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April 10, 2014

What’s In A Name?

What’s in a name? Shakespeare said that a name means nothing! How about in Bali? If you ask a Balinese his or her name, the most common answer that you will hear is, “my name is Wayan”. In a population of 3.3 million, about 500,000 have that name.

In Bali, a name is not just a name. It is used to give information about sex, rank of birth, caste and more. The name Wayan is derived from the word “wayahan” which means oldest. So every first born child in Bali is given the name Wayan (or Putu and Gede). The second child in each family is given the name of Made or Nengah and the third child is given the name Nyoman or Komang. The fourth child is given the name Katut (so I assumed that my guide in the previous post was the fourth born child in his family). These names are given for both girls and boys and to distinguish the sex a “Ni” is put in front of it for girls and an “I” is put in front of the name for a boy. So the first word tells, the gender, the second word tells the rank of the child’s birth and the next is the given name which is usually from Sanskrit or a local language. For example we can deduct that the name, Ni Made Swasti is a second born female. The Balinese usually just give their second name when introducing themselves.

Sounds easy enough right? Not quite! If the parents have a fifth child, the naming process starts over again with Wayan. So if there are 5 kids in a family there are 2 with the name Wayan. In the case of my guide Katut, I assumed he was the fourth child but he is the 8th meaning he is the 2nd Katut in his family. That has got to get confusing!

I think about my dad’s family with 7 children and if they were named the Balinese way my dad would be named Wayan and I would have 2 uncle Mades, an aunt Nyoman, an uncle Nyoman, one uncle Katut and one aunt Wayan. Haha!

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