Do You Know the Meaning Behind Balinese Names?

When one visits Bali, they hear the typical Balinese names frequently, specifically, Wayan, Made, Nyoman, Ketut, Ida Bagus, and so on.  However, many visitors are unaware that each name has its own, unique, meaning.

Many might also notice that many names start with “I.” or “Ni.”  The initials indicate gender, an “I.” identifies the individual as male, while “Ni.” indicates female. I. and Ni. also indicate that an individual is not from a caste, or someone who is a “jaba,” an normal Balinese citizen.  Alternatively, if someone is born into a blacksmith family they are named Pande.  If before Wayan, they instead are named Ida Bagus, this means they were born into a Brahman family and is someone who is handsome or respectable.  If they are named Anak Agung, they were born into a noble family.

The name Wayan is derived from “wayahan” which means “the most mature.”  The title for the second child, Made, is derived from the word “madia” which means “the middle one.”  Nyoman, the third child, is taken from the word “uman” which means “remains” or “last.”  According to Balinese belief, a family should only have three children. After the third one, parents should be wiser.  However, many years ago, traditional medicine used to prevent pregnancy became less effective and abortion is considered a sin, therefore, many families started to have more than three children.  As such, the fourth child, Ketut, means “little banana” or “the outer edge of a bunch of bananas.”  This child is considered the “bonus” child.  If a family has more than four children, the name cycle repeats itself.

Furthermore, these birth names also have three hierarchies or synonyms, they are as follows:  for Wayan: Putu, Kompiang, or Gede; for Made: Kadek or Nengah; for Nyomang: Komang; no synonyms exist for Ketut.

Similar to Javanese people, Balinese people do not have a last or family name like Western cultures.  Tradition has it that this made people easy to disguise easily during times of war because even if they were captured, a nobleman could claim he was an average citizen.  However, there are certain Balinese who believe in putting a certain name, such as Dusak or Pendit, before their first name, for example, Wayan Sujana Pendit.  In this modern era, when a family is very important for international travel and such, some progressive Balinese families have created a last name, which is usually taken from the individual from the father’s side of the family who is most educated and successful.

Although this history applies to traditional Balinese names, many modern families name their children as they wish.

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