although the caste is often easily inferred from the family name.

In Hindu names the family name often signifies the cast or community to which the person belongs, e.g., Abhijeet Mukherjee (Abhijeet - given name and Mukherjee is a Brahmin family name). Most of the names have some significance and meaning. Many Hindu families have name giving ceremony after the child's birth, usually made after the horoscope of the child. Most Hindu names are identified in some way as an "alternative" name for a Hindu divinity.

Nicknames are very popular among Hindus, and every family member or close friend is free to apply a different nickname to an individual.

Sikh names

A person's religious affiliations also affects his or her last name. Sikh men all use Singh (meaning lion-hearted) as a suffix to their names and that is often used just as any other last name would be. Sikh women use Kaur(meaning princess). The name "Singh" predates the Sikh faith and is still common amongst upper caste Kshatriyas and non-Sikhs; both as "Singh" or the suffix "-sinh" as part of their given or family names. Manmohan Singh, the current Prime Minister of India belongs to the Sikh faith. Some Sikhs use Singh as a middle name and use a last name that identifies their clan or hometown, like the cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu.

Jain names

Jains, followers of Mahavira, often use the last name Jain. Like "Singh", this is also a surname used by other Hindus especially upper caste Thakurs (Kshatriyas) or Rajputs.

Christian names

In the last 200 years, Christians have developed their own naming conventions and styles. Usually, European-origin names are considered Christian names in Indian society, especially those of English and Portuguese origin.

An example is the name “X. Antony Alex Miranda.” X stands for Xavier, frequently the child’s father’s name. Antony and Alex are given names, chosen by parents much like first and middle names in the West, and Miranda, the surname, follows. Some Christian names are more common in specific regions and localities of India. In South India, the names Jacob, Peter, and Thomas are widespread, while Northern India favors Michael, Jonathan, and Samuel. Most Indians who bear Christian names were born into Christian families. Those who convert to Christianity in adulthood rarely alter their names unless their given name is associated with another religion. For instance, a man whose first name is “Rahul” need not change his name, as Rahul simply means “reliable” and has no religious connotation. In contrast, an individual named Lakshmi may opt to change her name to fully separate herself from the her Hindu background and to prevent confusion for others.

Roman Catholics from Goa, usually have a given name, which is a name of a saint, and a family name (often of Portuguese origin). For example Roger Anthony Gonsalves.

Names by profession

The caste or subcaste name is often used as part of a name or as a title. These are analogous to western family names like Smith and Barber to the extent that they represent occupation. Chowdary (Hindu Telugu landowner caste) is an example. Mohandas Gandhi belonged to the caste of Gandhis (grocers). Where the use of surnames was not customary, use of the caste name as the surname is increasing in recent times. Examples of surnames of this kind from southern India include Iyer, Iyengar, Gounder, Gowda, Nair, Naidu, Patel, Shetty, Setty.

There are a few exogamous divisions within castes. These are usually on the basis of deities worshipped by the family. For example, Tamma (within the Reddy caste). This is widely followed by the Telugu people. The last name of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, another Independence-era leader, belongs to this category. This is more common among castes, like the Brahmins, that are spread throughout the country. Kamath and Shenoy are both Konkani Brahmin last names. Clan names are used only in small communities scattered around the country. The Chota Nagpur tribals use as clan names the names of animal deities with whom they claim kinship. The Kodavas of South India also have clan names.

Some families in India rename themselves on the basis of their profession. This is common among the Parsis, who often have surnames ending with "wala" (also spelled "walla" or "wallah"), meaning someone who engages in a particular activity. Names like Screwala when the person might have sold screws, or Cyclewala (cycle seller) are quite common; one Bollywood actress is named Shenaz Treasurywala. Many social ranks were also hereditary. Names such as Talukdar, Tehsildar, Tarafdar and Pillai are based on social rank.

Some English occupational nouns have also passed into surname usage, with surnames such as Engineer. Rajesh Pilot, an Indian ex-minister, adopted his surname after a stint in the Indian Air Force.

