Kerala Christian Names, their Origin and English Equivalents

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Saint Thomas Christian names

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Saint Thomas Christian names describes the naming convention that is in use by the Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala, the south western state of India. These Christians known as Nasranis, trace their origin to the missionary activity of Thomas the Apostle. They still follow a very old naming convention, which is entirely different from other races and religions.
Their names are both biblical and inherited and are passed on from one generation to the next. The male names are patronymic and the female names are matronymic. Usually a person’s name will include the names of their parents and grand parents or that of a very close blood relative.[1] At the same time, these names will not have names of saints or of great religious personalities or of political leaders or of foreign names. Family names are also included and all parts of the name are always in Malayalam. Foreign family names are shunned. So a Nasrani can easily be identified by name, from among other Christians. Even today, this pattern of giving name is visible in almost all Syrian Christian denominations.


Before the arrival of the Portuguese in May 1498, Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala were known to belong to the Margam, a word when translated is ‘The Way’.[2]
In 1599, Catholic Archbishop Alexio-de-Menezes called a synod at Udayamperoor, in which Christians in and near the kingdom of Cochin attended. Here he decreed that St. Thomas Christians should abandon their ancient naming conventions. They were specifically told not to use the name Easow because it was holy.[3] But, the Nasranis (St. Thomas Christians) just ignored this command and had continued with their ancient customs. Even today they do follow this method of naming. Even the Nasranis that did convert to Catholicism (Syrian Catholics) still use the "old margam" names. The Latin names are shunned
During the 20th century some names were created by joining two or more syllables. For example Abey (AB), Aji (AG), Bibi (BB), Biji (BG), Jessy (JC) and so on. Today, several Syrian Christians name their children by Indian names like Deepak, Rahul, Neethu, Asha etc. But by the 21st century biblical names began to reappear. Thus names like, Isaac, Joshua, David, Ezekiel, Timothy, appeared on the scene. Generally they still follow the system detailed below.

Formation of a name

A name will include the baptismal name (generally the person is known by that name ) and the name of the father. The practice of appending the first name of father to the child's name instead of family name is also followed by Hindus of South India. Examples are given below.

Male names

Their names traditionally have a threefold structure.
Family or house name – Father’s name – Baptismal name
The first two are usually abbreviated to initials.
Another form is that the name will include the baptismal name (generally the person is called by that name) and the name of his father. The practice of appending the first name of father to the child's name instead of family name is also followed by Hindus of South India. Examples are given below.
As an example, the name, Thomas Mathew is similar to Shimon bar Jona.[4] which means Shimon son of Jona. In the same way, Thomas Mathew means Thomas son of Mathew. Thomas Mathew is to be addressed as Thomas and not by his father’s name.
Here the correct spelling is ‘’’Mathew’’’ and not ‘’’Matthew’’’ as in English.
Another form of name is Nikhil Thomas Mathew where Nikhil is a name chosen by the parents and they usually call him by that name, Thomas is the biblical and baptismal name and Mathew is his father's name.
Their bishop receives a new name on consecration. This also has a threefold structure.
His baptismal name (Sometimes in Syriac form) – the title Mar (in East syriac form) or Mor ( in west Syriac form) – an Episcopal title ( a Biblical name or the name of a Christian father).[5][6]

Female names

As an example, the name, Rachel Mathew, means Rachel daughter of Mathew. After marriage, father’s name is replaced by the husband’s name. Rachel Mathew is to be addressed as Rachel and not by her father’s name.
Another naming pattern is Anita Rachel Mathew where Anita is a formal given name chosen by the parents, Rachel is the biblical and baptismal name and Mathew is father's name. The given first names can be of any origin and many Syrian Christians give Indian names like Neethu, Deepa etc. to their children.

Use of initials

When initials are used, abbreviations of the family name or house name (name of the plot where the parents of the child live at the time of birth) and the father’s name are given before the given name. For example, the name P.M. Thomas means Palakkappilly (family name), Mathew’s (father’s name) son, Thomas (given name). His sister’s name will be P.M. Rachel.

Other forms

When family name or house name need to be used, it comes first followed by the given name. As an example, P.M. Thomas is, Palakkappilly Thomas Mathew or Palakkappilly P.M.Thomas.


Hypocoristic (Pet names) are often used in a familiar and friendly manner in informal situations. In more formal situations, the given name is to be used instead. This alludes to the fact that using a person's pet name betokens familiarity. Pet names for Syrian Christians can be Hindu, Arabic or Biblical in nature

Order in giving names

For Boys

Male names are patronymic.
The first born is given the name of his paternal grandfather.
The second born is given the name of his maternal grandfather.
The third born is given the name of one of his uncles.

For girls

Female names are matronymic.
The first born is given the name of her paternal grandmother.
The second born is given the name of her maternal grandmother.
The third born is given the name of one of her aunts.


