Balinese names

When you are in Bali, you will probably hear the same Balinese names all the time, which might confuse you. Don’t worry; it is confusing, and we will try to explain this in this blog.

All Balinese people are named after these four names: Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut, applied to both men and women. Here’s how it works:

Every Balinese child is named by their order of birth. The firstborn, boy or girl, is Wayan. The second born is Made (pronounced ma day). The third born is Nyoman. And the fourth born is Ketut. If a family has more than four children, the cycle repeats itself, and the subsequent ‘Wayan’ may be called Wayan Balik, which loosely translates to ‘another Wayan’.

Women are given the honorific ‘Ni’ before their name, as in Ni Wayan. It’s much like ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’. Men use ‘I’, as in I Wayan, much like ‘Mr.’

A few versions of these four names exist and are used quite commonly. Some Balinese people have names that indicate their caste.

The firstborn child could alternately be named Putu, and the second child could be named Kadek or Nengah instead of Made. The third could be Komang (or Koming for girls) or even NgNga (a very rural name) instead of Nyoman. However, the 4th child (and multiples of 4th) is destined to be Ketut and only Ketut. For girls, however, there is another name for the firstborn; Luh (which makes it Ni Luh, usually called Iluh). A firstborn boy can be called Gede, which only applies to boys, which makes it I Gede.

Balinese people also give their children a second or third Hindu name with 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.

To make it even more confusing, almost every Balinese has another nickname given by their friends in school or the village. For example, a man called I Made Budiasa can have the nickname of Lompok. Or a girl named Ni Wayan Wardani can have the nickname of Desi.

It also happens that one person has different names called by different people. For example, our local coordinator Komang. Her full name is Ni Komang Sukaningsih. By some people, she is called Komang, and by others, Ayu.

We know this all sounds very confusing. However, experience tells us that the Balinese have few misunderstandings about it. Sometimes people will say, “You can ask Made”. If the person is not sure which Made they mean, they could ask, “Do you mean Made Budi? Or Made Guru (teacher)? Or Made Peliatan (village)”. Don’t feel ashamed if you get the names or persons mixed up.

To summarize it:

Firstborn: Wayan, Putu, Luh (girl), Gede (boy)

Second born: Made, Kadek, Nengah

Third born: Nyoman, Komang, Koming (girl), NgNga (very rural, hardly used)

Fourth born: Ketut

We hope you now understand how the name system works in Bali. For Balinese from a different castes, names are different as well. But that will be too much information to read at once, so please keep following our blogs to learn more.