It is also common for people to name their children after international personalities. Most of the times the surname is used as a first name, like Einstein, Churchill, Kennedy, Beethoven, Shakespeare etc., and tend to denote the parents' political affiliations. Like in Western societies, parents are beginning to experiment with uncommon names, or are using words that aren't usually considered names, like Proton Padmanabhan, Alpha Jyothis and Omega Jyothis.

South Indian names

For a long time, South Indians had a simple naming system. Historically, everyone was given a single name, which was chosen in one of three ways that South Indians chose their names on the basis of:

  • The name of their village/town, e.g. Chitti, Kular, Chavali, Hattiangdi, Janaswamy,Hubli, Kokradi, Mangalore etc.
  • Their family name, e.g. Pulithevar, Sahonta
  • or both, e.g. Dantoj Pranith Kumar

The concepts of initials, middle names, family names and surnames are foreign to a Tamil. Everyone had a single name like Murugesh or Lakshmanan. Occasionally these names were extremely lengthy. A lengthy name could be interpreted as a sign of parental affection. However it was not the full name of a particular family, nor did it give more information about that family.

Under British rule, Indians were expected to follow English procedures for official purposes such as registering births, enrolling children in school and registering land ownership details.

Many South Indians, especially Telugu people, use the name of their ancestral hometown, or the family profession as the family name. In this case the surname is placed before the given name. Some Tamil people have both a village name and a caste name as part of their name, for instance Madurai Mani Iyer. Here, Madurai is a town and Iyer is a caste. Many Keralites especially Syrian Christians use as the "tharavaad", a description of their ancestral home. Names like Pramod Perumparambil and Paul Chemmanoor fall under this category.

In southern India, especially in Tamil Nadu where caste symbols tend to be kept private, there is widespread usage of a patronymic: use of the father's given name as the second name. This means that the given name of one generation becomes the second name of the next. In many cases, this second name is used as an initial and the given name may appear like a second name. For example a name like "Ajith Abraham" means "Ajith son of Abraham". If Ajith then has a son named Ashwin, then his name would be Ashwin Ajith.

It is common for Tamil women to adopt their husband’s given name as a second name. Sunitha Gopalan (Sunitha daughter of Gopalan) might change her name to Sunitha Rajiv (Sunitha wife of Rajiv) after marriage. Some South Indians use an inverted patronym. For example, Chitra Visweswaran is a dancer whose last name is either a patronym or the given name of her husband. More common among women, the inverted patronym is also adopted by people migrating West who want to be called by their given names without having to explain Indian naming conventions. The given names of their fathers or husbands become their family names.

Among Christians in Kerala, it is a common practice to have a second given name (middle name) which is the baptismal name, usually the first name of a grandparent or godparent, like Roshni Mary George and Anoop Antony Philip. Until about two decades ago, some people were named in the 'Family name-Given name-Caste' format. Eg Kannoth Karunakaran Maarar, interpreted as Karunakaran of the Maarar caste from the Kannoth family.

Initials

In Western societies, when there are two people with the same name, for example, Robert Jones and Robert Smith, in an elementary school class, they are referred to as Robert J. and Robert S. respectively to avoid confusion. But two Ramans in South India have just the one name each. So the names of their fathers are used as initials instead of a surname. Raman, son of Gopal, would be G. Raman, and Raman, son of Dinesh, D. Raman. This led to the initial system, mostly followed in South India. Most schools automatically add the initials upon enrollment.

In some parts of Tamil Nadu, traditional family names have recently been abandoned in favour of a father's/husband's given name as a family name. The use of a father's/husband's given name as a family name is in vogue. These names are also used as initials. School and college records would have the names with initials as given below.

  • "S. Janaki" - the family name initial and then the given name.
  • "S. Janaki" might also be written as "Janaki Sridar" in legal documents.

Legal documents such as passports will have the last name fully expanded, instead of initials. Other legal documents such as property deeds will have any of these name formats with the mention of father’s /grandfather’s/husband’s given name and/or village/town/city name. Mandating expansion of initials in passport and multinational companies that are influenced by western standards are big source of confusion in South India--letter for Raja Gopala Varma, son of Krishna Kumar who is usually referred as "K. Raja Gopala Varma" will be addressed incorrectly as "Krishna Kumar Raja Gopala Varma".

