Saint Thomas Christian names

Last updated

The Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala, in south-west India, have unique naming conventions. Also known as Syrian Malabar Nasranis, they trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. [1] Their naming conventions differ from both members of other religions in India and Christians in other regions.

Saint Thomas Christians Indian ethnoreligious group

The Saint Thomas Christians, also called Syrian Christians of India, Nasrani or Malankara Nasrani or Nasrani Mappila, are an ethnoreligious community of Indian (Malayali) Syriac Christians from Kerala, India, who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. The terms Syrian or Syriac relate not to their ethnicity but to their historical, religious, and liturgical connection to Syriac Christianity. The term Nasrani was derived from Semitic languages and refers to Christians in general.

Kerala State in southern India

Kerala is a state on the southwestern Malabar Coast of India. It was formed on 1 November 1956, following passage of the States Reorganisation Act, by combining Malayalam-speaking regions. Spread over 38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi), Kerala is the twenty-third largest Indian state by area. It is bordered by Karnataka to the north and northeast, Tamil Nadu to the east and south, and the Lakshadweep Sea to the west. With 33,387,677 inhabitants as per the 2011 Census, Kerala is the thirteenth-largest Indian state by population. It is divided into 14 districts with the capital being Thiruvananthapuram. Malayalam is the most widely spoken language and is also the official language of the state.

India Country in South Asia

India is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.


Saint Thomas Christian names are biblical in origin and passed on from one generation to the next. Hence male names are usually patronymic and female names are usually matronymic. That is, usually a person’s name will include the names of their parents and grandparents, or that of a close blood relative. [2] These names will not include the names of saints, other religious figures, political leaders or foreign names [ vague ]. Family names are also included [ vague ]. Unlike Indian Christians of other denominations, foreign [ vague ] family names are absolutely irrelevant for Saint Thomas Christians as they embraced Christianity long before the arrival of European missionaries in India. So a Nasrani can easily be identified by name, from among other Christians.[ citation needed ] Even today, this pattern of giving name is visible in almost all Syrian Christian denominations.

A patronymic, or patronym, is a component of a personal name based on the given name of one's father, grandfather, or an earlier male ancestor. A component of a name based on the name of one's mother or a female ancestor is a matronymic. Each is a means of conveying lineage.

A matronymic is a personal name based on the given name of one's mother, grandmother, or any female ancestor. It is the female equivalent of a patronymic. Around the world, matronymic surnames are far less common than patronymic surnames . In some cultures in the past, matronymic last names were often given to children of unwed mothers. Or if a woman was especially well known or powerful, her descendants might adopt a matronym based on her name.


Before the arrival of the Portuguese in May 1498, Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala were known to belong to the Margam, a word when translated is ‘The Way’. [3]

In 1599, Catholic Archbishop Alexio-de-Menezes called a synod at Udayamperoor, in which Christians in and near the kingdom of Cochin attended. Here he decreed that St. Thomas Christians should abandon their ancient naming conventions. They were specifically told not to use the name Easow because it was holy. [4] But, the Saint Thomas Christians ignored this command and had continued with their ancient customs. Even today they do follow this method of naming. Even the Nasranis that did convert to Catholicism (Syrian Catholics) still use the "old margam" names. The Latin names are shunned

During the 20th century some names were created by joining two or more syllables. For example, Abey (AB), Aji (AG), Bibi (BB), Biji (BG), Jessy (JC) and so on. Today, several Syrian Christians name their children by Indian names like Deepak, Rahul, Neethu, Asha etc. But by the 21st century more biblical names began to reappear. Thus names like, Isaac, Joshua, David, Saul, Ezekiel, Timothy, appeared on the scene. Generally they still follow the system detailed below.

Deepak Name list

Deepak (दीपक) is a Hindi word meaning lamp from Sanskrit source of light. Deepak is the symbol of bright future. It is mostly used to decorate houses during Tihar in Nepal and Dipawali in India. In the twentieth century, it became very popular as a first name for male Hindus. Names like Deepa, Deepika (female), Deepthi (female), Deepam (male), Deepali (female) and many others are related to Deepak.

