Names, Middle Names and Last Names among the Syrian Christians

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A syrian christian takes his own name which is the name of his paternal grandfather, the name of his father  and his house or ‘tharavad’ name.

He may make any of these his surname and hence he may be G.J. Olikara, ‘G’ for Gevarghese (name of paternal grandfather),  ‘J’ for John(name of father) and ‘Olikara’ for name of his ancestral house from where the line of his paternal family descends. He may be the son of O.G. John, ‘O’ for Olikara(name of the house), ‘G’ for Gevarghese (name of father) and ‘J’ for John(name of paternal grandfather).

It was customary that the eldest son be given the name of his paternal grandfather and the eldest daughter the name of her maternal grandmother. The second son bears the name of his maternal grandfather  and the second daughter bears the name of her maternal grandmother.

This naming convention is also seen among the Sephardic Jews, whose customs may have been imbibed by the Syrian Christians in kerala.

As a general rule, the Syrian Christians bear names which are biblical. It is interesting to record that despite Decree XVI of the Synod of Diamper of 1599, which forbade the use of old testament names, for 400 years after this date the Syrian Christians still continued using such names, though through usage they became Indianised.

Some common Syrian Christian names are:

For Men: (Thomma, Thoman, Mamman, Oommen) from Thomas, (Chacko, Yakob) from Jacob, (Pathros, Pathe, Pathappan) from Peter, (Yohannan, Lonan, Ninan) from John, (Mathai, Mathan, Mathu, Mathulla) from Mathew, (Yesoph, Ouseph, Outha, Ipe) from Joseph, (Koshy, Easo) from Joshua, (Abragam, Avraham, Avrachan, Itty) from Abraham, (Ittack) from Isaac, (Lukose) from Luke, (Philipose, Pothan, Pothen, Poonen) from Philip, (Paulose, Piley) from Paul, (Chandy, Chandi, Idichandy)  from Alexander, (Iyob, Iyoben, Eapen) from Job, (Cheriyan, Kurien, Kuriakose) from Zachariah, (Verghese, Vargisa, Varkey, Varied, Geverghese) from George, (Kuruvilla) from Korah.

For Women: (Mariam, Maria, Mariamma) from Mary, (Akka, Rabka, Raca, Akkamma) from Rebecca, (Rahel, Rahelamma) from Rachel, (Susanna, Sosa, Sosamma, Achi, Achamma) from Susan, (Saramma) from Sara, (Elspeth, Elisa, Elia, Elacha, Eliamma) from Elizabeth.

This ‘nativising’ of root Greek, Latin and Hebrew names can be seen in all the ancient chrurches like the Ethiopian, Slavic as well as the Armenian ones.

In kerala, the Syrian Christians are known by the distinguishing nomenclature of ‘Nasrani Mappilas’. They also shared with the Nairs some honorific titles. The word ‘Tharagan’ or ‘tariff collector’ is a title that some families bear. Similarly, ‘Panikkar’ which denotes proficiency in arms is a title borne by certain Nasrani families. In and around Quilon, there is a group of families claiming descent from the fourth century Syrian immigrants and this group has the title ‘Muthalaly’ in common among them.

Many Syrian Christian families followed a unique custom that they shared with the kerala Hindus of adopting a male member  into their family on his marrying a girl from theirs. The boy would then carry the family name of his wife. This would mostly happen when a family had no male heirs to carry on the family name.

The most popular name among the Syrian Christians was George. This was on account of the popularity of this name in Asia Minor where the tomb of George exists in Jaffa, Palestine. He was revered as a ‘Punyavalan’ in kerala.

However in recent times it is normal for the child to take the surname of his  father  or to use the family name as his surname. The discarding of Biblical names to be replaced with Sanskritised names is also being seen in increasing frequency.

Reference: The Syrian Christians: S.G. Pothen

My thanks to Amprayil for the important input.

Author Nidhin Olikara can be reached on olikara at gmail dot com

Comments (171)
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  • Alex

    Dear sirs,
    would you please share with us the root meaning of syrian christian names such as Koshy, ninan, oommen, chandy etc..

  • George

    Hi Alex,
    The shortened version Alexander is sandy.
    Chandy must be the Malayalam version of Sandy.

    • Jacob

      Hi Alex, I do not think so. I don’t think Chandy is a derivative of Sandy. Chandy is a traditional Nasrani name. There could not have been any English influence then.

      Sandy is a pretty new name that is of English origin used by Malayali Christians parents to name their boy. It is not all that common, either. Even Alexanders are not pet-named Sandy. My own brother is Alexander but my parents pet-named him called Joey instead.

      From some 65 odd years ago, I hardly heard the name Sandy being used even as a pet-name among Nasrani Christians. Having grown up in Malaysia and Singapore in the 1950’s there were only a handful of Sandys that I knew who were younger than me. And that was due to the exposure we got to the British and living outside India. The name Sandy was not in use among our people India, though the Anglo-Indians might have used the name. there were not much English influence in Kerala.

      So Chandy could not have been born out of an English shortened name. Absolutely no chance.

      The name Chandy must have come from Middle eastern or Persian or even from local adaptation of the name Alexander.


      Jacob Idicula Muthalaly

      • George Menachery

        Chandy is Alexander. Parambil Chandy was called Alexander de Campo. Cf. article by Joseph Koengaden, “Culture and Traditions of Thomas Christians,” in The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Ed. George Menachery, Vol. 2, 1973, Left Col.pp.127-Left Col. 131, alias The Thomapedia Ed. George Menachery, 2000. Also George Menachery, Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage.

  • cheriyan

    Again another thought full topic, thanks for sharing this information.

  • Mathew

    Good work!!…Biblical names substitued with sanskrited names is ok..but with just ryhing words is funny…..and it doesnot even have a meaning….jincy priny ..jerin jobin jibin…sibi simi.shanu manu .The meaning ful christian names shouldnot be substitued with meaning less string of rhyming words…..Now a days any two syllabes joined together forms a syrian christian name!!!!!

  • Teby John Sam

    the future generation should understand the values of such gr8 syrian names nd should start the whole process from square one .Thanx 4 such enlightening information

  • Kuruvilla

    Thanks for the apt paraphrasing of S. G Pothen’s “The Syrian Christians of Kerala” Ch V. Well done.
    What about the origins of Nazranee names he
    hasn’t listed, like Kuruvilla, Korula, Koruthu,

  • Jayant

    Thanks for the information. I am new to Kerala and now I understand the true meaning of such beautiful Christian names.But most of my friends have names such as Tiji, Siji, Aji, Liji, Biju, Shiji, and so on and its so difficult to understand as to whether they are boys or girls.

  • Anooja

    thanks for the info..i too agree fully with
    mathew about the two syllable names. My
    mother’s name is lysamma andmy dad thankachan.
    my mom told me that an aunt of mine suggested
    to name me liti. i still thank them for
    rejecting the suggestion 🙂

  • tovorinok


    Great book. I just want to say what a fantastic thing you are doing! Good luck!


  • Jacob Idiculas

    Excellent. I have always wanted to know a little about my family name MUTHALALY. You have shed some light. Thanks.

    I have been wanting to know what my name meant. Where did we get IDICULA from? Please help.

  • Iype

    It is written that the name ipe comes from Joseph. Can anybody elaborate on that or suggest some links.

    • alfred t.

      ipe is JOSEPH

  • amprayil

    In S. G Pothen’s “The Syrian Christians of Kerala” (Asia Publishing House, New York, published in 1962 I believe) Ch V deals with SYRIAN CHRISTIAN NAMES. Here, several Syrian Christian names and their equivalents are listed; this includes “Joseph (Yesoph, Ouseph, Ipe)”.
    Trust this is helpful.

  • Romeo Varghese

    The information on origin of names was so informative and eye opening and I was seeking after this information for long. I propose my sincere and special thanks for your valuable information and I really acknowledge that your work is really commendable and deserve special mention. May God Bless You.

  • amprayil


    In his book ‘The Syrian Christians of Kerala’, S.G. Pothen outlines the Nazranee Syrian Christian convention of naming children as follows:
    “The first or eldest son is given the name of his paternal grandfather and the eldest daughter the name of her paternal grandmother. The second son bears the name of his maternal grandfather and the second daughter the name of her maternal grandmother. There is freedom of choice in naming other children, who are sometimes given the names of uncles and aunts.”

    In fact in the case of Nazranee children what has been traditionally observed is that after the grandparents’ names have been given in the sequence outlined above, the next to be given are the names of uncles and aunts on the paternal side first and then the maternal side.

    Compare this with the naming conventions among the Sephardic Jews. mentions:
    Common Sephardic Naming conventions
    Firstborn son named after the paternal grandfather,
    second male child after the maternal grandfather,
    first daughter named after the paternal grandmother,
    second female child after the maternal grandmother,
    next child after the paternal uncle or aunt,
    next after maternal uncle/aunt,

    The similarity is amazingly clear! This is just one of the several Hebrew-Jewish customs & traditions the Nazranees have been practicing for generations, often unaware of the Hebrew link and their Hebrew heritage…

  • Olikara

    That was an important point. I have added it to the article.

    Jacob Idiculas
    Idiculla should be a derivative of Itty.

    Kuruvilla would have been derived from Korah, son of Esau.

    Thank you.

    • Jacob Idiculas


      Re: Idiculla should be a derivative of Itty.

      Thanks. I have read / heard that before…

      Interesting but I have a bit of difficulty in fathoming that…. How could a longer name be a derivative of a shorter name? Nevertheless, thanks again.

  • sally panicker

    Just stumbled on this. Now I am really into discovering about the Syrian Christian religion and its rich history.
    This one gives talks about our last names.Thanks

  • SamuelJacob

    I am a Syrian Christian; my brother’s first name is KOSHY.
    It is a common name among Kerala Christians often wondered is it connected to any biblical name? Can some one help?

  • Joseph George

    Dear Samuel Jacob,

    You read the article once again. It is already mentioned there that “Koshy” and “Easo” came out from the Biblical name “Joshua”.


  • Alphy Koonthily

    The surname Devassy and Devassia are I believe derived from St. Sebastian/Sebastianos/Devasianos

  • Mathew George

    My Grand Father’s name was “Ipe” and was wondering from where this name came. Now I got it. The common name among Syrian Christians namely “Thankachan, Ponnachan , Aniyankunju, Achankunju” etc. also to be sorted out.
    Thanks for the information on names, titles etc.
    Mathew (Aniyankunju)

  • kuruvillechan

    thank you, olikara, for that splendid catalogue of suriani kristhiyani names and their variants and western equivalents!

    is it not true, however, that ‘john’ came from ‘yohannan’ rather than the other way round? i suspect that the british have been mispronouncing christian names for centuries. notice that the northern european pronunciation is closer to the original hebrew; for example, in german, the ‘j’ is invariably pronounced just as an english ‘y’ is, and ‘johan’ is pronounced as ‘yohan,’ which is nearly the same as the hebrew name.

    i didn’t know that korah is/was a hebrew name. still, i wondered how korah evolved into kuruvilla. here’s my possibly not-so-credible attempt at showing the evolutionary sequence:

    korah –> korappiLLa (young korah? similar to chanDappiLLa) –> korupilla –> korubilla –> koruvilla –> kuruvilla.

    voila! kuruvoila!!


