It has been several years since we have been working on our genealogy database / family tree. Working on it is reveling, and revealing as you end up learning a lot about ones own ancestry and the stories surrounding it. One of the factors which grab attention while updating the database are the names. On the upper steps of the ladder, the names are mostly repetitive. These are the traditional kerala christian names, which have been handed over through generations, and have been used extensively until 1950s/independence (eg: Kunnappallil descendancy chart through the generations).

Naming convention
The repetitive nature is mostly due to the naming convention followed: The eldest son/daughter carrys the name of the paternal grand father/mother. The second son/daughter carrys the name of the maternal grand father/mother. If you summarise these names, you can see that all those widely used kerala christian names count upto just a few, like ~25 for males and ~10 for females. A compilation of these names, with their origin, have been given in tabular form below.

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,
Oommen
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,
Kochuthresia

Hw. Hebrew, Gr. Greek, Lt. Latin, Rm. Roman, Ar. Armenian, Ir. Irish, Ger. Germanian, Sp. Spanish
It is to be noted that the origin mentioned here is not the immediate origin from where the malayalam name originated, but the root of the name. The english equivalents given here are those used locally (in Kerala). Hovering your mouse over the english equivalents will give the extended meanings of the respective names.

There are still other kerala christian names out there, and do comment us about them. Yet to identify the origin of names like Dummini, Outha, Kuriakose (Cyril or Cyriac?) etc., if there are any. There is a school of thought which says that ‘Itty’ is used as a prefix, like kutty, kunju etc. For example, usage of Itty Ipe, Itty Avirah etc could be analogous to Kutty Varkey, Kunju Ipe, etc. Hence do not take this list as conclusive or exhaustive.

Transition in the naming style
The transition beyond the 1950s (post independence) brought a multitude of names to the kerala christian name group, from simply the english quivalents (eg: George, Thomas) to the two-syllabled names (Sunny, Lisy) to the combination of parents’ names (eg: child of Sunny and Lisy will be Susy) to all kind of possible sounds! Sometimes while updating the database, I have the names but I would get stuck in identifying the gender of the person. Like, in our genealogy database of 2200+ (current figures), there are 9 of which I could not identify the gender by name.

Reference:
1. genealogy.rocksea.org
2. behindthename.com
3. Cross reference: The Syrian Christians by S.G. Pothen; from an article by Nidhin Olikara on nasrani.net.

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