Asha Central and complex Zoroastrian theological concept

Asha is a Zoroastrian concept with a complex and highly nuanced range of meaning. It is commonly summarized in accord with its contextual implications of 'truth' and 'right(eousness)', 'order' and 'right working'. For other connotations, see meaning below. It is of cardinal importance to Zoroastrian theology and doctrine. In the moral sphere, aša/arta represents what has been called "the decisive confessional concept of Zoroastrianism". The opposite of Avestan aša is 𐬛𐬭𐬎𐬘 druj, "deceit, falsehood".

Isaac Biblical character

Isaac is one of the three patriarchs of the Israelites, according to the biblical Book of Genesis. In the biblical narrative, he was the son of Abraham and Sarah, the father of Jacob, and grandfather of twelve tribes of Israel; his name means "he will laugh", reflecting when both Abraham and Sarah laughed in disbelief when told by God that they would have a child. He is the only patriarch whose name was not changed, and the only one who did not move out of Canaan. According to the narrative, he died when he was 180 years old, the longest-lived of the three.

Standard form of a name

A name will include the baptismal name (generally the person is known by that name ) and the name of the father. The practice of appending the first name of father to the child's name instead of family name is also followed by Hindus of South India. Examples are given below.

Hindus Adherent of Hinduism

Hindus are persons who regard themselves as culturally, ethnically, or religiously adhering to aspects of Hinduism. Historically, the term has also been used as a geographical, cultural, and later religious identifier for people living in the Indian subcontinent.

South India Group of Southern Indian states

South India is the area including the five southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, as well as the three union territories of Andaman and Nicobar islands, Lakshadweep and Puducherry, occupying 19% of India's area. Covering the southern part of the peninsular Deccan Plateau, South India is bounded by the Bay of Bengal in the east, the Arabian Sea in the west and the Indian Ocean in the south. The geography of the region is diverse with two mountain ranges–the Western and Eastern Ghats, bordering the plateau heartland. Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri, Tungabhadra, Periyar and Vaigai Palar rivers are important non-perennial sources of water. Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Kochi, Trivandrum, Visakhapatnam,Vellore, Tiruchirapalli, Madurai, Mysuru, Mangalore and Kozhikode are the largest urban areas.

Male names

Their names traditionally have a threefold structure.

Family or house name – Father’s name – Baptismal name

The first two are usually abbreviated to initials.

Another form is that the name will include the baptismal name (generally the person is called by that name) and the name of his father. The practice of appending the first name of father to the child's name instead of family name is also followed by Hindus of South India. Examples are given below.

As an example, the name, Thomas Mathew is similar to Shimon bar Jona. [5] which means Shimon son of Jona. In the same way, Thomas Mathew means Thomas son of Mathew. Thomas Mathew is to be addressed as Thomas and not by his father’s name.

Here the correct spelling is ‘’’Mathew’’’ and not ‘’’Matthew’’’ as in English.

Another form of name is Nikhil Thomas Mathew where Nikhil is a name chosen by the parents and they usually call him by that name, Thomas is the biblical and baptismal name and Mathew is his father's name.

Their bishop receives a new name on consecration. This also has a threefold structure.

His baptismal name (Sometimes in Syriac form) – the title Mar (in East syriac form) or Mor ( in west Syriac form) – an Episcopal title ( a Biblical name or the name of a Christian father). [6] [7]

Female names

As an example, the name, Rachel Mathew, means Rachel daughter of Mathew. After marriage, father’s name is replaced by the husband’s name. Rachel Mathew is to be addressed as Rachel and not by her father’s name.

Another naming pattern is Anita Rachel Mathew where Anita is a formal given name chosen by the parents, Rachel is the biblical and baptismal name and Mathew is father's name. The given first names can be of any origin and many Syrian Christians give Indian names like Neethu, Deepa etc. to their children.

Use of initials

When initials are used, abbreviations of the family name or house name (name of the plot where the parents of the child live at the time of birth) and the father’s name are given before the given name. For example, the name P.M. Thomas means Palakkappilly (family name), Mathew’s (father’s name) son, Thomas (given name). His sister’s name will be P.M. Rachel.

Other forms

When family name or house name need to be used, it comes first followed by the given name. As an example, T.M. Thomas is, THEETAKATTIL Thomas Mathew or THEETAKATTIL T.M.Thomas.


