Book On Punjabi Names A First Of Its Kind


Punjabi Names & Their Meanings
Dr. Rajwant Singh Chilana
Surrey, BC: Asian Publications, 2012. 192p.

By Krishan Bector

By writing this book Dr. Chilana has provided a source for Punjabi names to the parents who wish to

name their babies . Dr. Chilana ,an Associate Professor (Emeritus) of the University of Illinois ,Urbana-Champaign, USA had  always felt the need of an exhaustive reference source on this topic when he found that several publications are available on Christian, Jewish and Muslim names but none on Punjabi names and their meanings. This compilation is an outcome of several years of his research work which is quite evident from the comprehensive  work he has done. The book meets the long standing need  of the parents who are in quest  of names for their newborns.

The book has been divided into five sections namely : 1.Introduction,2.Naming Ceremonies among Hindus and Sikhs,3. First Names with meanings,4.Punjabi Honorifics and (5) Punjabi Nick Names.

Name of a person being  a very significant part of his personality so selection of name has always been a crucial decision for the parents. Name of person reflects the nationality, culture and the lineage of a person. Even though first name, middle name and the surname put together form the legal name of

a person still the first name is exceedingly important component  of the name of a person. The names according to the learned author, are usually  meaningful, inspirational  and  depict  devotion to some divinity and can be after sun, moon, flowers ,historical or mythical heroes etc. No doubt  the environment, the country where one is living does impact naming of newborns.

In the same section the need and the procedure of name change has been given.

However comprehensive  compilation may be, it cannot be exhaustive because coining new names goes  on. Many names  are not meaningful, but  sound  good, for example  the name of my friend is Parvesh (enter) which is not  significant. Compounding  words are also common  such as Indarbir,   Indardeep, Indarjeet, Indarjot etc.

Instantly  at birth the babies are not invested with the names, a special ceremony is performed called : Namkaran among  Sikhs a Namkaran Sanskar among Hindus . A saintly person performs the ceremony by invoking divinities to bless the new babe and picks up the letter of the alphabet .The baby is then given a name starting with that letter.  The  Granthi ( priest ) or Pandit suggests  some  names  to the parents  for the  baby. The names they suggest are limited, here the book  opens up  a very  wide choice

to the parents ,particularly those who are living in the Western countries. The book  gives the meaning of each and every first name. Among Sikhs  the middle name is gender based , Kaur ( princess ) is for female child and Singh ( lion ) for the male child. This is not binding  on the Hindus.

Major portion of the book : page  9 to 182 lists over seven thousand  contemporay first  names in alphabetical order along with their meanings. This can also help parents to coin new names .

Many people don’t know the meaning of their names. Here the book can be of immense help  to them. The book doesn’t touch last names  as they are countless  but it does talk of Honorifics such as Baba, Giani Khalsa and Diwan with appendage ji which is a culture based word used as a mark of respect.

In the last section some nick names have been listed.

The book also refers to some of clippings  and modification of the first names to facilitate pronunciation such as Harjinder becomes Harj  and Manmohan becomes Moe etc

There is another tendency  to treat the name of one’s native village of a person as the last name, for example .Badal, Dosanjh ,Longowal.  Badal refers to Parkash Singh Badal . People can figure out the person from the mere mention of the name of the village. This tendency had not been touched. I recall once my daughter said “ Barnala is coming to Patiala”. It clearly meant that Surjit Singh Barnala  is coming to Patiala.

The language of book is simple ,and the printer Star Print –O-Bind ,New Delhi  has given it a very impressive form. In my opinion the book  should be a treated as a pride possession for the parents. It will amazingly embellish your book shelf.