Why do we Tamilians not have a last name?


Why do we Tamilians not have a last name?

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Frankly, I have no idea!! 🙂 If you do please comment below…

But I can share some thoughts regarding our first and last name business! While for most of the world specifying a first and last name is the easiest thing to do – it is not so for us who belong to one particular state in India, Tamil Nadu!! Specifying first and last names is Greek and Latin to most of us who are Tamilians. I used to be petrified of applications that asked for

First name:

Last name:

Middle name:


Husband’s name:

to which my answer will always be:

First name: Jayanthi

Last name: Manikandan

Middle name: –

Surname: Manikandan

Husband’s name: Manikandan!! 🙂


Now, you can imagine the feeling the person reading the application will get after seeing so many “Manikandans” all over the place!! 🙂 And if there is another column called “Family name” – you know what the answer will be!! 🙂

The real problem is we Tamilians (atleast most of us) do not have have the custom of having last names at all.

So, how do we specify our names in the first place might be your question – to which the answer is:

  1. For girls, we take the first initial of our father before marriage and we take the first initial of our husband after marriage
  2. For boys(they have it easy!! :)) they take the initial of their father, throughout their lives.

Since we never had the habit of specifying last names in our life, it is quite amusing when we encounter applications that require a variety of “names” to be specified.

So, how do we tackle this?

  1. For boys(it is simple again! :)) – just affix the father’s name behind their first name throughout life!
  2. For girls, before marriage – we affix our father’s name behind our first name and after marriage, we affix our husband’s name behind our first name!!( I am sure there are exceptions and some women do keep their father’s name after marriage too)

And if the world decides to introduce any more names to its “name dictionary” – you know what my answer will be!! 🙂

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9 Comments so far

Kala RaviPosted on10:42 am - Dec 21, 2017

I hear you fellow Tamilian! It has been tough getting it through authorities who still can’t believe we have no last name while filling forms! Even tougher when you plan to study abroad! I was hoping for some kind of explanation on this post, but I guess some Q’s remain unanswered!

    JayanthiPosted on10:47 am - Dec 21, 2017

    So true! I/We used to have the same problems when living abroad…I think we just wanted to be different from everybody else – is my only thought! 🙂

Sunil DeepakPosted on10:54 am - Dec 21, 2017

I wonder how do the Tamilians residents/citizens in other countries deal with it? In Europe, if you have a baby, you can decide if you want to register him/her with father’s family name or mother’s family name but they will not allow you to register the baby with mother/father’s first name. 🙂

    JayanthiPosted on11:01 am - Dec 21, 2017

    My kids were born in the US… we just gave my husband’s name as their last name… much to their surprise! 🙂

    So, in the US – we are allowed to give the father’s first name as the baby’s last name…

VenkataramanPosted on11:05 pm - Feb 8, 2018

I think dravidan parties made castism to go backfoot in Tamil nadu. It started during freedom movement itself. https://www.quora.com/Why-do-Tamils-not-have-surnames?share=c61f2cb2&srid=uf5P7

RameshPosted on10:53 pm - Apr 12, 2018

Well in my view we don’t have last name because our last names were cast names historically… Like “Pillai” or ‘Iyer” or “Chettiar”

So when they wanted to eliminate castism 50 or 60 years ago, the last names got cut off

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