Men's names are usually prefixed with initials as mentioned before. Some men used to omit the initial, adding the father's given name in the end. However, this isn't a legal name and won't change their name in official records. For example, both P. Chidambaram and Chidambaram Palaniyappan are valid; however the latter form is not legally used. Generally, the initials are omitted, and father's name is suffixed in order to shorten a name, for example, G. Raja Ravi Varma, son of M. Gopal Krishnan, becomes Raja Gopal.

For women, the system of initials is slightly different. Before marriage, a girl uses her father's initial, but after marriage, she may choose to use her husband's initial. Of late the trend has changed and many women, especially those employed, do not change the initials, but continue with their father's initials. This is mainly for convenience, since school degree and career papers have the woman's father's initials on them. Changing a name legally is a cumbersome procedure, including announcing the proposed change in a newspaper and getting it published in an official gazette. So the modern trend is to add the husband's name at the end, like some Western women who add their husband’s name with a hyphen.

People who do not understand the South Indian naming protocol sometimes expand the initials in an incorrect manner. For example, the name P. Chidambaram, tends to be expanded to Palaniyappan Chidambaram, which is incorrect in the sense that it implies that the person's given name is "Palaniyappan", and the family name is "Chidambaram". In fact, the person's only name is "Chidambaram", with an initial of "P". Other such famous misrepresentations include the chess grandmaster, V. Anand (wrongly expanded as Vishwanathan Anand); cricketer, L. Sivaramakrishnan (Laxman is his father's name); and the freedom fighter and statesman, C. Rajagopalachari (often cited as Chakravarty Rajagopalachari). On the other hand, north India media refers to Dr. Anbumani (son of Dr. Ramadoss) often simply as Dr Ramadoss, which again is incorrect as Ramadoss is his father's name and not his family name.

Surnames or family names

Many South Indians also use a family name.

Family names are not common among the Tamil people, but most of the rest of India uses a family name.

  1. Invented family names such as that of Rajesh Pilot.
  2. The English last name of Anglo-Indians - descendants of British and Indian parents.
  3. Portuguese-Goan last names, such as Fernandes.
  4. Third- or later generation expatriate Indians and others who now have family names that were the given names of one of their ancestors or have intermarried enough to ensure that the family names are not caste/religion names.

Telugu names

The family names of Telugu people are mostly abbreviated. For e.g., the name Nagaraju Ponnam would be abbreviated as P. Nagaraju. In this name Nagaraju is the given name, and Ponnam would be the family name. Some of the people who belong to a particular caste include the caste names in their names, especially Chowdary or Reddy. For example, Vijay Reddy, Hari Chowdary. In general, if the name of a person in western format would be Vijay Reddy Kandi (given name, second given name and family name), then the name in Telugu speaking areas would be written as K. Vijay Reddy.

There is no concept of middle name in Telugu people's names. Some names are preceded by Hindu gods names For e.g., Venkata Sai (both are gods names) precedes the name Laxman Vangipuram is abbreviated as V. V. S. Laxman (Vangipuram Venkata Sai Laxman)

Unlike other South Indian names, the name of father is rarely used in a person's name.

Srihari M ---------------- Nellore

Hanumantha Rao------------------Ongole.

Mangalapalli Narasimha Murthy--------------vizianagaram

Tamil names

Many Tamils use a "vilasam". That gives the initials (a syllable in Tamil) of the person's paternal ancestors up to, say, seven generations. This keeps every one readily identifiable. For example, in a reasonably sized community Mu. Ko. Ka. Mu. Tha. Er. Ganesh would be the cousin of Mu. Ko. Ka. Mu. Tha. Ka. Ganesh.

When the initial is expanded it refers to the name of the father, and not the person bearing the name. So the final name in the sequence is the actual given name of the individual and first name stands for the father. For example, C. V. Raman who won the 1930 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the scattering of light and for the discovery of the Raman effect. Sir Raman was from Tiruchirappalli a town in south india, Tamil Nadu. His full name is Chandrashekhara Venkata Raman (C. V. Raman), but Raman is the given name of the nobel laureate. Where 'Chandrashekharan' is his father name. Raman is not the family name of the nobel laureate as mostly misunderstood by the people of the Europe and US.

