Expat Magazine

Choosing a Nepali Baby Name

By Hanna

What’s in a name? This is a question I haven’t really considered until I started looking at Nepali names for A dai’s sister – don’t worry they weren’t for my own use…but I do think that I’ll keep a few in mind!

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

A dai’s sister lives outside of Nepal in Australia and is about to have her first baby. With this is mind, A dai approached me to ask me for some advice on Nepali names that sound ‘more western’ or that are easy for non-Nepali’s to pronounce.

In Nepal, when a baby is born their birth horoscope is made and a letter of the alphabet is given by the astrologer. This letter is to be used for the baby’s first name. So, in M’s case his parents were given the letter Ma (as it is the Devanagari alphabet) and they had to pick a name beginning with Ma.

It is also common for the parents to choose a name just for the sake of the horoscope and then choose a ‘calling name’ which becomes the name their baby is known as. This is something that is quite common when Nepali parents want more western sounding names for their children which they choose as the calling name and then they choose a name, often more traditional, featuring the astrologer’s given letter.

With that in mind, I devised two lists – one list with the heading ‘Western sounding Nepali names’ and the other ‘Nepali names that are nice for English speaking countries’.

My first list featured names such as Jesika, Alisha, Rina, Sara, Alina, Eli, Benita, Martina, Soniya, Rita, Ela, Amina and Rebeka. I also included the name Sheela but then withdrew it from my list after realising the humour, as in Australia ‘Sheila’ is slang, meaning girl. It would be like calling your daughter nanu in Nepal which literally has the meaning of ‘young girl’. Quite funny cross cultural translations!

On my second list I included Nepali names such as Nisha, Anusha, Rashmi, Kamala, Nila, Rashika, Usha and Prtiti. Very sweet Nepali names that are easy to pronounce in accents or a native tongue other than Nepali. Even when I pronounce Nepali names that I think are easy to say, I get corrected by Nepali speakers as I am apparently stressing the wrong places or not including the right aspirations. Although in my head I sound perfect!

I also sent A dai’s sister my own list of names that I personally like which included the names Kamala, Rashmi and Saraswati. Although, M constantly tells me the first two names are too common, although he does approve of my last choice as it is more traditional!

I am so glad that it is not actually me who actually has to decide on baby names as it would take me longer than nine months! Especially considering the fact I would want my own English influence as well. I guess the subject of choosing Nepali names that are easy to pronounce in English speaking countries or even being more western sounding is something that will be more of a concern as an increasing number of Nepalis keep moving out of Nepal and making lives for themselves elsewhere. Not even considering the multitude of intercultural Nepali relationships living both in Nepal and around  the world!

Readers – For those of you who have had your children, was this also an issue you considered in the naming process? For those who haven’t, is this something you have thought about and how does this affect your future plans? Share your experiences below – I would love to hear from you!

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

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