Hypocoristic (Pet names) are often used in a familiar and friendly manner in informal situations. In more formal situations, the given name is to be used instead. This alludes to the fact that using a person's pet name betokens familiarity. Pet names for Syrian Christians can be Hindu, Assyrian, Persian or Biblical in origin.

Order in giving names

For boys

Male names are patronymic.

The first born is given the name of his paternal grandfather.
The second born is given the name of his maternal grandfather.
The third born is given the name of one of his uncles.

For girls

Female names are matronymic.

The first born is given the name of her paternal grandmother.
The second born is given the name of her maternal grandmother.
The third born is given the name of one of her aunts.


The last name (father’s name) changes with each generation. The family name would also change if members who move out of their consanguineal family homes with the changing ownership of property upon the death of the patriarch decides to adopt a new name. However, several families claim that they are ancient and their family names have remained unchanged for centuries.

The Syrian Christians who have migrated to Western nations tend to choose surnames which can either be the family name or the father's name will be used as a surname.

Common names

The mother tongue of Nasranis is Malayalam. So the names given in the following lists are in phonetic spelling. But the first one, given under ‘’Other names,’’ shows how that name is usually written in English. The two lists include the names of a few common names that are in use, and they are not comprehensive. To know the correct pronunciation of these names, see Malayalam script or Tiberian vocalization.

Male names

NameOther namesEnglish
Avraham Abraham, Avraham, Averaan, Averaachen, Aviraa Abraham
YakovChacko, Yakob Jacob
ChonaChona Jonah
DhavidTharu David
ChandyIdiculla Alexander
Dhaaniel Daniel Daniel
Eappen Eapen, Esthappan, Punnoose, Uthup Stephen
Eisow Easow, Eyochan, KoshyJesus, Yeshua Joshua
IsahakIttak, Itty Isaac
IttyavirahIttiyerah (= Itty-Avira)Issac Abraham
Kuriakose Kurien, Kora, Koruth, KuruvilaCyril, Coorilos
LukaLukachen, LookoseLuke
MarkoseMarkochen Mark
MathaiMathen, Mathoo, Mathew, Mathulla Matthew
PeeliposePhilipose, Peely, Pothan, Poonan Philip
PathrosePathappan, Peeri Peter
Paulose Paul, Poulose, Paulo, Pailey Paul
Shamuel Samuel, Sam Samuel
Shaul Saul Saul
ThomaThommi, Thommen, Thoman, Thommas, Mammen, Oommen, Thampan Thomas
Geevarghese Varghese, Varkey, Vareethu, Varughese, Geevarughese, Vakkachan George, Georgios
YohananLonan, Lonappan, Ninan, Ulahannan John
OusepYawsep, Ouso, Iype, Outha, Ittoop, Kunjeppu Joseph
SkariahKarriah, Karriaan, Cherian, Kuncheria, Scaria Zachariah
Mani Emmanuel
TharakanTharian Tariff or Tax Paid

Female names

NameOther namesEnglish
EliswaAaleyaamma, Aeley, Aeleykutty, Kunjaeley, Kochaeley, Elia, Elacha, Eliamma Elizabeth
AccammaAcca, Reba, Raca Rebecca
AnnammaHanna, Anna Hannah
MariamMariamma Mary
RaahelammaRaahel Rachel
ThresyammaTharama Teresa
SaraSaramma Sarah
ShoshannaShoshamma, Achamma, Shosha Susan

All the above names are sometimes expanded by adding koch, kunju, kutty and mol before or after each name.

Names are sometimes selected from the Malayalam language, and are used as pet names, like

Chinnamma, Kunjamma, Pennamma, Ponnamma, Thankamma.

