When you are in Bali, you often hear similar names here among the Balinese your encounter, such as Wayan, Made, Nyoman, Ketut, Ida Bagus, etc. Apparently every name has a story behind it.
Let’s start with the title “I” and “Ni” in Balinese. The letter I before the first name Wayan, for example, is the gender title for male. While “Ni” is the gender title for female. I and Ni also means that the person is male or female from laymen status, he or she doesn’t have caste or usually called as “jaba” people. If they are born to a blacksmith family, this person would be named Pande. If they have the title of Ida Bagus before their name Wayan, that means they are born to a Brahmana family. Ida Bagus means the Handsome or Respected One. If their title is Anak Agung, it shows that they are from royal family.
The name Wayan is derived from the word “wayahan” which means the mature one. The title for the second child is Made, derived from the word “Madia” which means middle. The third child, is etymologically taken from the word “uman” that means “left over” or “the last one”. So, according to Balinese, a family should only have three children. After three they are suggested to be “wiser”.
Unfortunately, in the olden days, traditional herbs and medicine couldn’t really effectively serve as birth control, coitus interuptus often failed, and abortion was frowned upon, so a couple could possibly end up having more than three children.
The fourth child is called Ketut. It is derived from ancient word “Kitut”, which means a small banana on the outmost part of a banana pile. He is the beloved “bonus” child. Because of the recent birth control program encouraged by the government, nowadays less people in Bali could be found with the name Ketut. That was why, there is a concern of some Balinese that this beloved nickname would extinct soon.
When birth control failed, and a family ends up with more than four children, the cycle repeats itself.
The fifth child would be named Wayan, the sixth one is Made, and so on. But, when talking specific, the Balinese have synonyms for the older children;
For Wayan the synonyms are Putu, Kompiang or Gede;
as for Made: they are Kadek or Nengah;
and for Nyoman: it is Komang.
Ketut, the special one, doesn’t have a synonym
Just like Javanese, Balinese don’t have family names or surnames. So from Western perspective, Balinese only have first names. This was convenient for balinese a long time ago, since they could be anonymous during wars and other turmoils. For example a royal family could claim to be a layman and escape from their enemy after losing a battle. This means their descendants would have to use that (lower) title for the rest of their lives too.
Even though they don’t have surnames, some Balinese clearly add a surname or sub family name like Dusak, Pendit, etc, after their first names. For example, Wayan Sujana Pendit. In modern times, family names become more important for processing passports, or to live overseas. Some progressive Balinese families would create new surnames, often taken from a highly-educated or “successful” father.
It seems a lot of things have changed in Bali, compared to the past.