  • Olikara


    You are right. John is the english form of Iohannes, which was the Latin form of the Greek name Ιωαννης (Ioannes), itself derived from the Hebrew name יוֹחָנָן (Yochanan) meaning “YAHWEH is gracious”.


    However what I wanted to illustrate here is what Syrian Christian names actually stand for. Yohannan is certainly the root for John but when it comes to relating names one ( a layman, not a linguist) often relates it to the commonly heard Western ones, in this case Yohannan relates to John.

    Yes you seem to have got how Kuruvilla came from the root Korah too. You find Korah in the book of Genesis as the son of Esau.

    Incidentally, Pilla in old Tamil (incidentally the spoken language in kerala till 600-800 A.D. when a gradual sanskritisation of our language started) also mean ‘respectable man’.

    Thank You for the useful comments again.

  • sanju

    very wonderful and informative article just wondering the origins of 2 common nasrani names cyriac & joy

    • kunjethy

      Cyriac is the Western version of our Kuriakose (Kurian) or vice versa. When the Portuguese arrived the most popular baptismal names in Kerala were Gheevarghese (George, Vareed, Varghese, Varkey…), Kuriakose, and perhaps Thomas (Thommy, Thoma, Kunjithomman…). Remember the phrase “Chandy ayayumbol Thomman murukum.”

  • Madhu

    Thank you Olikara for this illuminating post!

    One of my great, great grandfathers was called Istakkiachan, and I presume Istakki is another variant of Isaac (Yitzhak).

    But I sincerely doubt that Kuriakose is derived from Zechariah. It is instead from the Greek name Kuriakos, meaning ‘belonging to the Lord’. In English it is sometimes spelt as Cyriac.

    I had a great-uncle who was called Scaria, which is undoubtedly a form of Zechariah.

    Is it certain that Kurien is from Zechariah? I always thought it was a Malayalam contraction of Kurios (Lord). My great grandfather was a Kurien, and I was always told that it meant we were descendants of priests or bishops. Does anyone have any information on this?

  • mathew oommen

    very interesting ,but its difficult to figure out how names like mammen or oommen derive from thomas could u elaborate

  • joseph alexander

    I always thought Eapen was a derivative of Stephen, the first deacon and martyr.

  • amprayil

    My understanding has been that Kuruvilla and Korula are derived from Koorilose (Cyril) and not necessarily from Korah, but I am open to correction if it can be proved otherwise.

    Regarding Mammen and Oommen, they could have been derived from Thommen which is but another form of Thomas.

  • John Mathew

    Is there any information on the origin of the name “Cherian”? Is there an Armenian connection there? Or is it something else?

  • amprayil

    I understand most Armenian surnames end with an “ian”. It is the “ian” ending in “Cherian” that makes many (including some Armenians) mistake it to be an Armenian name…
    The Syrian Christian / Nazranee name Cherian, and also Kuncheria, Karia and Scariah, are understood to be derived from Zachariah.

  • Kuruvilla

    The name Kuruvilla is a derivative of kuriakose which was the youngest saint recognized by the eary church…the story goes that this six year old boy named Kuriakose was being burned at stake with his mother for not renouncing their faith. The legend says that the six year old convinced his mother to not give up her faith as they were being burned alive.

    St.Kuriakose and his mother St.Uleethy is mentioned in the Indian Orthodox church writings. If anyone has the time and zeal, please do check into this.

    God Bless

  • shelly Pannapara

    Naming a child after their grandparents doesnot strike a chord with me. It seems a trifle repetitive and boring to me apart from the routine cultural lingo attached to the naming ceremonies.

    for e.g. a male child who has a name Joseph Thomas Chalil, his father’s name would be Thomas Joseph Chalil, his grandfather’s name Joseph Thomas Chalil. so you can see it seems a little silly to me and this particular pattern would have been repeated ad infinitum.

    I feel that there must have been a shortage of adequate christian names during the older times where as today there are plenty of good christian names avoiding the intials which go as names today. Some people say it’s a honour to the parents but there are different ways of honouring your father/mother that too in a age where many don’t care for their parents in their trying times. Also nowadays many have a single child.

    Carrying on the family name I feel is more honourable than many who hide their family names and show their father’s name as surname which they feel is more decipherable to others and thus avoid the embarrassing situations there long surnames create.

  • John Mathew

    RE: “I feel that there must have been a shortage of adequate christian names during the older times where as today there are plenty of good christian names”

    I don’t see how the number of “Christian” names would have ever increased or decreased across time. The number of Christian names now equals the number of Christian names five centuries ago which equals the number of Christian names twenty centuries ago.

    Of course, what makes a name “Christian” anyways?

  • Jackson


    To add one’s paternal grandparent’s name is a community tradition and atleast today, this name is limited to, as a baptismal name (palliperu) for church records. Children are given another name for other purposes keeping the grandparents name in church records and still preserving the tradition.

    Since we have this option of having both ‘baptismal name’ and ‘given name’ it shouldn’t be a big problem nor carry any marks of boredom or confusion. We can always be innovative and still preserve originality.

    And as u have said nowadays family names have been omitted. There is a reason for this in many cases. For those residing/settled outside Kerala it is better we avoid adding the family name.

    From my personal case, I earlier had my family name added to my name for all purposes here in Mumbai. Then most of the locals here including official documents, due to their negligence/non-understandability, generally make spelling mistakes in the family name as it’s difficult for them to pronounce or write exactly, which ultimately leads to a lot of legal hasles later… name changes, corrections, etc… I had faced this problem many times. Finally I opted to add my father’s name in place of surname.

    Another thing u must note is, Nasranis don’t have a “surname” system as such, like there are surnames like Nair, Nambudiri, Menon, Khan, Sheikh, D’ Souza, Pinto, etc….. which indicates origins besides family. So our system of family name is different from the ‘surname system’.
    Also note, nairs have a family name as well as the surname tag ‘Nair’ added to their name but we dont have anything like that !

    We may probably think of adopting a common surname like “Nasrani” besides individual family names otherwise an arguement like “surname” for us is not justified by calling our family names as surnames 😉

    The concept of ‘surname’ is different outside Kerala though ‘family name’ sounds overlapping.

    • Jacob Idicula Muthalaly

      To the statement “Nasranis don’t have a “surname” system as such, like there are surnames like Nair, Nambudiri, Menon, Khan, Sheikh, D’ Souza, Pinto, etc….. which indicates origins besides family. So our system of family name is different from the ‘surname system’.”

      Read more:

      Please note there are some Nasrani names that take a sort of “surname” like Nair, Nambudiri, Menon, Khan, Sheikh, ( not sure about D’ Souza and Pinto)….

      They are: Muthalaly, Tharakan, Panicker, Vaidyan, etc… (in some places names, up North names like Avira, etc. These are heriditary titles given to ancient families in places like Quilon, Thevalakara, Kundara, Adoor and so on … Others who have a better knowledge may explain.
      further. Respectfully and Thanks. Jacob+

  • Eskay

    Another convention I have seen in southern kerala.

    FamilyName followed by fathersName and last is yourName (which is mostly grandfathers name or some other respected patriarch of the family). This I have seen in our fathers generation pre-independance.

    Did anybody observe this?

    As far as the name and order is concerned, nasrani traditions are very confusing indeed.

  • Eskay

    The name Koshy

    I cannot see how it came from Joshua

    I thought it came from kosher??

  • Jackson

    Hi all,

    There are many family names which sound not of local origin nor have any meaning in Malayalam or Tamil. Similarly some others sound very obscure or even out-of-the-world as a Keralite. What could be the origins of such family names ?

    Another thing which struck me is the Syrian xian family name ‘Koreth’ which is seen in Trichur dist. Firstly this has no meaning in local language if Im not wrong. Secondly I was searching for its prevalence in other languages and found one surprisingly….

    The famous Judas, the traitor, is called as Judas “Iscariot”. Iscariot, is the family name of Judas and thats the english translation family name. In Aramiac language, Iscariot is ‘Koreth’. This can be found as footnotes in the english RSV Bible.

    So could that Suriani family name ‘Koreth’ have any Aramaic origins since its not of local origin sounding or meaning ?

    So also many ancient Biblical place names (and therefore may be these were taken as family names by the then people) in and around early ‘Greater Israel’ area end in “-eth” or “-ath”. This suffix has a Hebrew-Aramaic origin. And many Malayalam family names end in “-ath” or “-eth” too. So does this tradition of family names in Malayalam has an influence from the Aramaic language usage of the suffixes ? Sanskrit or Tamil language doesn’t have such a usage or addage to indicate a place/surname.
    (Again if Im not wrong this suffix to family names or surnames is not used outside Kerala)

    There are many more such family names which are meaningless and origins remain a mystery….

  • Eskay

    Jackson: Koreth and Korah. Now we have a fair idea where it came from. Nice post.. interesting..

    Also the family name ending with ‘eth’ may be true! Mine is one of that.


    I heard a theory of Mahabali being a christian. And I found that Onam is an OT personal name!

  • Eskay

    I am not speculating any wild theory my dear folks (about previos post last line).. just mentioned and may not ever have any relevance.. 🙂

    An interseting article for the folks in and around cochin:


  • Thomas T Alex

    Where does the name eapen come from?Are Syrian christians genetically related to Jews of Israel or are they converts?

  • M Thomas Antony

    Dear all,

    You have to understand that Koruth is not a surname. It is either his name or his father’s name. Hence it could be a name with hebrew origin. It looks like Koruth is a vaiant pronunciation of kuriakose-kuruvila-cyril etc as proposed by Kuruvilla earlier in the thread.

    Regarding the convention of family name- father’s name- your name, it is a way of telling the name in the old malayalam. eg. *****veettilil thomas varghese means****veettilil varghese ‘s son thomas. especially in official documents etc.

  • Jackson

    Dear Thomas Antony,

    I was not speaking of “Koruth”, but “Koreth”. And ‘Koreth’ is surely a family name, not a name of an individual. I have a Nasrani family friend who has that family name (veetumperu) hence I presented it here. Sounds interesting …

    This is found in Thrissur area, I dont know about its prevalance down south.

  • M Thomas Antony

    Dear Jackson,

    You may be correct. I have heard of family names like karettu etc which means “in a higher land”

    Did we have a convention of keeping surnames in south india ? Even family names ? As far as I understand, south indians adopt a family name from the place they live. even when they move. For example, a paddy farm near to my family house is about 350 para area- 35 acres. All the people living around this farm use 350-il chira as their house name for all official purposes. Many of the family names in Kuttanadu originated like this. When they move to another area where they have 38 para of farm, the name changes to 38 parayil !!
    Nair, pillai etc are not surnames, they are caste names. There are tharakans, mappilas, panicker etc which are surnames granted by kings to certain individuals. We can see panicker in christian, nair, ezhava etc communities.
    I agree there were famous family names like pakalomattom kalikavu shankarapuri etc.

    Re Eskay’s comment about the convention of family name- father’s name- individual’s name, this is seen in all communities including christians and hindus. This may have originated from the traditional document writers- adharam ezhuthukar- to identify and document an individual correctly as a verbal picture like ***** veettil varughese ‘s son thomas..

  • James C J

    There exists some naming practices ( Family names )among Northists in our premises (Ayarkunnam) like Karutha Puthiyidam / Velutha Puthiyidam, Velutha Naduviledam/ karutha Naduviledam ……………..

