Read this article first before looking through this list.
How to use this page:
This is an attempt to categorize several commonly used Indian names based on primary community. Knowing where someone comes from can help you develop better rapport and small talk, and it makes you look really smart.
- Use the Control + F feature to find a name.
- Primary communities are based on state, language, or religion, and they often overlap.
- Bold text indicates near certainty that someone belongs to a certain group.
- These are all surnames or family names (except the Tamil list). Given names may or may not reveal what group someone belongs to.
- Please add any suggestions or corrections to the comments below!
- Anglo Indians
- Assamese (Assam)
- Bengali-speaking (West Bengal, Bihar, Assam)
- Gurarati-speaking (Gujarat)
- Kannada-speaking (Karnataka)
- Kashmiri (Kashmir)
- Malayalam-speaking (Kerala)
- Marathi-speaking (Maharashtra)
- North India
- Oriya-speaking (Odisha)
- Pujabi-speaking (Punjab, Haryana)
- Rajasthani-speaking (Rajasthan)
- Tamil-speaking (Tamil Nadu)
- Telugu-speaking (Andhra Pradesh, Telangana)
- Uttar Pradesh
They will often have very British sounding names such as Binny (south Indian), Clark, Anthony, Peters, Vetticad, etc. Many also have Portuguese or French names, such as D’Monte, LeBrooy, Pacheco and so on.
- Bhattacharya (see also Bengali)
- Chakraborty (see also Bengali)
- Thakur (see also Bengali)
Bengali-speaking (West Bengal, Bihar, Assam)
Notice the recurring –jee ending.
- Bhattacharyya (see also Assamese)
- Chakraborthy (see also Assamese)
- Das or Dasgupta
- De or Dey
- Dutt or Dutta
- Ganguly or Gangouly
- Ghosh or Ghoshal
- Thakur (see also Assamese)
- Choubey (also UP)
- Dubey (also UP)
- Pandey (also UP)
- Tiwari (also UP)
- Upadhyay (also UP)
- Yadav (also UP)
Many Christians have western sounding names like Mary, George, Aaron, Abraham, John, Antony, Joseph, etc. Kerala, Goa, and northeast India have high concentrations of Christians.
Goa has a lot of Portuguese influence. Many of these family names are also Catholic by religion. Unlike Anglo-Indians, they have taken on the family names of those who originally converted the family to Christianity.
- Kamath or Kamat (see also Malayalam and Marathi)
In Gujarat, the father’s name is often used as a middle name
- Mehta (see also Punjabi)
- Mistry or Mistri (see also Parsi)
- Modi or Mody (see also Parsi)
- Pathak (see also Marathi)
- Yagnik (see also Rajasthani)
Jains are their own religious group. Many will use the surname Jain. Otherwise, their names will seem similar to Hindu names.
The suffix –appa is a good indicator of origins in Karnataka.
- Nayak (see also Oriya)
Kerala has a high concentration of Christians, so many names like Thomas, George, and John are likely to have roots there.
- Cherian (Syrian Christian)
- Kamath (see also Goa and Marathi)
- Kurian (Syrian Christian)
- Varghese/Verghese (Syrian Christian)
- Varma (see also Telugu)
Often end in –kar
Muslims are found all over India, and some of their names are regional. In general, they use the letters F, J, and Z more in their names than Hindus.
- Hussain or Hossein
- Khan (occasionally used by Hindus)
These are names that are common throughout northern India across regions and language groups, though nearly all are Hindu names. You would need to check to know exactly where they are from.
- Agrawal, Aggarwal
- Chaudhary or Chowdhury or many other spellings
- Nayak (see also Kannada)
- Rao (see also Telugu)
It is also common to see a lot of –jee or –vala (wallah) suffixes with Parsi names
- Guzder or Gazdar
- Jijibhoy (also Jeejeebhoy or Jijibhai)
- Mistri or Mistry (see also Gujarati)
- Mody or Modi
- Sethna or Shethna
- Vachha (also Wachha or Wacha)
Pujabi-speaking (Punjab, Haryana)
- Gangwal (see also Rajasthani)
- Mehta (see also Gujarati)
- Gautam (see also Uttar Pradesh)
Nearly all Sikhs take the religious name of Singh for males and Kaur for females. However, these names may be used by Hindus as well. Sikhs do have family names as well, but don’t often use them since they are opposed to caste.
Their first names often end in –jeet, -jit, -deep, –meet, or –inder
Other than Singh, here are some other Sikh surnames you may interact with:
Tamil-speaking (Tamil Nadu)
As a result of the socio-political movements against caste in Tamil Nadu, most Tamils don’t use family names since the family name is generally the same as the caste name. Instead, they often use an initial to designate their father or husband’s name. C. Krishna’s given name is Krishna and his father’s name is perhaps Chandrasekar. Therefore many of the names below are given names and not family names. For that reason, I’ve only included men’s names.
Tamil names can also be identified because they add an extra ‘h’ onto names. Preeti becomes Preethi. Shanti is Shanthi. Kartik is Karthik, etc.
Many names also end with -samy or -swamy (Appasamy, Ponnusamy, Krishnaswamy, Appuswamy, etc.)
- Balasubramanian (Bala, Subbu, Subramanian, Manian)
- Iyengar (family name)
- Iyer (family name)
- Kumar (common throughout India)
- Mudaliar (family name)
- Narayan or Narayana
- Srinivas or Srinivasan
- Venkat or Venkatesan
Telugu-speaking (Andhra Pradesh, Telangana)
- Choubey (also Bihari)
- Dubey (also Bihari)
- Pandey (also Bihari)
- Tiwari (also Bihari)
- Upadhyay (also Bihari)
- Yadav (also Bihari)