Table of kinship terms

Family circleTerm of referenceTerm of address
GrandfatherValiyappachen, Appappan,AppachenValiyappachaa, Appappa ,Appachaa
GrandmotherAmmachi,Valiyammachi, AmmamaAmmachi,Valiyammachi, Ammama
FatherAppachen, Appan, Chachan,AchchachanAppachaa, Appa, Chacha,Achchacha
MotherAmmachi, AmmaAmmachi, Amme
UncleAmmachan, Valyappan,Uppapan, Cheriyappan, PerappanUppapan, Valyappa, Cheriyappa, Perappa
AuntAmmayi, Valiyammai, KochammaiAmmayi, cheriamme, Kunjamma
Eldest brotherValiyachayan, Achayan, ChetettanValiyachayaa, Achayaa, Chettetta, Achaachen, Chaachen
Elder brother(name) Achayan, Chettan, Valiya Aangala(name) Achayaa, Chetta
Younger brotherAniyan, Kochu Aangala (name)
Eldest sisterKochamma, Chechi, Valiya ammamma, PengalChechi, Pengalei
Elder sister(name) Chechi, Pengal(name) Chechi, Pengalei
Younger sisterAnyeethi(name)
Infants (both sexes)Kunju, KochKunjei, Koché
SonMakan, MonMakanei, Moné
DaughterMakall, MolMollei, Molé
Grand childPerakutty, Kochumakal (pl)
Grand sonKochumakanMoné, KochuMoneé
Grand daughterKochumakalMolé, KochuMolé

See also

Related Research Articles

Mar Thoma Syrian Church Church based in the Indian state of Kerala.

The Mar Thoma Church, often shortened from Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, is a Reformed Oriental church, based in Kerala, India. It uses a reformed variant of the West Syriac Rite Divine Liturgy of Saint James. The Mar Thoma Church believes that they are the successors of the Saint Thomas Christian community of Malabar (Malankara), which originated from the missionary activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. The church in Malankara flourished under various ecclesiastical faith streams from time to time.

Malankara See of Saint Thomas Historical title in Indian Christianity

Malankara Metropolitan was a legal title given to the head of the Malankara Syrian Church, by the Government of Travancore and Cochin in South India. This title was awarded by a proclamation from the King of Travancore & the King of Cochin.Malankara Metropolitan is believed to reign it faithful from the Malankara See of Saint Thomas.

Mathews Mar Athanasius was the Metropolitan of the Malankara Syrian Church from 1852 until his death. As a reformer, he spent most of his reign attempting to heal rifts within the church, but following his death a faction formed the independent Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church in 1889,under the leadership of Metropolitan Palakunnathu Thomas Mar Athanasius.The faction that opposed the reformation of the Malankara church conducted the Synod of Mulanthurathy against the reformations in 1876 in the presence of Malankara Metropolitan Pulikootil Joseph Dionysious 2 and Syrian Orthodox Patriarch.

Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan was the head of the Mar Thoma Church with its center in Kerala state in south-western India.

Thoma I 17th-century bishop of the Malankara Church

Mar Thoma I, also known as "Valiya Mar Thoma", is the first native democratically elected/selected Metropolitan bishop of the St Thomas Christians or Malankara Church. He was the last Archdeacon of the undivided St.Thomas Christians of Malabar. After the death of Archdeacon George of the Cross(കുരിശിങ്ങൽ ജോർജ്)( Kurisingal being his house name), on 25 July 1640, Parambil Thoma kathanar was elected and enthroned as new Archdeacon, when he was less than 30 years old. He led the Church to the Coonan Cross Oath on 3 January 1653 and to the subsequent schism in Saint Thomas Christians Church. After the Coonen Cross Oath, he was elected as a Bishop by Malankara (Yogam) Association and consecrated as a Bishop at St. Mary's Church Alangad, by laying hands of 12 priests on 22 May 1653. Only two Southist churches of Kaduthuruthy and Udayamperoor and a very few people elsewhere refused to recognise him as Bishop. Any how, the archdeacon began to exercise powers of episcopal order, though he openly tried to regularize his episcopal consecration as a Bishop from the Church of Antioch. His episcopal consecration as a Bishop was regularized in the year 1665 by Mar Gregorios Abdal Jaleel the Patriarchal delegate of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch.(The exact date and place of this event is anonymous).

Mar Thoma II was the second Metropolitan of the Malankara Syrian Church from 1670 to 1686.

Thoma III Metropolitan bishop who sat on Malankara throne and lead the Malankara Church

Mar Thoma III was the third metropolitan bishop who was the Malankara Metropolitan of Malankara Church in India from 1686 to 1688. His leadership was only for a short time.

Mar Thoma V was born in Pakalomattom family, one of the oldest families in Kerala and he was known as Ousep. He was the Malankara Metropolitan from 1728 to 8 May 1765. During his tenure a number of bishops from Antioch arrived and he had to face a lot of problems from them. Some of these bishops were banished from the country and had to return.