  • Joseph George

    The name Muthalali.

    Some time before I was reading a book titled “Killing Mr. Lebanon” written by Nicholas Blanford, published in 2006 by I.B.Tauris &Co. Ltd. It is a book on the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Mr. Rafik Hariri.

    Something caught my attention in the Preface of the book. On page ix, I read thus:

    “…… and helping facilitate interviews; I am also indebted to Amal MUDALLALI for helping arrange key interviews with the Hariri family and staff; enormous thanks go to Joshua Landis………………”

    So here we find a Lebanese lady (yes, I checked and Amal is a female name in Lebanon) using the surname “MUDALLALI” !!!

    And we thought we got this name from Kollam!!!

    This is worth an investigation.

  • George Mathew

    Dear Jospeh,


    Good spotting Joseph and better still good judgement that we should await investigation.

    May I become a critic?

    Lebanon & Emirates General Land Transport
    Product & Services: TRANSPORT COMPANIES

    Address:P.O. Box 86605, Dubai, United Arab EmiratesTelephone:+971 4 3202455Fax:+971 4 3202466Email:customer.service@lebanon-emirates.aeKey Persons:Ahmed Mudall Ali – Managing Director


    Your information was interesting to me. So I went to Sherlock Holmes. Mr. Holmes told me that the name is ‘Mudall Ali’ and not ‘Muthalali’. The name malabari Muthalali is a name bestowed upon those favoured by the Rajas of yesteryears in Kerala apart from what it normally names, ie. ‘estate/shop/house/business owner’. (Mr. Holmes is my uncle and he never stops accusing me of spending/wasting too much time in knowing about my forefathers 2000 years ago while ignoring my relatives living today.)
    I just reached home after the discussion and the first thing I did was to hunt in Google and I got the above information and the site address. Mr Holmes was uncannily right. It is Mudall Ali and not Mudallali.

    …and you know, I like John because he is fighting for his faith. I love fighters even if he is my opponent. I enjoyed all with him.

    After I became (regained) ‘Nasrani’, little of matters of fatih bothers or threatens me. Is this awareness only in me or is it shared by all other ‘Nasranis’?

  • Anoop

    Ali means “the exalted one”.What does Mudall mean in Arabic or Aramaic?


    logic and reasoning in above posts commendable. would some one shed some details on
    names like Itty, Ittyerah, ittyavirah etc,

  • Eskay

    Itty – Issac – Issahac – ittak (Ithak)- itty

    Ittyerah, ittyavirah – Issac Abraham – Ittak Avaran – Ittyerah, ittyavirah

    Hope that helps

  • anon

    What about pappachan (and pappy)?

  • Eskay

    Pappachan (short pappy) – Pavam achayan(south)/achan(north)/appachan ?

  • anon

    Plausible. Thanks. I never thought it as a nick name!

  • benney

    Pappy may be from Bawa which means father . Pappy – Pappa – Bawa

  • Eskay

    Benney’s comments makes more sense

  • k.verghese

    On ‘Itty”, Ittyyerah etc.
    I asked a lot of ittys the origin and meaning of the name Itty. While a good no of them were ignorant of the meaning or the Christian equivalent of Itty, some were positive that Itty was Abraham. since they could not support this by any logic, I refused to accept that
    Then I realised that most of those ittys were actually Ittyyerahs or Itty Avirahs. since Avira is abraham, Ittyerahs were abrahams. When Ittyerah was shortened just to Itty, their chrisian names remained as abraham and they in turn felt that Itty was Abraham.
    However, we have Itty eipes, Itty cherias,etc Itty eipe is Eipe, Itty cheria is Cherian – and they are NOT abrahams. So what is Itty. Now we know that Itty is a prefix. say like “Kunju” in kunjumon, kunjchacko,Kuncheria etc. Even malayali Muslims have got it Ex Kunjali ie Kunju Ali.
    We knoe the meaning of Kunju but what is Itty as a prefix. I know a Nair gentleman named Itty Rarichan.
    Rarichan is a name by itself. (Remember ‘Rarichan enna Powran”). then I came across women having Itty as a prefix or as name itself- like Itty amma.
    So Itty is a prefix not only for Christians buit for hindus also. Inshort Itty is a Malayalam prefix.

    The next question is ‘What does Itty’ mean as a prefix. We have ‘Kutty’ as a common suffix for all coomunities and for men as well as women-Ex George kutty,Govindan Kutty, Ibrahim kutty-Mariakutty, Laksmi Kutty etc. we know the meaning of kutty
    But what is ‘Itty” as a prefix. I welcome your opinion. I can hazard a guess. In Malayalam (colloquial), ‘ITTU’ means a little. Can Itty be derived from “Ittu” and mean “littl’ judst like ‘kutty’
    The bottom line is that ITTY, strictly speaking is not a name by itself but onla pre fix-the meaning of which is not clear but could mean ‘kunju or ‘kutty’

  • Amrith Kurien

    Dear All,

    Very interesting to read. I should have been a Chandy goign by Mr. Pothen’s article. But my progressive parents christened me Amrith. Though I love my name, there are times I wished I were a Chandy. In order not to miss out the syrian lineage, I insisted that my daughter has my father’s name as surname. So, she is Aniya Amrith Kurien.

    I am in The Gambia. While SIGNING MY driving licence WAY BACK IN 1997, the Gambian authorities mis-spelt my surname as KURTEN. So, in their records I am AMRITH KURTEN.

  • kurien verghese


    (copy right held by the author – Kurien verghese)

    Kuruvilla- english equivalent Cyril

    Origin- Original greek name -koorillos- (most of our SC names have greek origin simply because the new testament was written in greek and our forefathers took their names from the Bible-especially from the New testament- so we have Markose, Lukose,Pathrose.Paulose etc. in Malayalam also. cut out the ‘ose’ suffix and you get the english equivalent-like Mark. Luke, PATHR,(Peter) ,Paul etc. Pathrose is actually PATHARose and as you know Pathar in Hindi (and other languages) is rock or stone.

    Coming back to Koorillose- or Kurillose ,a favourite name for Bishops of the Orthodox churches- we get K urull -after omitting the suffix ‘ose’- this Kurill became Kurulla and later Kuruvilla. Korula is another version of kuruvilla or kurulla- as we know the pronounciation of not only names but malayalam words differ from region to region especially between the North and the south kerala. this led our famous SC journalist Pothan Joseph to remark once that malayalam consists of two languages written in the same script!

    How are Cyril and kuruvilla one and the same name.? In English, ‘C’ is a substitute for the sound ‘K’. So when koorllose lost the suffix ‘ose’ and became Koorill or Kurill,somebody substituted ‘C’ for “K’ and it became Coorill ; or write Coorillose and cut out the suffix and one gets Coorill . In greek, the ‘U’ or ‘OO’ sound is denoted by the letter.Y’. as in Syria or cypress. Syria is correctly pronounced as ‘SURIA” hence ‘ suriani chrisriani’. the correct name for Cypress in greek is Kuprose as in the malayalam Bible. Here K becomes C and ‘U” becomes Y and Kuprose becomes cypress and Kurill becomes CYRILL or cyril.

    trust I havent confused you with this long explanation!

  • Kurien Verghese

    Syrian christians have an identity crisis at present. Originally we never had a surname. Now many are compelled to take their fasther’s name as surnames. so Thomas son of Mathew becomes thomas mathew and Mathew is considered to be his sur name. But his wife refuses to be called Mrs Mathew. she says she is the wife of Tjhomas, Mathew is her father in law. she wants to be known as Mrs Thomas.. so they go out ofor parties as Mr Mathew and Mrs Thomas. sometimes the wife agrees to go by the husbands surname.She accepts the name as Mrs Mathew. But Mr Thomas Mathew has a couple of sons. He wants his children to bear his name. result. His sons are enrolled in thechool as Abraham thomas and Benjamin Thomas.. so Mr Mathew’s children are are thomases.. this is the identity crisis syurian christians are facing now. first Mr. Mathew’s wife is Mrs Thomas – His children are Thomases..

  • Abraham

    Eapen, Punnen, Punnoose, Esthappen, Estha are all derived from Stephen.

    The greek form of Stephen is Stephanos. It is plausible that the name in earlier times was pronounced as “Esthepanos” in Kerala

    The names Esthappen, Estha etc come from the first part of the name ‘Esthepan’ Much like the spanish Esteban

    Eapen comes from the middle portion ‘epan’ and

    Punnen, Punnoose comes from the last portion ‘panos’

  • Kurien verghese

    I agree with the above comments / views of Mr Abraham -dated Feb 23, though Mr S G Pothen and Mr olikera have opined that Eapen is derived from Job. It is also quite possible that a short name may represent or is derived from two different names. For ex. the name ‘Bert’ (BERT) could be the short form of Bertrand, Herbert, Robert, Norbert etc So it is possible for eapen to have derived from Job as well as Stephen. Yet I am inclined to agree with Mr abraham above.

    I must congratulate Mr Olikara for writing an excellent article on Syrian christians and the nazrani names. it is unfortunate that many of our people go about without understanding the meaning or origin of our names. Mr Olikara has done well to kindle many such peoples interst in their own names.

    Mr Olikara has written that Verghese is from George, Ouseph is from Joseph etc. Strictly it is not correct. If Iam not mistaken, what he meant was that the english equivalent of varghese is george, of Ouseph is Joseph, etc

    Olikara has treated Maria and mariamma as two names.I would suggest the common suffixes like .amma, achan, kutty kunju (and also prefixes) to be ignored when we dicuss the meaning or origin of names – we should treat Mariamma, Maria kutty, Kochu mariamma etc asall one name -Maria

    Secondly, we should not worry about the English spellings of names- varghese, verghese, Varughese, Virghesese, etc are one and the same name. (I am told that a few years ago, the Malyesian govt passed an order saying that officially the name Mohammad will have only one spelling, though more than a dozen diiferent spellings was prevalent there,)

    Thirdly we should give very little reliance on names as they appear in English .The English are well known for murdering and mutilating names. Jesus was NOT known as jesus among his people – he was Yeshu, as in the malayalam Bible, Mary was maria ( they made Mynmar into Burma, Kollam into Quilon, thiruvananthapuram into Trivandrum!) Biblical names are more correct as they appear in the malayalam Bible.

    OK, I will quit now-sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

  • Deepthi

    Can anyone tell me if there is any history which talks about possible Syrians Christians converting to Hinduism? if so what can be their Surnames ??

  • Anoop

    Hi Deepthi,
    There are many instances though most of them are on the female side owing to them having to take upon the religion of their husbands.I know of some from my family.But on the male side it is rare,though a few years back some guys belonging to prominent familes converted.The reason they gave was Christ is a myth..To accomodate them ,they were given the title of Nair.
    Also I suspect the advisor of the Cochin Raja ,the Paliath Achan could have had Christian ancestors

  • John Mathew


    Regarding conversion to Hinduism. I assume you mean in the old days and not in recent times. For this:

    Go and look at the site – “”. This is about a family, Thulassery Manapurathu, which claims to descent from West Asian immigrants who came with Mar Sabor and Mar Aproth in the 10th century or so.

    In it, there is a reference to the little known conversion of some Persian Christians to Hinduism and Islam. No further details are provided, however. But it’s a starting point for you.