In Tamil Nadu, only the first initial (father's) is used with the given name. The first name of a person is expanded and used only at legal documents such as passports, court proceedings and wills.

Tamil names also contain the village name in the following order: village name-father name-given name. For Eg Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan who is known as M. S. Swaminathan is one of the most popular Indian scientist and known as "Father of the Green Revolution" in India. Swaminathan is the name of the person, Sambasivan is the name of the father and Monkombu is name of the village from where they have originated.

Family names in south India would be their caste names if have to be strictly followed. Caste names are rarely used, since they are not unique and people exclude the caste in their names as castism is viewed as a controversial social problem in India and young people like to identify themselves not just by the caste they belong to. Unique family names are hidden in the "caste", "sub-caste" and "tribe" names.

Malayali (Kerala) names

Most Keralites, like in the case of Telugus, have a family name. Most of the family names are of obscure origin, but many have geographical origins -- e.g., Vadakkedath (from the North), Puthenveetil (from the new house), etc. Traditionally the full names followed one of three patterns:

1. Family name followed by Given name followed usually by the caste name or title. This was the common pattern (for men and women) among the upper-caste Hindus, especially of Malabar and Cochin. Examples: Mani Madhava Chakyar (Mani is the family name or tharavad name, Madhava(n) is the given name and Chakyar is the caste name), Vallathol Narayana Menon (Vallathol is the family name or tharavad name, Narayana(n) is the given name and Menon is the caste name), Olappamanna Subramanian Nambudiri, Erambala Krishnan Nayanar, etc. Sometimes the caste name/title was omitted, e.g., Kannoth Karunakaran (where the caste name Marar has been omitted). In the case of women the caste name/title was, traditionally, usually different, for example "Amma" was used for "Nair", "Andarjjanam" was used for "Nampoothiri", "Varyasyar" for "Varyar", "Nangyar" for "Nambiar" "Kunjamma" for "Valiathan/Unnithan/Kartha" etc. (see the Singh/Kaur convention in Punjab), e.g., Nalappat Balamani Amma whose brother was Nalappat Narayana Menon and Savithri Andarjjanam (A renowned author). Quite often the family name will have more than one part to it, e.g., Elankulam Manakkal Sankaran Namboodiripad, Madathil Thekkepaattu Vasudevan Nair, etc. The family name is usually initialled, the given name is sometimes initialled (never when there is no caste name following) and the caste name (if present) is never initialled. This is completely arbitrary. So we have as common forms Vallathol Narayana Menon, C. Achutha Menon, E K Nayanar and P. Bhaskaran (here Bhaskaran is the given name; the caste name, Nair in this case, has been omitted).

2. Family name followed by Father's given name followed by Given name. This is common among the rest of the population. For example most traditional Christian names followed this pattern. Usually the Family name and Father name were initialled. In case of (Hindu) women "Amma" was frequently used (as in the previous case). Examples include K M Mani, K G George, V S Achuthanandan, K R Gowri Amma. Many Palakkad Iyers (Kerala Iyers) use an adaptation of this convention by replacing the Family Name with the name of the "gramam" (village). Example: Tirunellai Narayanaiyer Seshan (T N Seshan), where Tirunellai would be the village name, Narayanaiyer is the Father's given name and Seshan is the given name; or Guruvayoor Shankaranarayanan Lalitha abbreviated as G. S. Lalitha.

3.Given Name followed by Title. This is common particularly among Syrian Christians in the old central Travancore area, where the king (Maharaja) or the local ruler (Raja or Thampuran) used to assign some titles to select families. Examples include Varghese Vaidyan(Vaidyan)of Famous Vaidyan Family whose roots are in Thevelakara,Kollam, Fr. Geevarghese Panicker (Panicker), Chacko Muthalaly (Muthalaly), Avira Tharakan (Tharakan), Varkey Vallikappen (Vallikappen), etc.

