Why many Balinese have same names?

Why many Balinese have same names?

Spend some times in Bali, and you'll understand that Balinese are so friendly and they'd love to make friends with you. It's rooted in their heart, and runs in their blood.

You also probably notice that when you start chatting to the locals is that everyone seems to share the same names, the most popular being Wayan, Made, Nyoman, and Ketut. However, unlike many other cultures, the Balinese do not have shared family names, so it can be quite tricky trying to determine one Wayan from another. 

Balinese dancers | Tony Van Den Hout
Balinese dancers | Tony Van Den Hout


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.

Those names are normally first names of Balinese people, then followed by middle names. The Balinese parents give names to their child based on many aspects. It can be based on the caste of the family, the event happens when the baby born, or based on objects the parents see. Although this may seem confusing at first, the Balinese naming system does actually have an order that helps you place people in their family and society.

Let's take a look for a while. 

The name Wayan is derived from “wayahan”, 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.

Balinese woman with offering | Tony Van Den Hout
Balinese | Tony Van Den Hout


Most Balinese people also give their children a second or third Hindu name that has a positive meaning. Examples include Suardika, which means ‘guiding light’, Setiawan (faithful), or Dewi (goddess). Sometimes Balinese people use this Hindu name or shorten it to create a nickname. For example, Budi might be short for Budiasa, Widi could be a shortening of Widiarta, and Nuri might be short for Nuriasih. 

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.

Confused yet? Let's meet some Balinese, in Bali. 

Source and reference:

Astalada Travel Blog

The Bali Times

Akhyari Hananto

I began my career in the banking industry in 1997, and stayed approx 6 years in it. This industry boost his knowledge about the economic condition in Indonesia, both macro and micro, and how to More understand it. My banking career continued in Yogyakarta when I joined in a program funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB),as the coordinator for a program aimed to help improve the quality of learning and teaching process in private universities in Yogyakarta. When the earthquake stroke Yogyakarta, I chose to join an international NGO working in the area of ?disaster response and management, which allows me to help rebuild the city, as well as other disaster-stricken area in Indonesia. I went on to become the coordinator for emergency response in the Asia Pacific region. Then I was assigned for 1 year in Cambodia, as a country coordinator mostly to deliver developmental programs (water and sanitation, education, livelihood). In 2009, he continued his career as a protocol and HR officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya, and two years later I joined the Political and Economic Section until now, where i have to deal with extensive range of people and government officials, as well as private and government institution troughout eastern Indonesia. I am the founder and Editor-in-Chief in Good News From Indonesia (GNFI), a growing and influential social media movement, and was selected as one of The Most Influential Netizen 2011 by The Marketeers magazine. I also wrote a book on "Fundamentals of Disaster Management in 2007"?, "Good News From Indonesia : Beragam Prestasi Anak Bangsa di dunia"? which was luanched in August 2013, and "Indonesia Bersyukur"? which is launched in Sept 2013. In 2014, 3 books were released in which i was one of the writer; "Indonesia Pelangi Dunia"?, "Indonesia The Untold Stories"? and "Growing! Meretas Jalan Kejayaan" I give lectures to students in lectures nationwide, sharing on full range of issues, from economy, to diplomacy Less
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