The last name (father’s name) changes with each generation. The family name would also change if members who move out of their consanguineal family homes with the changing ownership of property upon the death of the patriarch decides to adopt a new name. However, several families claim that they are ancient and their family names have remained unchanged for centuries.
The Syrian Christians who have migrated to Western nations tend to choose surnames which can either be the family name or the father's name will be used as a surname.

Common names

The mother tongue of Nasranis is Malayalam. So the names given in the following lists are in phonetic spelling. But the first one, given under ‘’Other names,’’ shows how that name is usually written in English. The two lists include the names of a few common names that are in use, and they are not comprehensive. To know the correct pronunciation of these names, see Malayalam script or Tiberian vocalization.

Male names

Name Other names English
Avraaham Abraham, Avraham, Averaan, Averaachen, Aviraa Abraham
Chaacko Chacko, Yaaqov, Yaakub, Yaakob Jacob
Chaandy Chandy, Idiculla Alexander
Daniyel Daniel, Dhaaniel Daniel
Eappen Eapen, Esthappan, Punnoose, Uthup Stephen
Eisow Easow, Eyochan Jesus
Ittac Ittak, Itty Isaac
Ittyavirah Ittiyerah (= Itty-Avira) Issac Abraham
Iyob Iyochen, Ivachan, Yoppan Job
Kossy Koshi, Koshy Joshua
Kurian Kurien, Kora, Kuriaan, Koruth, Kuriakkose, Kuruvila Kurian, Cyrus, Kyriakos(Greek), Cyriac
Lukose Lukachen Luke
Mathaayi Mathai, Mathen, Mathoo, Mathew, Mathualla Matthew
Piyliypaos Philipose, Peely, Pothan, Poonan Philip
Pathrose Peter, Pathappan, Peeri Peter
Paulose Paul, Poulose, Paulo, Piley Paul
Samuel Samuel, Sam Samuel
Thoma Thomas, Tom, Thommy, Thommi, Thommen, Mammen, Oommen, Thampan Thomas
Varughese Varghese, Varky, Varkey, Vareethu, Geevarghese, Geevarughese, Vakkachan George
Yohannaan Yohannan, Johannan, Lonan, Lonappan, Ninan, Ulahannan John
Yosef Ouseph, Oauseph, Yoseph, Iype, Outha, Ittoop, Kunjeppu, Joppan, Eapan Joseph
Zacharria Zacharia, Skarriah, Karriah, Karriaan, Cheriyan, Kuncheria, Scaria Zachariah

Female names

Name Other names English
Aaleyaamma Aeley, Aeleykutty Kunjaeley, Kochaeley, Elisa, Elia, Elacha, Eliamma, Elsy Elizabeth
Accamma Achaama, Acca, Reba, Raca Rebecca
Annamma Annamma, Hanna, Anna Hannah
Mariamma Mariaamma,Mariya Mary
Raahelamma Rachel, Raahel Rachel
Saramma Saaramma, Saara, Sarah Sarah
Sosamma Sosaamma, Susamma, Susy, Sosa, Susan Susan
Thresiamma Thresia, Teresa, Treesa, Terisa, Kochuthresia Teresa
All the above names are sometimes expanded by adding koch, kunju, kutty and mol before or after each name.
Names are sometimes selected from Malayalam language, and are used as pet names, like
Chinnamma, Kunjamma, Pennamma, Ponnamma, Thankamma.

Table of kinship terms

Family circle Term of reference Term of Address
Great-grandfather Valiya-valiyappachen Valiyappachaa
Grandfather valiyappachen, Appappan Valiyappachaa, Appappa
Greatgrandmother Valiya-valiyammachi Valiyammachi
Grandmother Valiyammachi, Ammama Valiyammachi, Ammame
Father Appachen, Appan, Chachan Appachaa, Appa, Chacha
Mother Ammachi, Amma Ammachi, Amme
Stepmother Randanamma Kochamma
Uncle Achachan, Ammavan, Valyappan, Cheriyappan, Perappan Achacha, Ammava, Valyappa, Cheriyappa, Perappa
Aunt Ammayi, Valyamma, Cheriyamma Ammayi, Valyamme, Cheriyamme
Eldest brother Valiyachayan, Achayan, Chetettan Valiyachayaa, Achayaa, Chettetta
Elder brother (name) Achayan, Achachan, Chettan (name) Achayaa, Achachaa, Chetta
Younger brother Aniyan (name)
Eldest sister Kochamma, Chechi, Valiya ammamma, Pengal Kochammei,Chechi, Pengalei
Elder sister (name) Chechi, Pengal (name) Chechi, Pengalei
Younger sister (name) (name)
Infants (both sexes) Kunju, Koch Kunjei, Koch
Son Makan, Mon Makanei
Daughter Makall, Mol Mollei
Grand child Perakutty

Grand son Kochumakan Mone
Grand daughter Kochumakal Mole