    Next, check our Lingerings of Light by Whitehouse on Google Books. In it you’ll find a discussion of a community that existed alongside the Christians in Kayamkulam. They did convert Hinduism in the 18/19th century to escape their low social status.

  • Anoop

    Thanks John for those references

  • Jackson

    Dear John,

    That family site sounds amazing with the amout of contents and point of accuracy it contains. It shows the level of research applied to present it and the capability to see beyond “stories”. You can literally make out it is not the “regular-stuff-like-any-other family site”.

    It also explains in brief ‘why’ we call ourselves “upper-caste” inspite of knowing ‘most’ of us are Semitic immigrants or settlers.

    This is one of the most unbiased and accurate family history sites I have ever read. Thank You.

  • Jackson

    Dear All / John Mathew,

    I just was pondering over the following statements in the above article:

    “Many Syrian Christian families followed a unique custom that they shared with the kerala Hindus of adopting a male member into their family on his marrying a girl from theirs. The boy would then carry the family name of his wife. This would mostly happen when a family had no male heirs to carry on the family name.”

    If I am not wrong, that explains “dhetthu-kalyanam” or “adoption marriages”. So in that case if a Hindu boy enters a Nasrani family marrying a girl from the latter and is adopted such that he now adopts the family name of the paternal side of his wife then his own history or ancestry translates into a Nasrani one down the ages.

    So over a long time it might be totally forgotten that another male line entered into an already existing male family lineage. Now consider this boy who entered was a Brahmin and after marriage was Christianized for adoption. So in that case a newly introduced parallel tradition will run in the family that claims Brahmin ancestry (due to this single male lineage). So a single paternal family line may have two different traditions and get overlapped over-time.

    This when tested in genetics will give two different ancestral results for the same paternal family which is now one or related and might not be aware of the past happening. So it might confuse if this concept is not understood.

    And some of the Nasrani families surely had adoption marriages, so it is natural that the same family may have mixed or overlapping traditions or one replacing the other as time passed by and one gained prominence over the other for whatever reason !

    So all of them claiming a descent from a particular family that existed in ancient times “may not” be actually same in the above case.

    Dear John Mathew,

    The above is a practical and unavoidable thing that happened in history which also says all claiming a particular tradition may not be justified factually, be it a family descent claim or ancestry/lineage claim !

    This is what must have been one of the possibilities in mixing our West asian history/traditions with a later added local history/traditions as the two started overlapping down the line, variably !

    Therefore I said, do not assume that all Pakalomattam (or any other family claim as the case may be) claiming guys will show the same results ! There is a practical case in our database which I know of having given such a varied result for the same related family. Hope I clarified myself and also answered your earlier doubt.

  • kochitty

    It was interesting to read about the possible origins of the name “itty”. For a long time, i was under the impression my family was the only one with the name “kochitty” circulating around the members. But with social networking sites booming, a few others also have been found.

  • Baiju painadath

    do any body know the history of the family name painadath or pynadath???there are both catholics and jacobite syrians residing in and around angamaly..Thanks

  • John Mathew


    Regarding Pynadath, you shouldn’t have any problem tracing the history of your family. It’s a well known family; many Orthodox bishops (including the famous St Athanasios Paulos) come from that family, and they seem to be quite proud — so you should be able to find some written books on the subject in India, or at least a family history.

    The following site may be helpful as a start, but it also contains some general inaccuracies. Apparently your family came from Arthat.

  • thomas jacob

    Its cool to have biblical names… i feel great when people call me thomacha or thomas kutty….
    or vinuchaya….

  • Michaeline Jouban Prejean

    My parents are from Latakia, Syria. My father’s name is Aziz Mikhail Jouban. Please tell me about the Jouban name. We pronounce it Joe-ban.Is it an Arabic name or maybe Egyptian?

  • Michael Varghese

    Can anyone tell me the origin of the last name Kourth? My grandpa’s last name was Kourth. I searched for this name on the internet but it seems like Kourth wasn’t a common name in Kerala. I even typed in the name Kourthu but got no results. The only place the name Kourth was common was in Greece.

  • Kurien Verghese

    Re. Kourth-or Kourthu

    I think the name is Koruthu which is not an uncommon name, among syrian christians.The general understanding is that Koruthu is a variation of Korah, which is derived from ‘Kuriya’ or rather ‘Kuriye’.( ‘kyrie’- the letter ‘y’ is pronounced as in ‘U’). The common names Kuriyakose and Kurien are derived from the above Kuriye. In the orthodox churches we generally hear the chant ‘Kuriye Elaisson’.or more correctly ‘kyrie eleison’ It is greek. It means ‘Lord, have mercy ” and Kyrie or Kuriye means , ‘Lord’.


  • Michael Varghese

    Thanks for the explanation Kurien, but I still didn’t get an explanation on the name Kourth and not Koruthu. It makes no sense that my family are the only people with that name. I don’t think it’s a family name unless I ask my family members directly. It’s hard to find another Syrian Christian with the same name other than a family member.

  • nina

    Pls let me know from where does the family name Nezhuvingal and Alakkatu originate. Pls let me know.


  • Kurien Verghese

    I have already given some in puts on the article by Mr Olikkara.Pl see posts 9532,10780.12294 etc. I didn’t want to say any thing further till I got a chance to read Mr. S G Pothen’s book on ‘Syrian Christians of Kerala’, to which Mr Olikkara had referred to. Unfortunately I could not get hold of a copy till about a month ago when Mr.Pothen’s brother’s wife graciously agreed to lend me her copy. There is only a small chapter on ‘ syrian christian ‘ names and Mr Olikkara has given all that is in that.Almost verbatim. There fore whatever observations I made earlier on Olikkara’s article apply to what Mr Pothen had written in the book. Mr Pothen’s book was an excellent work on syrian christians, when it was published fifty years ago.His subject was syrian christians and not syrian christian names. He thought it appropriate to add a chapter on syrian christian names but it does not appear that he carried out any serious study or research on the origin and meanings of syrian christian names.

    Re; honorific names like Tharakan, Muthalali etc , I humbly submit that I have a different take. Mr Pothen ( and quoted by mr Ollikkara) the word THARAKAN originated from the English word TARIFF and means tariff /tax collector. If I am not mistaken, the tittle Tharakan was prevalent in Kerala even before the advent of the English in Kerala, Even otherwise,it appears to be a bit far fetched for a tariff collector to become tharakan. My submission is that tharakan does not mean tax collector. The word THARA was common in Malayalam- the word ‘Tharawad’ originated from that. Thara means floor, house (Pulayan’s thara), Thara is the Malayalam counter part of the Hindi word ‘zamin’. Zamindar means ‘Land lord’-one who owns lot of land. Zamindar is a title or honorific name in North India and Bengal. Similarly Tharakan was a title for one who owned lot of thara or land. Tharakan meant zamindar.

    As for Muthalali, it is quite interesting and amusing to look for its meaning in west asia but we should not look for complication when simpler explanation may suffice,. The words Muthalali and thozhilali are common Malayalam words, Muthalal is the capitalist -one who has capital or money and thozhilali is one who depends on his labour, Muthalali was a title bestowed on some people by the local rajahs or rulers in recognition of their wealth.


  • Kurien Verghese

    Re: origin of the name ‘GEORGE’. How does one connect vargheses with george, and for that matter JOSHUA with KOSHY.?

    As we have seen , the original greek name was GIORGIOS and how Giorgios became gee varghese and then got shortened to varghese.

    “g’ has two sounds-one like ‘J” as in GEM, GERM and another as in GOD, GOOD etc Substituiting the ‘J” sound for’ “G” in GIORGIOS, one could pronounce it as’JIORJIOS’ or GEORGEOS. Pl remove the greek suffix ‘os’ from georgeos and one would get GEORGE. So the greek name GIORGIOS became GEE VARGHESE in Malayalam and GEORGE in English. Its meaning? GEO (GIO) means the Earth. So george or giorgios meant one who is Earthy- a farmer.

    As Mr Pothen has pointed out in his book, GIORGIOS/GEEVARGHESE/GEORGE is not a name from the BIble.-yet Varghese is one of the most popular names among Nasranis.

    Joshua and Koshy. The name Joshua {Yoshua) used to be written with ‘G’ instead of ‘J”. Something like ‘GOSUAE’; Since G’ has a ‘k’ like sound (God, good, etc), Gosuae got pronounced as Koshuae and it became Koshy, in Malayalam. Yoshua and yeshu are one and the same name and means saviour.

    ZACHERIA and cheriyan, Just drop the ZA from ZA CHERIA and one would get CHERIA. Malayamise it with an ‘N’ ending-it becomes cherian!

  • Tertius Koshy Thomas

    Very nice article. Any comments on my name – Tertius? Wondering if there is any Malayalam equivalent..

  • Vinay K Kidangan

    So nice to read this blog. Can anyone say from which name “Eapen” originated from ??? Is it from Stephen or from Job ???

  • varghese mani

    Eapen is Stephen
    Stephanos -> Esthappanos (malayalam) -> Esthappan(shortened) -> Eappai -> Eapen

    (Stephanos was the first Christian Martyr – stoned to death in Jerusalem, well documented in Acts)

  • Kurien Verghese

    Eapen- Stephen or Job

    Much to be said in favour of both.Let us take stephen first.
    Decades ago, I met an Epen who was the proprietor of a firm called Stephen and Co. He told me that the biblical name for epen was stephen. Of course, this does not prove that Epen was derived from stephen but it shows that even decades ago, one or some epens believed they were stephens.

    Phonetically Stephen is much nearer to stephen than Job. Stephen and epen (eapen)sound similar. In written english, just remove the first ‘St’ from stephen, one gets ephen!

    Now let us take JOB. Job and eapen are phonetically very removed. -But the Malayalam version of Job in the Bible is Iyyob. This Iyyob could be further Malayalmised by adding an ‘en’ or ‘an’ at the end like most malayali names – raman, krishnan, kurien, mammen, mathen etc. so it becomes Iyyoben.Malayalam is akin to Tamil and is a dravidian language where very often ‘b’ or’ba’ sound is substituted by ‘p’ or ‘pa’ sound. ex. In tamil, Bhagyam is ‘Pakyam’ and Bata is written as Pata. So Iyyoben got pronounced as Iyyopen. In trichur area, eapen is pronounced by many as E-appen. I knew a person who used to be called Eayappen. so it is reasonable to believe that Iyyopen became Eayappen and Eapen.

    Mr Sidney Pothen in his book says Eapen is Job- (Job, Iyob,Iyoben, Eapen). so it is for you readers to decide whether Eapen is Stephen or Job.Pl let us have your views.

    Perhaps it could be both. In English, ‘Bert’ could be the short name for Bertrand, Herbert, Robert, etc So, we can satisfy the supporters of Stephen and Job by considering epen as the Nasrani version of both.

    By K.Verghese

  • meffordm

    Has anyone heard of the Syrian Christian surnames “Kashey” or “Attah” or “Farkouh”?

