Syrian Christians names of kerala

A syrian christian takes his own name which is the name of his paternal grandfather, the name of his father and his house or ‘tharavad’ name.

He may make any of these his surname and hence he may be G.J. Olikara, ‘G’ for Gevarghese (name of paternal grandfather), ‘J’ for John(name of father) and ‘Olikara’ for name of his ancestral house from where the line of his paternal family descends. He may be the son of O.G. John, ‘O’ for Olikara(name of the house), ‘G’ for Gevarghese (name of father) and ’J’ for John(name of paternal grandfather).

It was customary that the eldest son be given the name of his paternal grandfather and the eldest daughter the name of her maternal grandmother. The second son bears the name of his maternal grandfather and the second daughter bears the name of her maternal grandmother.

As a general rule, the Syrian Christians bear names which are biblical. It is interesting to record that despite Decree XVI of the Synod of Diamper of 1599, which forbade the use of old testament names, for 400 years after this date the Syrian Christians still continued using such names, though through usage they became Indianised.

Some common Syrian Christian names are:

For Men: (Thomma, Thoman, Mamman, Oommen) from Thomas, (Chacko, Yakob) from Jacob, (Pathros, Pathe, Pathappan) from Peter, (Yohannan, Lonan, Ninan) from John, (Mathai, Mathan, Mathu, Mathulla) from Mathew, (Yesoph, Ouseph, Ipe) from Joseph, ((Koshy, Easo) from Joshua, (Abragam, Itty) from Abraham, (Ittack) from Isaac, (Lukose) from Luke, (Philipose, Pothan, Pothen, Poonen) from Philip, (Paulose, Piley) from Paul, (Chandy, Chandi, Idichandy) from Alexander, (Iyob, Iyoben, Eapen) from Job, (Cheriyan, Kurien, Kuriakose) from Zachariah, (Verghese, Vargisa, Varkey, Varied, Geverghese) from George.

For Women: (Mariam, Maria, Mariamma) from Mary, (Akka, Rabka, Raca, Akkamma) from Rebecca, (Rahel, Rahelamma) from Rachel, (Susanna, Sosa, Sosamma, Achi, Achamma) from Susan, (Saramma) from Sara, (Elspeth, Elisa, Elia, Elacha, Eliamma) from Elizabeth.

This ‘nativising’ of root Greek, Latin and Hebrew names can be seen in all the ancient chrurches like the Ethiopian, Slavic as well as the Armenian ones.

In kerala, the Syrian Christians are known by the distinguishing nomenclature of ‘Nasrani Mappilas’. They also shared with the Nairs some honorific titles. The word ‘Tharagan’ or ‘tariff collector’ is a title that some families bear. Similarly, ‘Panikkar’ which denotes proficiency in arms is a title borne by certain Nasrani families. In and around Quilon, there is a group of families claiming descent from the fourth century Syrian immigrants and this group has the title ‘Muthalaly’ in common among them.

Many Syrian Christian families followed a unique custom that they shared with the kerala Hindus of adopting a male member into their family on his marrying a girl from theirs. The boy would then carry the family name of his wife. This would mostly happen when a family had no male heirs to carry on the family name.

The most popular name among the Syrian Christians was George. This was on account of the popularity of this name in Asia Minor where the tomb of George exists in Jaffa, Palestine. He was revered as a ‘Punyavalan’ in kerala.

However in recent times it is normal for the child to take the surname of his father or to use the family name as his surname. The discarding of Biblical names to be replaced with Sanskritised names is also being seen in increasing frequency.

Names, Origin and their Malayalam variants

English Origin Origin.Script Malayalam
Abraham Hw. Avraham אַבְרָהָם Avira, Avaran, Avarachan
Alexander Gr. Alexandros Αλεξανδρος Chandy, Idiculla
Cyriac Rm. Cirieco Kurian
Cyril Gr. Kyrillos Κυριλλος Korula, Kuruvilla
David Hw. Dvd דוד Tharian, Thavu
Dominic Lt. Dominicus Dummini
Emmanuel Hw. Mani
Francis Lt. Franciscus Pranji, Pranju, Porinju
George Gr. Georgios Γεωργιος Varghese, Varkey, Vakkachan,
Vareethu, Geevarghese
Ignatius Rm. Egnatius Inasu
Issac Hw. Yitzchaq יִצְחָק Ittack, Itty
Issac Abraham Ittyavirah, Ittiyerah
Jacob Hw. Ya’aqov יַעֲקֹב Chacko, Yakob
John Hw. Yochanan יוֹחָנָן Yohannan, Ulahannan, Lonan,
Lonappan, Ninan
Joseph Hw. Yosef יוֹסֵף Yesoph, Ouseph, Outha, Ipe,
Ittoop, Kunjeppu, Joppan
Joshua Hw. Yehoshu’a יְהוֹשֻׁעַ Koshy, Eenashu, Easow
Luke Gr. Loukas Λουκας Lukose
Mathew Hw. Mattityahu מַתִּתְיָהוּ Mathew, Mathai, Mathan,
Mathu, Mathulla
Mark Rm. Marcus Markose
Paul Lt. Paulus Paulose, Paili, Pailo
Peter Gr. Petros Πετρος Pathros, Pathappan
Philip Gr. Philippos Φιλιππος Philipose, Peeli, Pothan
Sebastian Lt. Sebastianus Devasy, Devasia, Devasianos
Stephen Gr. Stephanos Στεφανος Eapen, Esthappan, Punnoose, Uthup
Thomas Ar. Te’oma Thomma, Thampan, Mamman,
Zachariah Hw. Zekharyah זְכַרְיָה Cheriyan, Kuncheria, Karia, Scaria
English Origin Origin.Script Malayalam
Anna Hw. Channah חַנָּה Annamma
Bridgit Ir. Brighid Bridgita
Elizabeth Hw. Elisheva אֱלִישֶׁבַע Elisa, Elia, Elacha, Eliamma
Mary Hw. Miryam מִרְיָם Mariam, Maria, Mariamma
Rachel Hw. רָחֵל Rahel
Rebecca Hw. Rivqah רִבְקָה Akka, Raca, Akkamma
Rosa Ger. Rose Orotha, Kunjorotha
Sarah Hw. Sara Saramma
Susan Hw. Shoshannah שׁוֹשַׁנָּה Susanna, Sosa, Sosamma, Achamma
Theresa Sp. Teresa Thresia, Therthia, Theyya, Iyya,