Much of these traditional naming patterns have now disappeared. The family names are usually not included nowadays (this can probably be attributed to the decline of the joint families or tharavads). The most common patterns nowadays is to have given names, followed by the father's given name (patronymic, e.g., Sunil Narayanan or Anil Varghese) or caste name (e.g., Anup Nair). Sometimes (especially in the case of women) both the Fathers and Mothers given names are used as part of the name, e.g., L Athira Krishna. It is also not uncommon for the village of origin to be use in lieu of the family name, especially in South Kerala, e.g., Kavalam Narayana Panicker, where Kavalam is a village in Alapuzha district.

It should be observed that many of the so-called Christian family names such as Varghese or Kuruvilla are in fact, properly speaking, not family names at all. They are just given names. Due to the modern shift in following western naming systems where parents and children have the same family names these have become de facto family names in many cases.

Kannada names

Kannada names might include place names, clan/title/caste names, father's names along with person's own given name. The rules generally followed when combinations of the names used; Some times they prefix and suffix as surname and middle name will be given name.

  • The place name should always come first.

eg. Kadidal Manjappa, where Kadidal is place name and Manjappa is person's given name.

  • Father's name should always come second.

eg. Kuppalli Venkatappa Puttappa, where Kuppalli is place name, Venkatappa is father's name and Puttappa is person's given name.

  • Initials from father's Name and Place name

e.g Adnoor Bheemappa Narendra, where Adnoor is place name, Bheemappa is father's name and Narendra is person's given name. Adnoor and Bheemappa can be initialled resulting in the name "A. B. Narendra".

  • The clan/title/caste names (generally called surnames) must come last.

eg. Panemangalooru Ramesh Shenoy, Panemangalooru is place name, Ramesh is person's given name and Shenoy is the surname. eg. Satish Ramanath Hegde, Satish is person's given name, Ramanath is father's name and Hegde is the title. eg.Satish Gowda

  • Having two prefix and suffix as the surname and the middle name as given name. For example Doddamane Ramakrishna Hegde.
  • Rare cases of ancestral house names can also be found, and they follow the rule for place names.

However, if a person wants to go by only his/her given name, there is a tendency in official circles to forcibly add extra names (generally, the place names). sometimes the surname depends on the work that person does

Malaysian Indian Names - South Indian Origin

Most ethnic Indians in Malaysia trace their ancestral origin to South India. In Malaysia, the general naming format format for Indians is X son of Y or X daughter of Y. The term 'son of' is ANAK LELAKI (abbreviated to A/L in ID documents) in the Malay Language and the term 'daughter of' is ANAK PEREMPUAN (abbreviated to A/P in ID documents) in the Malay Language.

  • In the British colonial days, male Indian names would employ the connective term S/O (son of) and female Indian names D/O (daughter of) respectively, and these terms are still in common use in Singapore.

Example: Murugan the son of Vellupillai would appear as MURUGAN A/L VELLUPILLAI in Malaysian ID Card (MyKad) in the name field and the Malaysian Passport.

In the eyes of authorities in the West, the connective term A/L (son of in the Malay Language) appears deceptively similar to the Arabic prefix 'Al' which appears in numerous Surnames/ Family Names of people of Arab descent.

Using the example above, MURUGAN A/L VELLUPILLAI would also arrange his name in such a way that his father's name become his initial and his given name appears to be his Surname/ Last Name: V. MURUGAN. This practice is similar to the name format of a very famous South Indian writer R. K. Narayan (R - Place of Origin: RASIPURAM, K - Father's Name: KRISHNASWAMI). Since most Malaysian Indians are today born in Malaysia, usually only the father's name appears as the initials.

However an increasing number of Malaysian Indians are migrating to the West, and they have begun using their father's name as the Last Name to avoid confusion. Therefore, Murugan the son of Vellupillai would simply go as MURUGAN VELLUPILLAI or M. VELLUPILLAI in the West. Malaysian Indian females sometimes take their husband's given name as their Surname or Last Name.