  • rps

    I was check how the traditions of when a child born scrub golden chain or ring and mix in honey and give it to the child

    giving child 28 day celebration.. can that it all come from brahimns?

    there are brahimns presence when i analized that classic music, thali, superstious belief like rashikalam. nasranis being love to use ayurvedic medicenes. can all relate brahimn?

    so some amont of brahimns indication are there that while lot of jew converts by st thomas some of these brahimns families can be converted that nasranis being hetrogeious mix. Again that is i want to highlite that there is nothing in complete who is pure brahimn or something. so brahimns converts families seems to hebrew influeces with the relatonship with early hebrew converts.

    but the problem is men ego. even if they have hebrew or syrian influences men always claim we are brahimn because its somewhat true that those family men side start from an early brahimn convert . and there r many hebew decendent family throrogh the men side.

    it could be happen in hebew community themselves that many r not patrneally jewish instead they r living a decendent of jewish community in cochin. but they may have these inflence through mother side or many other chances other than men side only

    again when syrians came, some of them insprired to become nasranis and they split themselves that some want to marry in to nasrani family ..yet again that can bring nasrani a suryani influnces or then syrian decendent among nasranis. kuriakose epen kurian alexander korah

    which that is what i think these days

    nasranis seems to make kozhiketta. yeast formed appam, boiled egg gravey, and then the master part celebration of pessiah seems to hebew i think. i think actually we look at it is absent in syrian community . i dont think people is syria the suryoyo group celebraing pessiah. because they dont accept to be a comple hebrew as in israel. but it does present in nasranis.

  • Josekutty Mathew Ovelil (Goa)

    Dear Sir,
    I have been longing to get the meaning or the origin of the name Itty. In fact I have asked a number of theologians, priests and others about this. But none of them had an answer.. Well, my great great grand father’s name is Itty. Now you say that Itty it is Abraham. You also say that Ittack is Isaac . What is your justification or argument to support your claim? I feel that Ittack and Itty are one and the same because it is quite possible for Ittack to get transformed as Itty rather than Abrham to become Itty. It is important to find out how old is this name Itty. If it was formed only after the arrival of the British we can very well assume that Ittack was pronounced as Itty by the English as they have changed Alapuzha to Alleppey.

  • Bala Menon

    Ittack is obviously a derivative from Yitzhak (Hebrew – like Yitzhak Rabin), which itself comes from Issac. It stands to reason that Itty is a corruption of the name Issac.

    There is a great mystery about the Jews of Kerala. Tradition and some written accounts (Moses De Paiva in the 16th century) state that 80,000 Jews came to Kerala 2000 years ago. Where did they disappear?

    Here again, it is logical to assume that most of them converted to Christianity and became the forefathers of today’s Nazaranees – because at the height of the Jewish presence in Kerala, they never numbered more than 3000 (according to figures from the 15th-16th century). And today, there are only 15,000 Cochini Jews living in Israel ( counting children and grandchildren raised from about 60 years ago).

    Coming back to names, you must have seen the film Gramophone about the Jews of Mattancherry. One of the main characters is named Gregory – which is strange (and an obvious error by the director/writer) because no Cochin Jew had the name Gregory (this was confirmed by many of the Cochini Jews when I visited Israel).

    More on the film “Gramophone” at”
    Bala Menon, Toronto, Canada

  • Dr.Mercy Kuruvila Plavelil

    There is a great mystery about the Menons of Kerala too. Tradition and some written accounts (Komappan Variar in the 16th century) state that 1,00,000 Gypsies came to Kerala 3000 years ago. Where did they disappear?

    Here again, it is logical to assume
    that most of them converted to
    Hinduism and became the forefathers of today’s Menons.

  • Bala Menon

    Dr. (Really?) Mercy Kuruvila Plavelil ,

    You must be the original Bozo! Nice joke!

  • Anoop

    Dr Mercy,are you playing the role of a bully,if that is the case Shame on you.

  • Dr.Mercy Kuruvila Plavelil

    Yeah, it was a joke, since I felt Bala Menon’s attempt to market his blog here another joke. No visitors? Don’t worry man, just write something like “Scythian origin of Nairs” and you fill get plenty of followers.

  • Bala Menon

    Hi Mercy ( I am sorry, I will not call you Dr. – and I doubt that this is your real name!).

    I don’t need to ‘market’ my blog – it is not monetized. I am reasonably well off.

    I am a researcher and this NSC site was recommended to me by my friend Abraham Benhur who has written about the Jewish ancestry of Kerala Christians (I will be posting more on this later!) . Your ignorance about the issues being discussed here – and this sarcastic mention of “Scythian origin of Nairs” is laughable. (For your info: there has been serious international debates about this Nair origin story as well…) Regards.

  • Verghese

    Dr Mercy,

    Why do you say that the gypsies were Menons- why not Syrian christians or Ezhavas.

    thank you.;

  • Dr.Mercy Kuruvila Plavelil

    Menon, If you are a researcher, then why don’t you put your views into a properly formatted academic research paper and publish it, say, on Academia ? Filling a blog with screen clips of some third-rated commercial movie is not at all advisable for a researcher. This itself shows your intellectual pauperism. As you said, the Scythian – Nair connection is laughable, but there are many “researchers” like you who are seriously writing on this nonsense. Just type “Scythian origin of Nair” in google and you will know what I am saying. Since this issue is beyond the scope of this website, I am not going into any details.

    Btw, Jewish origin of Nazranis is equally laughable.

  • Dr.Mercy Kuruvila Plavelil

    The name “Kuruvila” is from “Kurilose” which is the Syriac version of “Cyril”.

  • bala menon

    Sorry Plavelil,
    I refuse to be drawn into an inane discussion with you. – I have already gauged your intellect and other capabilities, So, I will not be responding to any posts from you. The old saying..”Caravans go on….”
    Regards and best wishes

  • Paul Xavier

    I think the name Koshy is not from Joshua, but from “Khoreshi” which is the semitic form of the name of Cyrus, the Persian emperor.

  • Jeevan philip

    I got introduced to Bala Menon’s Blog through this site and I think it is not so bad rather contain much information.This is the way people do it.

  • Susan

    Hi everybody,
    when i read the interesting facts abt names, I ws just wondering about the names of today’s generation. the young parents are very keen to choose names frm Old Testament for their kids. It s sad tht the tradition s overlooked and the fondness s forgotten!

  • Sitush B Pillai

    Itty is in fact a Hindu name. Itty Achuthan was an Ezhava scholar who played a key role in the preparation of Hortus Malabaricus. There were also Hindu kings namely Itty Kotha Varma, etc. The name Itty is a variant of Sanskrit term Rishi (Sage).

  • M Thomas Antony

    ‘Itty’ could be a prefix as suggested by K Verghese as a comment above on 2008 Dec 08 on this post. Comment number 9532

    ‘Itty’ may not be a name on its own. All of them are ‘Itty Avira’, ‘Itty Iype’, ‘Itty Mathan’, ‘Itty Kuruvilla’ etc.

    We had an Archdeacon ‘Itty Kuriathu’ .

    This could be the case with Hindu names like Itty Achuthan and Itty Kotha Varma.

    Similarly, we have Kunju Mathai, Kunchacko, Kunju Mani, Kuncheria, etc where a prefix Kunju and Mathukkutty, Avirakkutty, Thommikkutty etc where a suffix Kutty is used.

  • Sitush B Pillai

    Before the Synod of Diamper Hindu names were common among Syrian Christians. Therefore it is quite logical to think many of the old names of Syrian Christians are of Hindu origin. while Hindu castes themselves failed in preserving these traditions, Syrians deserve some gratitude in keeping these names alive. I cannot agree with ‘Itty’ means ‘little’. It is either from ‘Rishi’ or ‘Ritvik’. My definition of other names is as follows.

    Kuruvila: From Guru-Pilla. This could be a honourary title like “Gurukkal” given to veteran Kalaripayat masters. Just remember Syrian Christians held somewhat an equal position as that of Nairs.

    Koshy: It may be a variant of Keshy which is again a short form of Keshavan (Lord Vishnu). The name Keshy could have become popular after King Pulikeshi.

    Nainan: It is clearly a variant of “Nayanar”, title given to a Saivite monk.

    Chandy: The first emperor of India Chandra Gupta Maurya was called “Sander Cott” by Greeks. His grandson Ashoka the great was the first ruler who propagated Buddhism in south India. No wonder if Chandra Gupta was a hero among Dravidian people of Sangam age. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that “Chandy” came from “Chandra Gupta” rather than from Alexander.

    Kora: From Sanskrit term “Ghora” which means “fierse”.

    Pothen: It is either from “Pavithran” or “Parthasarathy” (Lord Vishnu).

    Western Christians still use names from Greek/Roman mythology such as Diana, Venus, etc. Therefore nothing wrong if Indian Christians, who are converts from Hinduism and Buddhism, still keep Hindu names.

  • M Thomas Antony

    Nasrani people use Hindu names even now. But that does not prove that ‘Itty’ is a Hindu name.
    By the usage, ‘Itty’ does not look like a name of its own.
    If Itty is the first name of Itty Avira, then, his son should be Avira Itty. Have we heard of a usage of Itty as a suffix as in Avira Itty?
    I think the argument of Varghese is more logical. Whatever is the meaning of Itty, it is a descriptive pre fix to a name.

    Analysis of Kuruvilla, Koshy, Ninan, Chandy, Kora, Pothen etc are just wild imaginations ! I have read somewhere relating Sabarimala with Sabriso also. These are just extending their imaginations !

  • Joe Pare'

    Dr. Mercy,

    The origins of nairs may be Scythian/ Parthian/Bactrian in origin or certainly it is somewhere around Persia/Armenia/Asia minor or the caucasus. Like the Coorgis are said to be related to the Kurds in customs.But before moving south and easttwards into Bengal and Nagaland the nairs/nayars/noyars were gathered in Uttarpradesh. The ezhava community also moved in from UP but I don’t think there is a common ancestry. There are some nayars in Karnataka especilly in the coastal belt. The most probable time of exodus may be during the 8th century at the height of Islamic expansion into Persia and Bactria. The celts also followed the matrilineal system like the Nairs. The Hitities, Assyrians,Canaanites also worshipped snakes until Jewism became a prominent religion when the snakes were portrayed as evil in the garden of Eden. But snakes represents birth, rebirth and immortality and not evil. I vote for it.

  • Abraham Benhur

    The Jews of Israel called the newly emerged Jewish followers of Jesus of Nazareth as Nazarenes.These Nazarenes were considered as herectics by their contemporaries. Among all the Christian groups in the world,the one that is still identified as nazarenes are the ancient Christian of Malabar.They are collectively identified as the Syrian Malabar Nazrani people, who are also known as St. Thomas Christians.They are known in the vernacular Malayalam as ‘Nazrani Mappila’ and they are an ethno-religious group from Kerala swearing allegiance to different churches of St. Thomas Christians known as Syrian Christians since they have been using a Syriac(a classic form of Aramaic) liturgy since the early days of Christiany in India.

    The term Nazrani, derived from Nazrene means ‘Man from Nazareth’. This name can be found in the Qur’an also as Nasara (plural of Nazrani). The Arabic word ‘nasara’ comes from the Arabic root ‘nsr’. It is suggested that the term Nazrani was used essentially to denote the Jewish Followers of Jesus of Nazareth, while the term Kristianos(Christians) was initially used largely to refer to the non-Jewish people(gentiles) who followed Christ.

