When you are in Bali, you will probably hear the same Balinese names all the time and this might confuse you. Don’t worry, it is confusing and in this blog we will try to explain you a bit about this.

All Balinese people are named one of just 4 names: Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut. This is applies to both men and women.  Here’s how it works:

Every Balinese child is simply named by his or her order of birth. The first born, boy or girl, is Wayan. The second born is Made (pronounced ma day). The third born is Nyoman. And the fourth born is Ketut.  If a family has more than four children, the cycle repeats itself, and the next ‘Wayan’ may be called Wayan Balik, which loosely translates to ‘another Wayan’.

Women are given the honorific ‘Ni’ before their name, as in Ni Wayan. It’s much like ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’. Men use ‘I’, as in I Wayan, much like ‘Mr.’

A few versions of these 4 names do exist and are also used quite commonly. Some Balinese people have names that indicate their caste. (For more information about the caste system in Bali, keep following our blog)

The first born child could alternately be named Putu, the second child could be named Kadek or Nengah instead of Made. The third could be Komang (or Koming for girls) or even NgNga (a very rural name) instead of Nyoman. However, the 4th child (and multiples of 4th) is destined to be Ketut, and only Ketut. For girls however, there is another name for the first born; Luh (which makes it Ni Luh and usually called Iluh). A first born boy can be called Gede, which only applies for boys which makes it I Gede.

Balinese people also give their children a second or third Hindu name that has a positive meaning. Examples include Suardika, which means ‘guiding light’, Setiawan (faithful), or Dewi (goddess). Sometimes Balinese people use this Hindu name or shorten it to create a nickname. For example, Budi might be short for Budiasa, Widi could be a shortening of Widiarta, and Nuri might be short for Nuriasih.
To make it even more confusing, almost every Balinese has another nickname, given by their friends in school or in the village. For example, a guy that is called I Made Budiasa can have the nickname of Lompok. Or a girl that is called Ni Wayan Wardani can have the nick name of Desi.
Now it also happens that one person has different names called by different people. For example our local coordinator Komang. Her full name is Ni Komang Sukaningsih. By some people she is called Komang and by others Ayu.

We know this all sounds very confusing. However, experience tells us that there are hardly any misunderstandings about it under the Balinese. Sometimes people will say “You can ask Made”. If the person is not sure which Made they mean, they could ask; “Do you mean Made Budi? Or Made Guru (teacher)? Or Made Peliatan (village)” We have to be a bit creative with it and don’t feel ashamed if you get the names or persons mixed up

To summarize it:

First born Second born Third born Fourth born
Wayan Made Nyoman  Ketut
Putu Kadek Komang
Luh (girl) Nengah Koming (girl)
Gede (boy) NgNga (very rural, hardly used)


We hope you have a better idea of how the name system works in Bali. For Balinese from a different caste, names are different as well. But that will be too much information for you to read at once so please keep following us on our blogs to learn more. Our next blog will be about the Balinese caste system.