Balinese Names Explained
After spending some time on Bali you will quickly come realise that everybody seems to have the same name. The genuine hospitality of the Balinese people makes it very easy to meet and make friends with the open hearts of the Island. Learn the meanings of their names and how to address them politely!
Balinese Names are based on birth order
The answer to your question why there are so many “Wayan’s” lies in the Balinese culture (find out more about the Balinese culture). Their tradition is to name their children depending on the order they are born, no matter if it is a girl or a boy.
1st born child
Wayan, Putu, Gede, Ni Luh (which is the only female name!),
2nd BORN CHILD
3rd BORN CHILD
4th BORN CHILD
What if a family has more than 4 Kids?
Glad you asked! If a family has more than four children, the cycle repeats itself from the beginning.
How do Teachers in Bali call their students without making 1/4th of the class speak up?
Good thing is that Balinese people mostly get a second and third name. But don’t mistake it with the last name or family name as we know it, they are individually chosen. Usually, a nickname develops from this name such as Nari from Nariani or Darma from Darmayasa. The second name can also be a good indicator whether you are dealing with a woman or man, as female names often end with “i” and male names with “a”.
You might meet descendants of the King!
Some Balinese people have names that imply their caste to show pride in there heritage.
Names of Ksatria caste – Aristocrats & warriors
- Gusti Ngurah (male) & Gusti Ayu (female)
- Anak Agung (male) & Anak Agung Ayu or Anak Agung Istri (female)
- Tjokorda (male) & Tjokorda Istri (female)
- Ida I Dewa, Dewa Agung or I Dewa (male) & I Dewa Ayu or Desak (female)
Names of Brahmana caste – highest priest
- Ida Bagus (for men)
- Ida Ayu (for women)
How can I address a person respectfully?
If you are a stranger you should always address them with Mr. or Mrs. which can be used by itself or in front of their name. This is what you use in the Indonesian language:
- Pak or Bapak for mature men. Bapak also means father!
- Bu or Ibu for mature women. Ibu also means mother!
- Bli (in Balinese) or Mas (in Indonesian) for younger men. This also means brother!
- Mbok (in Balinese) or Mbak (in Indonesian) for younger women. This also means sister!
- If you know the name: Makasih Pak Made = Thank you Mr. Made
- If you don’t know the name (for example at a local restaurant): Saya mau bayar Mbak = I would like to pay Miss!
How can I tell if Wayan is male or female?
You may have come across the prefix “I” or “Ni”. In the old days, this was used to indicate the gender. For example, a man would be called “I Wayan”, whereas a woman would be named “Ni Wayan”. Nowadays this name prefix has become a bit old-fashioned, making it harder to determine the gender when only hearing the name or seeing it in writing. Learn more about other challenges you might have coming to Bali!
Meet Wayan, Meet Made, Meet Nyoman, Meet Ketut.
Especially when staying on Bali, you will meet many people who have the same name. Travel around and meet the true jewels of Bali. Meet the locals!