    St. Thomas, who arrived on the Malabar coast in 52 AD, baptized the Jews who had settled in Malabar from the time of Diaspora. The term Nazrani was used to refer to these people. The Nazrani attribute to a person,Man or Woman was imperative in any legal document till the time of Independence in the Travancore-Cochin stretch of Malabar. Over the years, the term Nazrani has become synonymous with a ste in Malabar. Their social position was high and they played very essential roles as traders,farmers and soldiers in Kerala. Their hard work, dedication and loyalty brought benevolence from the rulers in the from of tax-free lands to build places of worship, monopoly in certain trades such as pepper, sandal wood and cardamom. The privileges were granted in charters inscribed in copper plates known as ‘chepped’, such the Canai Thoma Chepped (Thomas of Cana) and Eravi Korthan Chepped.

    The Nazranis messages’ was always directed towards the poor, the destitutes the widows and the orphans and the mission continues up to this time.

  • Josekutty Mathew Ovelil (Goa)

    It is said or believed that St. Thomas baptized or converted 7 Namboothiri Illams and many of the Syrian Christians claim that they are the descendants from those families.But it is also heard that there were no Namboothiries in Kerala when St. Thomas arrived in Kerala. It would be nice if some one could clarify this.
    Thank you.

  • George Mathew

    Dear Abraham,

    It is nice to see you here. I am reading your book and trying to get my brains around it.

    You wrote ‘..Among all the Christian groups in the world,the one that is still identified as nazarenes are the ancient Christian of Malabar..’ Yes! from a certain weak perspective we are Christians. But to grow in strength we must be only ‘Nazerenes’. Names mean much.

    Perhaps in the next edition of your book, you will deal with our Yemenite and Malabar Black Jew connections, that way the swath of your book will be wider and more releavant to Nazerenes. Nazerenes are not just the ‘Lost Tribes’ but include others too.

    In your book, you mentioned about the ‘holy thread’ worn by Iyers etc. and that Orthodox Jews too wear it. Please can you give more details. This is very important.

  • Thomas

    Sorry I am missing something, can you please post the details of the book so that I can also buy it.

    PS: After reading all these comments I am wondering what will happen to Malayalees (nasranis) living in middle east if the arabs come to know that they are in fact Jews:D.


  • George Mathew

    Dear Thomas,

    Abraham Benhur, (2011), Jewish Background of Indian People: A Historical, Archaeological, Anthropological and Etymological Study of the Lost Tribes of Israel.
    The book by Abraham Benhur is available with Mr Benhur. The title is Jewish Background of Indian People. Jeevanist Books, Nalanda, AG Road, Calicut-1
    I believe that I got the above book from Mr. BenHur directly. He mailed it by VPP to my house in Kerala. It cost about Rs. 525 or so. The book is very interesting, but it has yet to face the ‘Fire of Criticisms’. Until that is done, I would not call the book ‘scholarly’ though references are given.

    The following book by Avigdor Sachen ‘In the Footsteps of the 10 Lost Tribes’ is still more fascinating. ‘.. This book is kind of similar to Abraham’s book, but Avigdor’s book stretches from Israel to Japan. Avigdor also connects the Lost Tribes to the Malabar Nazerenes.
    The ancient Hebrews/Israelites in Japan? Impossible! But have a look at this video.
    There are many more sources you can go to. I think the narrator of the video may sent you a free CD. Try him anyways! I got one free from the promoter. Misplaced the contact details.

  • Raju Cherian

    Dear Josekutty, you are making the same mistake that many of our “historians” make. They are giving undue importance to the Hindu castes and cherish a belief that the Hindu caste system existed as is from time immemorial. In fact, the modern type of Hindu caste system originated only after 14th century and most of the modern Hindu castes were nomadic tribes until then. I am not intended to insult any one, but it is a truth. For example, Nambudiris originated from Kurichiyas. Kurichiyas call themselves as Malai Brahmins and they practise untouchability even today. Kurichiya houses are very much similar to Nambudiri Illams. Their houses have “Poosamuri” like “Poojamuri” in Nambudiri illams. In old days Nambudiris were also called “Nattu Kurichiyar”, a name which was blotted out from history. Similarly, the Nairs originated from Kurumba tribes. The Kurumbas call themselves as Kurubans. This is quite similar to the Nair title Kurup and they call themselves as Kurupans. Another case is that of Uralis. There are Uralis both among Nairs (Urali Nairs) and Kurumbas (Urali Kurumar). We can very well assume that most of the upper caste people here are actually the descendents of hill tribes. The Nambudiri conversion by St. Thomas is a myth mainly propagated by upper caste Hindus themselves as an explanation for treating Nasranis as a higher caste.

  • Bala Menon

    Hi Raju,
    This post on the Kurichiyas is interesting.

    A fascinating bit of information is given about these noble tribesmen of Wynad by Rao Bahadur G. Gopalan Nair, who was Deputy Collector of Malabar in the 1900s. In a book Wynad : Its Peoples and Traditions. he wrote that the name Kurichiyan was given by the Kottayam Rajas because of their great archery skills. The term used is ‘kuri-vechavan – one who aims’). It is suggested that the Kurichiyans belonged to a class of  Nairs called Theke Kari Nair from Venad or Travancore and they were brought by the Kottayam Raja  to suppress the rebellious Vedar tribes. After the battles, their kinsfolk, however, did not accept them back and they settled in the hills of Wynad.  They apparently still follow Nair traditions in their life, death and other ritual cycles.

    Their houses are called ‘Tharavads’, they worship the same Nair gods and there is ancestor worship. The Kurichiyas fought valiantly against the British, along with Pazhassi Raja in the jungles of Wynad.

  • Bala Menon

    Hi Mr. George Mathew,

    I met Abraham Benhur in Thrissur this March. His book is very interesting and talks about dolmens – portal tombs- in the many hills of Wynad and on his estate in Krishnagiri. His argument is that most of these tombs are Jewish…

    Can you contact me on ? Are you in Toronto?

  • George Mathew

    Dear Mr. Bala Menon,

    Would you please comment more about Abraham BenHur and his works? He has taken off on a surprisingly new tangent. It is outright shocking to hear from him that so called Hindus were once Hebrews/Israelites. But more information has to be given. Many of us know the Gounders and the Iyers too well to accept anything new. We grew up with Gounder and Iyers, so his book is truly interesting. Even if it all ‘lies’, yet I must admit that it is interesting. The old saying ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’ applies here.
    He has not touched upon DNA matters, while this is perhaps the final nail into the coffin. We are also learning more, such as once Yemen was a Jewish kingdom with her citizens all Jewish, converted from pagan Arabs, until Islam reconverted them into Islam. So todays, Yemenite Jewish population in Israel will not match with Hebrew Jews, nor some Black Jews of Malabar’s DNA match with Hebrew Jews of Yemenite origin in Israel today.
    There is so much to discuss. Wish Abraham will be around in this place. I have written to your email address. Shlama!!

  • Josekutty Mathew Ovelil (Goa)

    Dear Friends,
    According to Mr. Cherian, Namboodiris are the descendents of Kurichiyas. Well, my question is ” Did St. Thomas convert Kurichiyas?. I am interested in the history and not in the cast system. Perhaps, Raju will be in a better position to enlighten us.
    Thank you.

  • Raju Cherian

    Hi Bala Menon,

    Thank you for sharing this information. But I am doubtful about the possibility of civilized men becoming tribes. Actually it is more likely to be in the opposite direction. A group of tribes moving into plains and gradually starting a rural life perfectly makes sense. We should go for historical facts rather than mythological stories. Many historians have opined that Nairs are descendents of Hill tribes who moved to plains, not vice versa. For example well-known historian K. V. Krishna Iyer in his famous book “Zamorins of Calicut” observes:

    “There is no mention of any matrilineal caste like the Nayars in the Chera kingdom. When and whence they came is uncertain. The most plausible suggestion is that during the Chera period they were a matrilineal Hill tribe occupying the Ghats under chiefs who owed a tenuous allegiance to the Chera kings. They may have descended to the Kerala plains as invading barbarians about the fourth century, when the Chera kingdom collapsed.”
    (Zamorins of Calicut: From the earliest times to A D 1806. Calicut: Norman Printing Bureau, 1938. p 43)

    S. N. Sadasivan in his work “A Social History of India” as well as foreign sociologists David Murray Schneider and Kathleen Gough in their book “Matrilineal Kinship” also confirms Iyer’s viewpoint.

    Another source says:

    “…..and each of them occupied a separate region and developed a culture and mode of life suited to their environments. The group which occupied the Kurinji or the hill country on the West Coast were probably the forefathers of the present Nayar community. While living in the jungles they lived by hunting. Later on they migrated to the low country between the sea and the mountains and took to cultivation.”
    (Census of India – 1931 Volume.28, Part.1 – p 375)

    The two titles used by Kurumba tribes are “Kuruban” and “Naikan”. It seems like these are corresponding to “Kurup” and “Nair”. Similarly Kurichiya tribes wear sacred thread like Nampudiris and they call themselves as Malai Brahmins.

  • Kurien Verghese

    Comment on Mr Abraham’s letter posted on 1 jun 12, on the jewish ancestry of syrian christians.

    abraham says the he can say with ‘absolute certainty’ that the syrian christians are the descendants of Jews. From the discussions so far on syrian christians, none of the others had such absolute certainty on the Nazrani ancestry.

    Abraham mourns over the fact that we have left our jewish traditions and he is seeking the blessings of Yahweh. St Paul was one of the first to remove the jewish tradition of circumcision. But for that, our forefathers would have been going about without their foreskins! And as for Yahweh Jesus Christ himself had ignored him. Is there any place in the Gospels where Jesus had invoked the name of Yahweh?. He always referred to GOD as ‘my father’. correct me, if I am wrong-The only time he did other wise was on the cross, when he cried out Elohi, elohi, lama sabakthani’ Elohi is trnslated as ‘my God’. Elohi was the word for God used by the Jews in and around Nazareth. Elohi is akin to ‘Allah’.

    If abraham is a Jew, it is understandable that he cries over the lost jewish traditions in India but if he is a syrian christian, such weeping is meaningless. May I remind him that among many scholars, Yahweh was a tribal god, blood thirsty, unreasonable and meat loving.He loved the smell of meat!

    Dr. Mercy is quite correct the idea of all syrian christians as the descendants of Jews is ‘laughable’

  • Kurien Verghese

    Congratulations Mr. Pillai. Very brilliant idea.

    But you forgot the most important name. Christ ( though not a syrian christian name) is derived from Chris- short form of Chrishna or Krishna !!

    And what about Muslim names taken from Hindu names. Rahman from Raman, Akram from Vikram, Moin from Mohan etc etc.

    Even the ancient Romans borrowed from Hindu names. Caesar ie Kaiser is taken from Kesar and Kesari!

    Mr. Pillai says ‘ ITTY’ is Rishi or Ritwick. Does not give any reason but from his observations on the other names such as Pothen is Pavithran etc , it appears he is basing his arguments on phonetics..

    If so, does Itty sound like ‘Rishi. In fact Patti sounds more like Itty- does that mean Itty is Patty. Besides are Rishi and Ritwick widely prevalent names among Malayalies?