Abraham Malpan Indian churchman

Palakunnathu Abraham Malpan, also known as Martin Luther of the East was born in the ancient Syrian Christian Palakunnathu Family which practiced Knanaya West Syriac Rite Oriental Orthodoxy after the Coonan Cross Oath and is an Indian clergyman of the Malankara Syrian Church who translated and revised the liturgy, restoring the Church to what he considered to be its pristine position before the Synod of Diamper. He therefore strove hard for the abolition of auricular confession, prayers for the dead, intercession of saints, and veneration of sacraments. Further he emphasised the reading and study of the Bible, family-worship and evangelistic work. He insisted on a high moral standard of conduct for laity and clergy. All this created a ferment in the Church and its effects are still discernible in the Malankara Syrian Church as a whole. This led to the formation of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church in 1898.

Abraham Mar Thoma Metropolitan was the Head of the Mar Thoma Church from 1944–1949. He was called Maret Kochu Thirumeni by his people. Among the bishops of Malankara Churches Including Mar Thoma Church, Abraham Mar Thoma was the first to earn a Doctoral degree.

Titus II Mar Thoma Metropolitan was the head of the Mar Thoma Church with its center in Kerala state in south-western India. He was known as Thithoos Dwitheeyan Mar Thoma Metropolitan among his people.

Titus I Mar Thoma was known as Thithoos Mar Thoma Metropolitan was the first Marthoma Metropolitan (1893–1909) after the formation of the Marthoma Syrian church.

Mar Dionysius I, also known as Mar Thoma VI, was the Metropolitan of the Malankara Church from 1765 until his death. A member of the Pakalomattom family, he was a shrewd administrator who appealed to outside authorities to assert his position as the sole leader of the Malankara Church and to attempt to reunite all the Saint Thomas Christians.

Mar Thoma VII was a bishop of the Malankara church from 1796 and Malankara Metropolitan from April 1808 to July 1809. He was born in Pakalomattom family, one of the oldest families in Kerala. He was well known as an efficient administrator, deeply religious but was a quiet and reserved person. During his time, a difficult period in the history of Travancore State, the church was able to help Travancore government by depositing an amount as fixed deposit, which came to be known as Vattipanam.

Thoma IX Metropolitan of the Malankara Church in Kerala, India

Mar Thoma IX was the ninth Metropolitan of the Malankara Church in Kerala, India. In 1816, he was consecrated by Mar Thoma VIII. Soon after his ordination he was dethroned by Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysious I who was appointed by the then British resident Colonel John Munroe.

Mar Thoma IV was the fourth bishop who was the Malankara Metropolitan of Malankara Church in India in 1688–1728. During his period the church passed through a number of persecutions.

Oommen is a name used by Syrian Christians (Nasranis) of India, especially in Kerala, the Southwestern state of India.

Saint Thomas Christian denominations

The Saint Thomas Christian denominations are traditional Christian denominations from Kerala, India, who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. They are also known as "Nasranis" as well. The Syriac term "Nasrani" is still used by St. Thomas Christians in Kerala.

Suriyani Malayalam, also known as Karshoni or Syriac Malayalam, is a dialect of Malayalam written in a variant form of the Syriac alphabet which was popular among the Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala in India. It uses Malayalam grammar, the Maḏnḥāyā or "Eastern" Syriac script with special orthographic features, and vocabulary from Malayalam and East Syriac. This originated in the South Indian region of the Malabar Coast. Until the 19th century, the script was widely used by Syrian Christians in Kerala.


  1. The Encyclopedia of Christianity, Volume 5 by Erwin Fahlbusch. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing - 2008. p. 285. ISBN   978-0-8028-2417-2.
  2. Luke 1:59-64.
  3. Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:22.
  4. Decrees of the Synod of AD 1599 July 20–27 (Malayalam), proceedings of the third meeting, Canon 9.
  5. Matthew 16:17
  6. N.M. Mathew. Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume III. 2008. Page 243.
  7. John Fenwick. ‘’The forgotten Bishops.’’ Georgias Press, ILC, NJ. U.S.A. 2009. ISBN   978-1-60724-619-0.