Bali’s four baby names: Wayan, Made, Nyoman, Ketut

Woman with bananas in Bali, Indonesia
Balinese woman with bananas

The island of Bali in Indonesia is home to more than four million people, and 93% of those people are part of Bali’s lowest and largest caste, the Sudra caste.

Families in the Sudra caste follow a very simple baby-naming tradition: they name their children according to birth order. Regardless of gender, the first-born child is named Wayan (pronounced why-ann), the second-born is named Made (mah-day), the third-born is named Nyoman, and the fourth-born is named Ketut.

And what if there are more than four children? The pattern is repeated: Wayan, Made, Nyoman, and Ketut. Though the second set may be named Wayan Balik, Made Balik, Nyoman Balik, and Ketut Balik — the word balik meaning “again.”

The first three names are derived from terms that refer to the oldest, middle, and last child in a family. This reflects a traditional belief that Balinese families should include no more than three children.

Ketut is based on the word ketuwut, meaning “to follow,” but also has a strong association with the word kitut, which refers to a little banana on the outer edge of a bunch of bananas (adorably).

Though some families do use alternative forms of the names — such as “Putu” for Wayan, “Kadek” for Made, and “Komang” for Nyoman — most stick with Wayan, Made, Nyoman, and Ketut.

So how long will Bali’s birth-order names be around? They’re very common on the island right now, but The Bali Times noted in 2013 that “many modern families name their children as they wish,” so they may not be as common in future generations.

Sources:

  • Do You Know the Meaning Behind Balinese Names?Bali Times 6 May 2013.
  • Pradhana, Ngurah Indra. “Contrastive Analysis: Names of Children Based on Birth Order in Japanese Culture and Balinese Culture.” Proceedings of the 2nd International Seminar on Translation Studies, Applied Linguistics, Literature and Cultural Studies, ed. by Neni Kurniawati, Sri Mulatsih, and Nina Setyaningsih, EAI Publishing, 2020, pp. 1-7.
  • Keeping Names Straight in Bali
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (for the pronunciations)

Photo by Nick Fewings from Unsplash

4 thoughts on “Bali’s four baby names: Wayan, Made, Nyoman, Ketut

  1. We had a very popular ad campaign here in Australia a few years ago featuring a romance between Australian woman Rhonda and Balinese man Ketut. It made Ketut a very recognisable name, mainly thanks to the iconic line “Kiss me Ketut!”

    Waltzing More Than Matilda recently reported that the actor who played Ketut (whose name is actually Kadek, as mentioned above!) has just had a son named Lenny :)

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