    His observations on the other names are -to put it mildly,-also funny. On the basis of phonetics, we may
    even say that Christ is a Hindu name derived from Krishna -Chrishna-Chris – and then christ. Then can we say that some Muslim names are also derived from Hindu names -say Rahman from Raman, Akram from Vikram, Moideen from Madhavan, etc

    We can still go further and say that Shakespeare was a Hindu called Shekhara Prabhu ! (Muslims
    have a closer name Sheikh Peer.

    Is the name Pillai, the same as Pulay(an)?
    My congrats. to Mr Pillay on his fertile Imagination.

    ITTY is NOT Abraham, though some Itties are- Itti Avirahs or Ittyeras because Avirah is abraham. But there are Itty cherias, Itty Eipes, Itty Mathoos etc. They are actually cherians, Eipes and Mathews. Itty is only a prefix like Kunju, for Malayales.

    Ex. Kunju Thoma is Thoma(s), Kunju Raman is Raman

    Itty is used among HIndus also.I know a Nair gentleman Itty Rarichan. There are some Itty ammas among them too. Itty is a prefix used in the same sense as Kutty or kunju.

    The word Itty, most probably was derived from the Malayalam word ‘Ittu’-

    Kurien verghese

  • Kurien Verghese

    Itty is not Abraham. Some Itty’s may be Abraham. There are Itty-aviras. Avirah means Abraham.
    But there are other Itty’s. Itty Cheria, Itty Iype etc. These are not Abraham but Cherian , Iype etc.

    Itty like Kunju is a prefix to a name and means the same as Kunju.(Itty maybe derived from the word Ittu). Even among Hindu’s there are Itty’s. I know a Nair named Itty-rarichen.
    There are Itty amma’s also. So, my opinion is that Itty is only a prefix to a name like Kunju or Kutty

  • Kurien Verghese

    RE: ITTY-

    I had given my views on the name Itty earlier but am clarifying again.

    It is quite correct that many Ittys feel that ITTY is ABRAHAM.If u ask them how?, they are not able to justify it except that they heard it so from their fathers or grand fathers or somebody else..

    This is because most of the above Ittys were originally Ittyerah or to be more precise, Itty avirah. All of us know t hat Avirah is a short form Abraham. In short Ittyerah/Ittyavirahs were ABRAHAMs. So when
    Ittyeraha got shortened to Itty, they all believed it to be Abraham.

    But it is incorrect to say that Itty is the same as Abraham. Only some Ittys who were earlier Ittyerahs are Abraham- but ITTY is NOT Abraham.

    There are Itty cherias, Itty eipes (Ittyeppachan), Itty mathoos,etc They are Cherians, Eipes and Mathews. and not Abrahams. These names have also been shortened to Itty.

    Think of Itty like ‘Kutty’. Christians have, georgekutty, Thomas kutty etc Hindus have Krishnankutty, madhavan kutty etc malayali muslims have Moden kutty, Ibrahim kutty etc.

    We know that Kutty does not mean George or Krishnan or Moidenn. Even the women have the same suffix kutty in Maria kutty, madhavi kutty etc.

    In other words Kutty is a well used SUFFIX to Malayali names.Similarly, Itty is a PREFIX to Malayali names Some Hindus do have Itty as a prefix to their names. I had a Nair colleague whose
    name was Itty Rarichan. I have heard about Hindu women named Itty amma just like our Kutty amma. The meaning of Itty is not so clear as Kutty but it appears it has the same meaning. In Malayalam,the word ‘Ittu’ means little / small / not much. Itty must have derived from Ittu- meaning small or kutty.

    One thing is clear. Itty does not mean abraham or for that matter any christian or Hindu mame. Itty used to be a Prefix to a name; but like Kutty it attained the status of a name.. In all probability it meant
    Kutty or Little or Junior

    Others are welcome to their opinions-
    Kurien Verghese

  • Kuruvilla Amprayil-Cherian

    Pillai’s ‘brilliant’ and fertile imagination in defining ‘origins’ of Syrian Christian names revealed his true colors – which apparently has a strong tinge of saffaron! I am reminded of another guy who I once met in Australia – he tried to convince me the name “Australia” was derived from Sanskrit: “Astra + aalaya”…because that “in the ancient past that was where nuclear weapons referred to in the Vedas were tested…”! He was another strong “saffron-ite”..

  • John Mathew

    To the imbecile with initials K.V.: I could care less of your personal feelings towards Judaism or Jews. However, your moronic insult towards the holy name of the God of the Bible should be attacked for the drivel it is.

    I think it was a Hindu (Ramakrishna) who mentioned that of all the names of God, it was the Hebrew OT name (the Tetragrammaton) that was the most deepest. The origin of that name is along the same lines as “I am”, that is, it pertains to existence, as in the God who exists, or the God who created existence itself.

    This name is the the name of God that is invoked in the OT more than any other name, because it is God’s name. The Hebrew original name of Jesus, includes this name, as do the names of many Prophets, etc.

    To insult this name is extremely foolish, and shows the manifest ignorance and utter stupidity of K.V.

    The New Testament that has come down to us in in Greek. So it is of no use saying that the Greek NT doesn’t invoke this name. As we all know, the Greek Christians (including: the Protestants, the RC, the Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox) have lost must of the Semitic nature of Christianity.

    The Church of the East, to their credit, have not lost their Semitic orgins, although their idiotic patriarchs made foolish decisions to Greek-ify their Church (council or Maruta, etc).

    But despite such mistakes, they never lost the Holy Name, which they proudly invoke on their Cross.

    K.V., you’re an idiot for what you wrote. Realize that and repent.

  • varghese mani

    John is back with a bang.
    John, the Kali idol is inside the Kodungalloor Devi Temple (havent verified it personally). Dont know whether it is the main idol itself. How ever the Temple itself is called Kurumba Temple, indicating the Kurumba/Kuruba tribe (We know there arent any Kurubas around Kodungalloor. So what happend to them ? Arent Knas these Kurubas ? )

    Exodus 3:13-15 – #Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.#

    KJV Foot note. The word Lord, when spelled with capital letters, stands for the divine name, YHWH, which is here connected with the verb hayah, “to be” in verse 14

    Note that every name of God has to be used with utmost reverence. This is the 4th command.

    Exodus 20:7 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

    We arent worth enough even to pronounce his name. Observant jews never ever use this name. They dont even write his names (any) in full. GOD is usually written as G-D to avoid any irreverence.

    “Elohi is akin to ‘Allah’.” – Wrong. Allah is a tribal god, but not the true GOD – Elohim/El/Alaaha

    Alaaha and Allah are not the same at all. See that ‘La ilaha(alaha) illallah’ translates to ‘No god but allah’
    That is ‘There is no God, but ONLY Allah’. How could they be the same ?

    Dani’el’ , ‘El’ijah all have that el in it ?

    I dont think pillechan is a sffronite. He is a just a swadeshi.
    First airplane – Pushpaka Viman by Ravanan
    First cloning was also done in india – Kauravar
    East or west India is the best

    A saffronite is one who keeps saying “Duniya ki koi sarkar Raghavendraji ki sarkar se badi nahin hai. Mandir ka nirman Is sarkar ki ajna hai” but backs down when it comes to building the temple.

    Searched Sitush B Pillai – He is being accused of vandalising the Nair page in wikipedia with his own personnel views under the influence of ulterior motives. ( Going around like a maggot ?)

  • Thomas Joseph

    We need another opinion about “George” being common in Kerala and “Thomas” being not so uncommon in England. (Thomas Cook, Thomas Alwa Edison to name a few)

  • Rengith

    Dear Sir,

    Can I get the Saints for the name Itoop and Devassy


    Rengith George

  • Syriac Sebastian

    Dear Rangith George
    Devassy is derived from St.Sebastian( he is the saint) but Itoop I too dont know


  • jinoy

    dear Sebastian,

    Itoop may be from ouseph

  • george kalli-illath

    Isahaac———-Ithaac———Ittoop ???????

    • Francis

      I am curious to know about your surname “Kalli-Illath”. Is it the real family name or did you put stylishly?

  • M Thomas Antony

    Ittoop may be Itty Iype

    Iype could be a derivative of Ausep- Joseph.
    Eape- Kunjepp (Kunju eape) , Eapen etc could also be from Auseph.

    Itty could be something like Kunju. See Itty Avirah, Itty Mani, Itty Kuriathu (an ancient Archdeacon)

    There was a discussion about Itty in the past under this article. Browse the comments above-08 Dec 2008, July 2012 etc. Mr K Verghese came up with a very logical argument that Itty is a prefix like Kunju Mathai, Kunju Mani Kunchacko, Kuncheria etc. Similary, Mathukutty, Geroge Kutty, Avira Kutty etc where Kutty is a suffix.

  • jestin

    The name Ityy is the malayalam version of the English Name ABRAHAM.

  • J.M. Ovelil (Dubai)

    Itty ?? various possibilities.
    1) Itty…… from Ittack, —— and Ittack from Issac
    2) Itty ….. from Ittay , ……. (who was an officer or musician of King David )
    3) Ittira.. from Itty Avara, … from Itty Abraham
    4) lastly it might have become a prefix as kutty became a suffix .
    Hence if Issac is Abraham, then Itty is also Abraham.

  • Jacob

    It’s interesting to note that certain Syrian Christian names are confined to certain pockets/regions of Kerala, irrespective of denominations. For example, in the erstwhile Cochin Kingdom (in places north of River Periyar, and particularly the Trissur region), names such as Vaaru, Variyad, Vareed, Paalu, Cheru, Rappai, Lonan, Chacku, Iyappan, Iyunni, Varuthunni, Thanda, Kunjethi, Ukkur and many other short names were common among the Nasranis of both the Catholic and the Non catholic factions, where as they were almost fully absent in Travancore (particularly Central Travancore). This clearly points to a cultural divide between the Syrians of Travancore and Cochin, probably because of different origins of these Syrians.

    In Central Travancore, certain names are peculiar to certain denominations. For example, names such as Dummini (from Dommininkose- Malayalam for Dominic) ), Devasya (from Sebasthyanose – Malayalam for Sebastian), Anthonichan (From Anthonees – Malayalam for Antony) ,Ithamma (from Urshitha – Malayalam for Bridgette) and many other names like Theyyaamma, Theramma etc are used only by the Catholic Syrian Christians, and not at all by the Puthencoor Syrians. This may be due to the ‘Latin’ influence on the Catholic Syrians, as names such as Sebastian, Dominic, Francis and Antony are clearly of Latin origin.

    English Christian names such as Samuel, Daniel and Joshua, and even Malayalam names like Koshy, Oommen, Mammen, Pothen etc to a certain extent are used only by the Marthoma/Orthodox/Jacobite Syrian Christians of Central Travancore, and not by the Syrian Catholics of the same region. The usage of names like Samuel, Daniel etc could be explained by the influence of Anglican Missionaries on the Puthencoor Syrian Christians of this region in the 1800s.

  • Jacob Idicula Muthalaly

    How did we get the name Chacko or Chackochan?

    I have been thinking of it for a long time and I believe I have cracked the code…

    Chacko is a common Christian name amongst Nasrani Christians of India. It derives from the name of the patriarch of the Jews, “Jacob” or “Yakoub” or “Yakub” from the Old Testament.

    It must also be noted that the Epistle of James in the Bible is called the Epistle of Jakub or Yakub in Malayalam and in many Middle Eastern and European languages (eg. Greek and Dutch, etc).

    There is every possibility that the name Yacob must have been coined by local usage and for ease.

