Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Hindu Names

The most common languages in India are the Indo-European group descended from Sanskrit - Hindi, Gujerati, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi - which are spoken by about 70% of the population (circa 500 million) in Northern and Central parts of the country. Sinhalese, spoken in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), is also from this group. Sanskrit names tend to be compounds due to the popularity of the names of gods or their titles but are often written as separate words (Ram Gopal not Ramgopal). In the South, the Dravidian languages - Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam - are spoken by between 20 - 25% (about 100 million) but many names are of Sanskrit origin due to Hindu influence. Very few Dravidian names are widely used.

Urdu, the main language of Pakistan, is also spoken in North-West India, especially by Muslims. It is very similar to Hindi but contains many words borrowed from Arabic and Persian (Indo-Iranian) and is written in Arabic script. Until Pakistan was created by Partition in the 1950s, there was an even greater mix of cultures and religions within India. To some extent, they had been kept artificially peaceful by the rule of the British Empire. This also created conflicts however, and produced the separate class of Anglo-Indians (those with any quantity of European blood, no matter how small) with their own traditions and prejudices.

Regional Variations

North : final '-a' usually left out (Raja becomes Raj)

South : '-a' retained, often with '-n' or '-m' added (Raja becomes Rajan or Rajam)

East (esp. Bengal) : Sanskrit 'a' often becomes 'o', v' becomes 'b', 's' becomes 'sh', 'j' becomes 'y' and 'ks' becomes 'x'.

The Sanskrit ending '-ra' becomes '-er' in many parts of the country (Chandra - Chander)

Name Elements

abha light/splendour abhi fearless aja/i protector aka/ana without amala pure amara deathless
amba mother ambara sky amit infinite amrita immortal ananda joy ananta endless
anasa indestructible anda anga limb anil fair anna food ansa share
ansu rays anta anti anu follower apa water apara measureless
apu flawless arcis illuminating ardha half arha deserving aru tawny/red asa space
astaka eight parts asva horse ati excess atma soul atman ayah iron
babhru fire bahu many/much bala power bhadra blessed/good bhaga bestower bhaktra
bhanu light/glory bhava existence bhima terrible bhoja generous bhuj bhuvana earth
brhad possesses caka cakra disc caksu eye canda fierce candra shining
carana devotee caru beautiful cinta thought citra distinguished citta mind dama restrained
danda staff/club datta given daya compassion deva god dhara dhrsta brave
dhrta constant dipa light dita ditya dridha firm dy(a)u heaven
eka unique endra gaja elephant gandha fragrant garbha gatra body
gopa cowherd guna virtue guru teacher/master hansa swan hara destroyer harsa delight
havana sacrifice hema gold hima snow hiranya gold ibha elephant idhma sacrificial fuel
inda ini irá primal water ira wind jai victor jala water
jana people jara old age jasa fame jata matted hair jaya victory jina victory
jita conquered jiva life jvala light jyoti brilliant ketu lika
manyu mat mati mita mtira mukha
mukhi mukta face Murti naga natha naya
pada padi pala pali prabha prakasa
priya puspa raja raksita rani rastra
ratha ratna jewel rupa seka sena sinha
sita vardhana vati sister vedi    

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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