As you meet people in Bali
you will most likely start to become aware of the uncanny repetition of people's names. This is because of the steadfast Balinese conventions for naming children
As is the case in many South Asia
n countries, Bali has a caste system. And in continuance with the fact that any class/caste system arbitrarily falls into a pyramid structure
, the majority of the people on the island are low-caste. Therefore, most of the folks you'll encounter will be named in accordance with the low-caste
standards, which are extremely straightforward with little variation from specific rules.
For starters, everyone has a brief prefix to their name that is prescribed by their gender:
for a boy, or Ni
for a girl.
This is simply a formality
to identify them as a man or woman, therefore it is not used when the person introduces him or herself, and no one addresses people with this initial moniker. It is only used for written purposes, when the gender of the person is not readily apparent.
Their second name is the one the individual uses on a day to day basis. This name has nothing to do with gender
but is prescribed by the order in which they were born:
Second child: Made
Third child: Komang
Fourth child: Ketut
If a family has more than four children, they will start over again from the top of the list, using Wayan again. It is commonplace for a family to contain more than one child named Wayan and even Made. This is where the child's third name comes into play.
Each child is eventually given their own unique name which ends up serving as their last name. The Balinese don't carry down the father
's last name throughout later generations like Westerners
traditionally do. The child's personal name
can be given them at birth, but more often they receive it as sort of a nickname
as a young child, either from schoolmates or family members, and it just sticks. Usually it is some kind of reference to their appearance or some profound personality trait
they may have. If no such nickname unravels, they may be named after an older family member or some other close older aquaintance.
Even though this personal name is unique to each child, only those people close to them know of it and use it to address them. In general they go by one of the five standard names listed above, regardless of the fact that in any given group of people there will inevitably be several men and women sharing the same names.
Now the middle and high caste naming standards are more simple. They, too, start off with either an I
and then a second name that indicates caste:
Then comes their personal name which they seem to use more often than the low-caste people. In some cases they have a fourth name that stems from family lineage
, representing something close to the western 'surname' although not as clearly defined.