East and west Indian names

Assamese names

The Ahom community have a naming system which is loosely based on their ancestors profession during Ahom kings reign. Usually most names follow the Firstname, Middlename,Lastname format. Last name Saikia indicates commander over 100 soldiers (Sa=100). Hazarika was commander over 1000 soldiers(Hazar=1000). Other lastnames are Bora and Borbora, Barua and Borbarua, Gohain, Borgohain, Buragohain etc. where Bor=elder or bigger, Bura=older. Other communities have last names which may be same as last names used in other parts of north India such as Das, Sarma, Chakravarty, Ali, Ahmed etc.

Bengali & Oriya names

In addition to a family name, many Bengalis (in both West Bengal and Bangladesh) have two given names: a bhalo nam (lit. "good name"), which is used on all legal documents, and a dak nam ("nickname"), which is used by family members and close friends. The two names may or may not be at all related; for example, a man named Anoop Saha may be called by his dak nam (e.g. Bablu) at home and a his bhalo nam (Anoop) elsewhere. Many people also have a shortened version of their bhalo nam (e.g. Deepu for Deepak, Faru for Farhana, etc.) in addition to their full bhalo nam and their dak nam. Recently, many Bengalis have begun to add their dak nam to the end of their full official name, resulting in names like Saifuddeen Chowdhury Kanchon, where "Saifuddeen" would be the man's bhalo nam, "Chowdhury" would be his family name, and "Kanchon" would be his dak nam. In these situations, this man would be correctly addressed "Mr. Chowdhury", not "Mr. Kanchon". Bengali People and Oriya People (Oriyas, people form Orissa) Have many similar surnames such as Das, Chowdury, Chodhury, Saha and many others. For Oriyas the "Bhalo Naam" (lit. Meaning good name) is used for all legal documents, and "daka naam" is the nickname or pet name used by family and friends. Oriya surnames come from the caste system based on the occupation of people. For example, a common last name is Mohapatra and Dash (Das is not a brahmin last name, only Dash is.) The villages in Orissa, have the same concept, but is slightly different. They name first names by zodiac. For example, if a girl's name was "Bedhamati" the prefix "Be" is used for the zodiac Taurus. But other than that, it is the same concept everywhere.

Gujarati and Marathi names

In Gujarat and Maharashtra, the naming system is comparable to the Russian system of patronymics. For example, the first name of cricketer Sunil Manohar Gavaskar is "Sunil;" "Manohar" is his father's name, and "Gavaskar" is the family name.

Traditionally, married women take their husband's given name as their middle name, in addition to adopting his family name. In Maharashtra sometimes a male newborn is named after his grandfather's name.

In Gujarat, people also add suffixes to their names based on their gender. "Bhai" (brother) for men and "Ben" (sister) for woman. For example, Sunil is called Sunilbhai and Lata is called Lataben. Similarly, Maharastrians address males as "Rao". (Sunil will be called Sunilrao.) This is generally an informal convention, used between friends and not on official documents.

Common Gujarati family names include Patel, Mehta, Shah, Desai, Parekh and Chudasama. Frequent Marathi family names include Kulkarni, Joshi, Deshpande, Deshmukh, and Patil. The family name 'Bhat' is used for a Maharashtrian Brahmin, whereas an extra t is added for the Gujaratis.

A number of Marathi family names end in 'kar', e.g. Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Savarkar, Madgulkar,mayekar and are sometimes associated with the native village of the family or its ancestors. E.g., Chiplunkar may stand for origins in the town Chiplun.

In Gujarat, family names ending in the suffix 'vala' or 'walla' may refer to the place where a person resides when written on wedding invitations (concotri), when listing members of the family, someone who did not live locally, for example, someone from London may have have his surname put down as 'Londonwalla' just to describe the fact the reside there, their actual surname might be the normal family name. It also may describe the ancestral villiage of the family when used as the actual surname. An example of this is the moving of some of the Tandel family from the villiage of Meh to nearby Mogod Dungri (Valsad District) in recent times, changing their surnames to Mehwala, to say that they are from Meh.

References

  • Kaushik, Devendra Kumar (2000) Cataloguing of Indic Names in AACR-2. Delhi: Originals. ISBN 81-7536-187-5.

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