    Did Yacob become Chacko? Or is there another possibility?

    As to the origin of the name ‘Chacko’, this could have been introduced during the Portuguese occupation of the Malabar coast (Kerala, India) in the 1500’s.

    The surname Santiago was first found in Galicia, Spain. Santiago is a habitational name from any of the numerous places named for the dedication of churches to St. James (Sant Iago). The Portuguese usage has similar origins.

    Obviously, the name Jacob (Old Testament name Yakub) or (Yakub or James, as in the New Testament) has been referred to as Santiago in Portuguese.

    The name Santiago when shortened is Tiago (actually pronounced CHiako). It is quite commonly used in Portuguese circles. Hence, the Malayalam Nasrani name, Chacko!

    Note: My name is Jacob and my parents named me Chackochan for home use or as a pet name. It is comforting to note that even parents call their dear children with a post-fix or suffix of “chan” (Chacko-chan) which is most respectful. Both my parents never ever called me a plain “Chacko” as such. That is comforting!

    (Credit: Jacob Idicula Muthalaly, Sydney Australia.

  • Biju Uthup

    Would anyone in forum help identify roots of UTHUP as a name ? This again is a very typical name in the community with no known parallels outside Kerala.

    • Dr. Kuruvilla Cherian Amprayil

      The root/origin of the Nazranee name UTHUP, and also ESTHAPPAN, EAPEN, AND PUNNOOSE, is considered to be STEPANOSE / STEPHEN.




    Can any body tell me the christian equivalent of-:

    1) AANDA. I understand that THANDA is Sara. Is

    • Kurien verghese

      Sorry I could not complete the above before my computer packed up.

      My question- Is AANDA the same as THANDA, which i understand is Sara.

      2) What is UKKURU? It is a masculine name. I can only vaguely surmise it could be ZAKKARIA..

      kurien verghese

    • Jacob Idiculas

      KURIEN vERGHESE – re: your question: “Can any body tell me the christian equivalent of-:

      1) AANDA. I understand that THANDA is Sara. ”

      As you can imagine there are lots of Syrian Christian common names that has nothing to do with Christian, biblical or culturally “Nasrani” names.

      For example we have names like Kunju, Kunjumon, Kunjappy, Kunjappan, Kochumon, Kochappan, Thangachan, Thangappen, Ponnachan, etc for men … … and names like Kunjumol, Kochumol, Thankamma, Swarnamma, ponnamma and so on. These names may even be used be common to Hindus and Muslims.

      Biblical and Christian names like Mathai can become Mathaichan and female names like Sara can become Saramma which may even be pronounced as Tharamma.

      So, Aanda and Thanda may be derivatives of local names that may not have any connection with Biblical or Nasrani names. Particular local “indian’ names may be common among certain local Christian communities. Yet they may not take on a “Hindu name like Ganesh or Raman” but Suraj, Sunil and even Chandran may be used. After all there are some Christians who today name their children some stylish Muslim or rather “Persian” names like Aisha or Nadia. Yes, Nadia could be East European too.

      Very interesting topic.

  • Nina

    Please let me know where the family name ‘Nezhuvingal’ comes from.


  • nibin

    My family name is Cheppila. I am from Kuttanad near Changancherry. Can any one have some clues of the origin of the word.

  • dennis

    Itty is not necessarily a nasrani name .Itty achuthan was a famous ayurveda physician.He is from the ezhava caste.Even nairs used to have that rarappan nair.

  • Gheevarghees

    Itty is only a common Malayalam prefix used in pet names or affectionate names before real names to indicate juniorness or affection as in Ittyanam = Itty Annam, or Ittyra = Itty Avira = Itty Abraham, or in Itty Cheria (a double pet name).Cf. Article on Nazraney Culture by Dr. Joseph Kolengadan in The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Ed. George Menachery, Vol.II, 1973, Trichur.

  • Michael

    What is the likelihood that KASHEY derives from KOSHY? I have Kasheys in my family that immigrated from Syria around 1910.

  • Dipumon George

    Can any one please tell the English variant of the syrian christian name “Mani”

  • A


  • alfred t.

    Can any of u give me the equivalents of RAJAPPAN, ONAN, KUNCHAKKO, SEVI, LEELAMMA, THRUTHIYA….

    • Jacob

      Rajappan and Leelamma are obviously local Indian names. Onan is from Yohannan, which is the Malayalam for John. Kunchakko is Jacob (rather ‘little Jacob), Sevi comes from the Catholic name Xavier (originally “Shauri” in Malayalam), and Thruthiya is Treasa.

      Its interesting to note that there are several Malayalam names used only by the Catholic Syrian Christians. Eg include Dummini/Dumminichen (from Dominic), Anthu/Anthonichen (from Antony), Shouri/Shourichan (from Xavier), Devassya/Devassy (from Sebastian), Porinchu/Pranchichen (from Francis), Ikkalaachen (from Nicholas) etc are some of them.

      On the other hand, names like Ninan, Koshy, Oommen, Maammen, Poonnen etc are better identified with the Non Catholic Syrian Christians hailing from the southern districts such as Kollam – Pathanamthitta than their Catholic brethren.

      • Jacob Idiculas Muthalaly

        How did we get the name Chacko or Chackochan?
        I have been thinking of it for a long time and I believe I have cracked the code…

        Chacko is a common Christian name amongst Nasrani Christians of India. It derives from the name of the patriarch of the Jews, “Jacob” or “Yakoub” or “Yakub” from the Old Testament.

        It must also be noted that the Epistle of James in the Bible is called the Epistle of Jakub or Yakub in Malayalam and in many Middle Eastern and European languages (eg. Greek and Dutch, etc).
        There is every possibility that the name Yacob must have been coined by local usage and for ease.

        Did Yacob become Chacko? Or is there another possibility?

        As to the origin of the name ‘Chacko’, this could have been introduced during the Portuguese occupation of the Malabar coast (Kerala, India) in the 1500’s.

        The surname Santiago was first found in Galicia, Spain. Santiago is a habitational name from any of the numerous places named for the dedication of churches to St. James (Sant Iago). The Portuguese usage has similar origins.

        Obviously, the name Jacob (Old Testament name Yakub) or (Yakub or James, as in the New Testament) has been referred to as Santiago in Portuguese.
        The name Santiago when shortened is Tiago (actually pronounced CHiako).

        It is quite commonly used in Portuguese circles. Hence, the Malayalam Nasrani name, Chacko!
        Note: My name is Jacob and my parents named me Chackochan for home use or as a pet name. It is comforting to note that even parents call their dear children with a post-fix or suffix of “chan” (Chacko-chan) which is most respectful. Both my parents never ever called me a plain “Chacko” as such. That is comforting!

        (Credit: Jacob Idicula Muthalaly, Sydney Australia.

  • yazedo

    Good day
    I heard that back in the day the name Stephen was more common among knanaya than other nasranis is that true?

  • John Mathew

    Occanda, Makanda, Kunjumakanda: origin?

    Does anyone have any info on what names the above represent. They seem quite different from the standard Nasrani names.

    • jose z thundiyil

      These are all alterations of George , Varghese, Geeverghese etc . There have been so manny people with such names some 60 or 70 years ago. It may be intersting to note that Okkandan means a fool or a knave in parts of Kuttanadu and Changanasserry Thiruvalla regions

      These probably are adaptations of George, Varghese and Geevarghese. There have been ancestors with such names.Even today Okkandan denotes a fool or a knave in parts of Central Travancore like Kuttanadu and Changanasserry

  • mathew

    I think the name Kuruvila is derived from equivalent of Charles (derivatives: Karl, Karol, Carlos, Carlitos, Koorillos etc.).

  • Mani

    Kuruvilla is a variant of Kuriakose. Kurian is also derived from the same.
    Punnoose may be a very typical name..derived from Stephan (Stepanos–>Panos–>Punnoose)..
    Mani is name which may have been.. derived from Immanuel (Manuel–Manutty–Mani)

    • Jacob Idicula Muthalaly

      Hi Mani, It makes sense. Thank you for your insight. Cheers J+

  • Dileep Gerorge Cheruvallil

    “Some common Syrian Christian names are:
    For Men: (Thomma, Thoman, Mamman, Oommen) from Thomas, (Chacko, Yakob) from Jacob, (Pathros, Pathe, Pathappan) from Peter, (Yohannan, Lonan, Ninan) from John, (Mathai, Mathan, Mathu, Mathulla) from Mathew, (Yesoph, Ouseph, Outha, Ipe) from Joseph, (Koshy, Easo) from Joshua, (Abragam, Avraham, Avrachan, Itty) from Abraham, (Ittack) from Isaac, (Lukose) from Luke, (Philipose, Pothan, Pothen, Poonen) from Philip, (Paulose, Piley) from Paul, (Chandy, Chandi, Idichandy) from Alexander, (Iyob, Iyoben, Eapen) from Job, (Cheriyan, Kurien, Kuriakose) from Zachariah, (Verghese, Vargisa, Varkey, Varied, Geverghese) from George, (Kuruvilla) from Korah.
    For Women: (Mariam, Maria, Mariamma) from Mary, (Akka, Rabka, Raca, Akkamma) from Rebecca, (Rahel, Rahelamma) from Rachel, (Susanna, Sosa, Sosamma, Achi, Achamma) from Susan, (Saramma) from Sara, (Elspeth, Elisa, Elia, Elacha, Eliamma) from Elizabeth.”

    The above statements give the false impression that the traditional St Thomas Christian names are derived from English. I am not here for further explanation an argument as the historical, philological and cultural sense of the author is in question

    • Shiju Varghese

      I do not see how you came to your conclusion. If you read the article – even without reading the article it is quite axiomatic if you have any exposure to the Bible – it states that Suriyani names are mostly from the Old Testament. All that the author has done is give the common English language equivalents of the names. If you have a bugbear about English you can equally say that Varghese, Jurgen (Danish) and Yuri (Russian) are all derivatives of George, or that Eliamma, Ybel (Spanish) and Zabel (Armenian) are all derivatives of Elizabeth.

      Clearly you are the one who has formed a false impression.

      • Jacob Idicula Muthalaly

        Hi Mr Shiju Varghese,

        Thank you for your interesting post.

        Who were you writing in reply to? Which post were you referring to? I am not sure who you were referring to or aiming at. (163 comments at this stage).

        I do understand that many do state the obvious that has been said throughout this forum on the subject.

        Sorry, I was a bit unclear about your post… If I know the premise of your post, that would make it all the more interesting, Keep it coming.

        All the best.

        Cheers, Jacob.

        • Shiju Varghese

          @Jacob Idicula Muthalaly, I was replying to the September 2nd comment (see the last paragraph) by @Dileep Gerorge Cheruvallil, immediately above my reply. After making his statement he then runs away stating that he does not want to discuss things further! My feeling is that everyone is entitled to their opinion but must also be prepared to defend their position if challenged.

    • Mani P. Sam

      Punnoose and Poonen may not be derived from Philip. You may not believe that it is the equivalent of Stephen.
      Stepanos may be the original name which is also existing as Panos in Greek. Panos became Punoose in Malayalam.

  • Jakleh

    Inquiry about Christian middle names of girls during the 1960s period from Syria?

  • Sam Pappachen

    What is the meaning of name Pappachen??