Balinese Names – from Wayan to Ketut

Balinese Name System – Everything is in order; everything has its place

The Balinese caste system, Catur Warna, which came to Bali with the Majapahit from Java in the 14th century, is unlike in India relatively unimportant today. In Bali, it gave rise to many names and titles from which one can tell a person’s caste, status, position, heritage. Names allow Balinese to make social distinctions and understand the status of the people they meet and communicate with.

Balinese Names within the lower caste – Sudra:

By Birth Order

Very fascinating to tourists and visitors is the custom in Bali that children are given names automatically based on the order of their birth. This system is also still used in the three neighbouring islands, which belong to the Bali province Klungkung: Nusa Lembongan, Penida and Ceningan. And it’s also applied in some western parts of Lombok. Name by birth-order is used for the lowest caste, for the anak jaba, traditionally regarded as the outsiders (living outside the palace), which accounts for roughly 95% of the Balinese population. Although historians believe that this system has been applied long before the cast system has been introduced.

Because this custom is still practised till today and it does not distinguish between male and female children, many Balinese share the same first name. An “I” (pronounced like an “e”) is put in front to indicate male and “Ni” for female.

– First Child: Wayan, Putu, or Gede

– Second Child: Made, Kadek or Nengah

– Third Child: Nyoman, Komang

– Fourth Child: Ketut

The 5th child will be named Wayan again, while sometimes the word “Balik” is added, which means “return, again, repeat”.

Family names are not used in Bali, but, commonly, a personal name is added. However, when people introduce each other, they usually do not use their personal names, but simply call themselves Wayan, Ketut, etc. Therefore, the personal name is not to be mistaken for a family name, such as Smith, Miller, etc.

But the Balinese names can tell the Balinese much more, than just the birth order.

Meaning of Wayan: First Child

Meaning of Made: Second Child, middle

Meaning of Nyoman: Third Child

Meaning of Ketut: Fourth Child, little banana

Balinese Names within higher Castes

Names within Ksatria Caste

From the names of aristocrats one could and still can, even tell the caste of the mother for example.

Aristocrats have given names and titles which denote caste and position within a complex and patrilineal hierarchy. Ida Bagus, Dewa, Gusti, Anak Agung (male), Anak Agung istri (female), and Tjokorda let others know about the position/hierarchy of the other person. And till  today, Balinese understand the meaning and even though, the caste system is no longer active, they do sometimes communicate, act and react differently based on the information they have extracted from the name of others.

Brahmana Caste (holy men / women)
Also within the caste of Brahmanis, names indicate the origin:
Ida Bagus for male Brahman
Ida Ayu for female Brahman

“Ida Bagus Oda” for example would be a first born Brahman male, with a Brahman mother. “Anak Agung Istri Made Rai” would be a 2nd or 6th or 10th born princess with a mother who was a commoner.

Meaning of Gusti: Leader
Meaning of Agung: Great
Meaning of Tjokorda: Foot of the gods

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