Sikh Naming Practices

Most Sikhs have three names: a personal name, a name to show Sikh identity (Singh, 'lion' for a male) and a clan or subsect name. Women often just use Kaur (female) as a third name but can also use 'Singh' as many families have taken this as a surname. Compound names are common, especially those ending in 'inder' (from the Vedic god of battle, Indra) which can be male or female, and beginning with bal- (Sanskrit 'bala', strength). The Name of God is stressed as in Islam and priests are often consulted about naming children. The Granth, a compilation of teachings of the first five gurus, and the holy book of Sikhism, is opened and the name begins with the first syllable on the page. Men are often addressed as 'Sardarji' (abbreviated S.) which is an honorific similar the English 'Mister' (abbreviated Mr.).

Many Sikh names are the same as, or similar to, Hindu ones. For example, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism, has two Hindu names (Nanak, Dev) and 'Ji', an optional suffix to show respect which is sometimes used as the end of a last name (Devji or Deviji).

Most Punjabi names can be used for males or females and women sometimes take their husband's name as a middle or last name. This means that women sometimes have names meanings warrior, brother or strength which are more traditionally male. English spellings for these names can vary as Hindi and Punjabi use written accent marks to define pronunciation and not everyone follows the same system when converting from one language to another. For instance, the name Avinash ('indestructible'), a modernization of Abnash, also occurs as Avinasa, Abinash and Abhinash.

Name Elements

Most elements can occur as a suffix or prefix but some are more likely to be one than the other. For instance, -pal, -want and -jit/jeet are far more common as suffixes.

akal - eternal Aman - peace amar - immortal amrit - lord's nectar
anand - bliss Anoop - beauty avtar - incarnation of god bahadar - hero
bakhsheesh - blessed bal - mighty bhagat - devotee bir - brave/fight
charan - guru's lotus feet dal - soldier darshan - vision das - slave
deep - lamp dev - god dhann - blessed dharam - righteous
dhiaan - contemplation dit - given fateh - victory gagan - sky
gat - freedom Gharch - home within giaan - divine knowledge gun - excellence
gur - guru har - god's ik - oneness jag - world/ocean
jai - victorious jap - remembrance jas - praises/glories jeet - victory
jodh - warrior jot - light karam - god's grace keerat - praises
khalsa - pure kirpal - kind kul - family lakh - hundred thousand
leen - imbued liv - absorbed man - fortunate? man - heart?
Meet - friend Mohan - beautiful nar - person nav - new
neet - always nir - flawless? noor - divine light onkar - primal being
pal - protector Param - highest pat - respectable prabh - god
preet - love prem - love raj - king ram - god
ran - battle ras - elixir ratan - diamond roop - embodiment
sach - truth Saihaj - peaceful sarab all sharan - guru's shelter
sher - lion Simar - remembrance of god sobha - virtuous sukh - peace
sundar - beautiful sur - godly talib - seeker of truth taran - saviour
tegh - wielding the sword tek - support thakur - master udai - rising
ujjal - holy person up - exalted uttam - exalted veer - brave

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This collection of names compiled by Kate Monk. Copyright January 1997, Kate Monk. Last updated October, 98. Copies may be made for personal use only.