Ceremony on the beach of Lovina, Bali. (Indonesia, July 2008)
Ceremony on the beach of Lovina, Bali. (Indonesia, July 2008)

Wayan, Made, Nyoman and Ketut

  Indonesia: Bali - July 2008

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 

In Bali, everyone seems to have the same first name. You pass three Nyoman and five Wayan in a day. Weird.

It sounds like a joke to the tourists... but it's not! The Balinese actually have their own system for children's names.

The elder and the following

Ceremony on the beach of Lovina, Bali. (Indonesia, July 2008)
How many Wayan, Made, Nyoman and Ketut at this Balinese ceremony? (Indonesia, July 2008)

There is no difference between a boy and a girl, the name you receive simply corresponds to the order of arrival in the family!

The eldest will be called Wayan, the second Made, the third Nyoman and the last Ketut. For the fifth and following ones, if there are any, we start from the beginning with Wayan, etc.

As a result, everyone there is called Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut! With small variations according to the castes: Wayan can also be replaced by Putu and Gede, Made by Kadek and Nengah, Nyoman by Komang. Some also have diminutives and nicknames, sometimes forged from the family name, to distinguish themselves.

On the beach of Pemuteran, little girls play after their traditional dance class. (Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
On the beach of Pemuteran, little girls play after their traditional dance class. (Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)

Prefixes are used to distinguish between the sexes: I for boys and I for girls. There are also a whole host of ceremonial titles for high-caste families.

During my last stay in Bali, this summer, I took the plunge. I made up a first name in the Balinese style, in relation to my status of elder, to make my interlocutors smile. When the inevitable happens "what's your name?"I gibberish proudly in Indonesian: "Nama saya Wayan-Corinne." Success guaranteed!


  Indonesia: Bali - July 2008

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  1. It is quite surprising, but when the driver of your minibus is called Made, like the captain of the jukung and the guide at the temple, we start to wonder...
    I have another anecdote about names in Bali. We often see in the streets signs and plaques with the inscription "Dokter Gigi". We found it strange that all the doctors are called "Gigi", but when you know about the names, you think why not.
    It was only when we asked for toothpicks in a restaurant and on the cover it said "Tusuk Gigi", that we understood that "Dokter Gigi" meant dentist... 8)

  2. Hello Wayan-Thib!

    During my stay in Bali, I realized that many visitors were totally unaware of this particular system for Balinese names.

    Myself, during my first stays in Bali, a few years ago, I was quite surprised: in one day, all the guys who introduced themselves to me said they were called Wayan or Nyoman! At the beginning, a bit stupidly, I had even imagined that it meant something like "I am your man"... in the sense: "at your service".

    Since then, I have been explained the thing. But as Alimata said, it surprises at first!


  3. Interesting! thanks for sharing; Bali is among my destinations to do in the next 5 years. That's good to know 😉 It's true that for someone who doesn't know, it can look like a joke....

  4. In the center there are 3 Wayan, 2 Made, 2 Komang, 2 Ketut and a Nyoman ...
    Kadek, Agus, Putu and others are also Balinese names even if they are less common. They are either used for different castes or simply by taste.
    Each Balinese has a name that is known only to close relatives. This name is determined in the third month of the child according to its character. There is of course a special ceremony on this occasion!
    By Cedric Saveuse