February 24th, 2011
Neeta is due any day and seeks an Indian name that works well in an English speaking world. Let ‘s help her out.
I’ve been following your blog for a bit now, and was wondering if you could help me out in my own naming quest. My baby will be half Indian (from India!) and half-American, and I’m looking for a name that represents both cultures – or at least one that is easy to pronounce in both languages! Growing up in the U.S. with an Indian name, I know the difficulties of having an “ethnic” name – people pronouncing it incorrectly or claiming it’s too hard to say – and honestly, I embrace. It’s the price of carrying something of my culture as part of my identity, and I don’t mind gently correcting people. My husband, on the other hand, grew up with a basic all-American name and experienced the other end of the spectrum – the awkwardness of not wanting to pronounce someone’s name for fear of getting it wrong, and the ambiguity in terms of gender that often accompanies foreign names. He’s also worried about putting our baby through the teasing or bullying that might go along with an Indian name, especially when he or she might not look very Indian and won’t have an Indian last name!
So to win him over I’ve been on the hunt for an Indian name that looks easy to pronounce and won’t scare my poor husband away. Names that are either common enough in the U.S. so that many people will already know how to pronounce it (we live in a big city with a relatively large Indian population) or one that is easy enough to guess phonetically. The biggest problem I’ve come across is the difference in how a name looks like it should be said vs. how it’s actually said. Case in point: Ravi is a really common Indian name, but most people in the U.S. pronounce it Rah-vee when it’s actually Ruh-vee.
A couple that match the criteria (aka asking hubby how he would pronounce a name corresponding to how I would pronounce it) include Shreya, Leena, Rohan, Neil. Hubby really likes Maya, but I have a little cousin with that name. One that I really like is Naina, but it makes poor hubby cross-eyed every time he attempts it. Are there any Indian names that you can think of that you have found easy to say? Or any advice in choosing an ethnic name? Our last name is two syllables, and starts with an H.
Thanks so much!
Neeta, thank you so much for this incredible challenge! I fear I’m not *entirely* up to the task, as I read not a lick of Sanskrit, nor any other language native to India, but– I’m not afraid to try. Here are some names that seem like they would work fairly seamlessly in English? My criterion was simply that they be attractive (to me) and relatively simple.
Hope you find a gem in here. Please let me know which names would not be pronounced the same in both countries, and as always readers, we welcome your ideas.*
Amala- Sanskrit, “clean, pure.”
Anjali- Sanskrit, “offering.”
Asha- Sanskrit, “wish, desire, hope.”
Avani- Sanskrit, “earth.”
Indira- Sanskrit, “beauty.”
Kala- Sanskrit, “art form, beauty.”
Kumari- “In the Hindu epic ’Mahabharata’ Kumari is the wife of the warrior Bhima. This is also another name of the Hindu goddess Durga.”
Mina- Sanskrit, “fish.”
Mira- Sanskrit, “sea, ocean.”
Priya- Sanskrit, “Priya.”
Sashi- Transcription of Shashi, which refers to the moon and literally translates to “having a hare.”
Sundara- Sanskrit, “beautiful.”
Yamuna- Name of an Indian river.
Veena/Vina- Sanskrit, “lute.”
Akash- Sanskrit, “open sky, space.”
Amar- Sanskrit, “immortal.”
Anand- Sanskrit, “Happiness, bliss.”
Lochan- Sanskrit, “the eye.”
Mahesh- Sanskrit, “great lord.” Another name for Vishnu.
Raj- Sanskrit, “king”, “prince.”
Rakesh- Sanskrit, “lord of the full moon day.”
Sunil- Sanskrit, “very blue.”
Vasant- Sanskrit, “brilliant”, “spring.”
*All meanings from Behindthename.com
For more like the image above, please see my Scavenger Hunt at my other new blog, The Itsy Factor.