Tamil Baby Names Honor Heritage

Tamil Baby Names Honor Heritage

Tamil baby names have their roots in the ancient Tamil language, which is venerated in Tamil culture as Tamil Thai “Mother Tamil”. Tamil is one of the oldest surviving classical languages in the world, with a literary tradition dating back more than two thousand years and around 75 million native speakers worldwide. 

Most Tamil speakers live in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, in the Indian union territory of Puducherry, and in the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. In the US, one of the most famous people of Tamil descent is Vice President Kamala Harris, whose mother was born in what is now Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Naming Customs

Despite their rich cultural history, lists of authentic Tamil baby names can be difficult to find. In recent decades, Tamil parents have increasingly turned to names of other origins – particularly Hindi and Sanskrit – motivated by factors like religion and fashion.

Traditional Tamil names follow a different structure to most Western naming conventions. Patronymic names are widespread, with the father’s name appearing as a second name or in the form of an initial. A person named Kayal, for example, may be known as Kayal Amar (the father’s name), or as A. Kayal or Kayal A. Some women also choose to take their husband’s name in place of their father’s after marriage.

Earlier Tamil naming practices used a caste name, such as Iyer or Pillai, in a similar way to a Western surname: for example, Kayal Pillai or A. Kayal Pillai. But there has been a strong movement away from the caste system over the past century and very few Tamil families still use caste names in this way.

Tamil Baby Names With Meanings

Name meanings hold strong significance in Tamil culture. According to art historian Dr R. Venkatraman, cited in The Hindu, “Ancient Tamil names defined qualities that were expected in a person, such as bravery, love, chivalry and beauty.” 

Positive name meanings remain a top priority for modern Tamil parents. Popular categories of meaning include nature names, royal and hero names, virtue names, and names honoring the Tamil language and literature. Some of the trendiest Tamil names of the moment are Kavin “nature’s beauty”, Kayal “carp fish”, Viyan “pride” and Yazhini “musical instrument”.

Below is a selection of the best authentic Tamil baby names with positive meanings, listed together with their gender (masculine, feminine or neutral) and meaning.

A note on pronunciation: the letter A in Tamil, as in most Indian languages, is pronounced like the U in “umbrella”. The letter ழ (transcribed into English as “zh”) has a sound that is unique to Tamil, similar to the English L. You can hear the pronunciation here.

Tamil Nature Names

Nature names are perennially popular in many cultures around the world, symbolizing natural beauty, life and regeneration. Tamil nature names for girls are especially abundant, often drawn from the names of flowers and jewels.

Akil (M) – type of tree

Alari (N) – water

Arima (M) – lion

Ithazha (F) – petal

Kathiravan (M) – sun

Kavin (N) – nature’s beauty

Kaya (F) – purple flower

Kayal (F) – carp fish

Kondrai (N) – yellow flower 

Kurinji (F) – rare flower; highlands

Kuvalai (F) – water lily

Kuyili (F) – voice like a cuckoo

Malar (N) – flower

Mathi (N) – moon

Neidhal (N) – seashore

Nila (F) – moon

Nithila (F) – pearls

Pakalon (M) – sun

Thali (N) – raindrops

Thendral (F) – cool breeze

Veeyan (M) – flowers

Tamil Regal Names

There have been numerous great rulers throughout the history of Tamil Nadu, who are revered for their courage, honesty and benevolence. Most notable are the Kadai Ezhu Vallalgal – known in English as the “last great patrons” or “seven charitable kings” of Tamil history. Tamil parents have often chosen to name their children after these rulers, or to give them names meaning monarch or ruler

Andiran (M) – Tamil ruler

Angavai (F) – daughter of Paari

Arasan (M) – king

Arasi (F) – queen

Athiyaman (M) – one of the seven charitable kings

Aviyan (M) – Tamil king

Evvi (N) – Tamil king

Ilavarasi (F) – princess

Koman (M) – emperor

Mannan (M) – king

Maruthu (M) – Tamil kings

Nallini (F) – Tamil queen

Nannan (M) – regional king

Paari (M) – one of the seven charitable kings

Salbu (N) – nobility

Sangavai (F) – second daughter of Paari

Thennan (M) – king

Veeramangai (F) – brave young woman; warrior queen Velu

Velu (N) – warrior queen

Vendhan (M) – king

Tamil Virtue Names

Tamil literature places a strong emphasis on being virtuous and having a strong moral compass, and these values are reflected in the names parents choose for their children. Virtue names are one of the most popular categories of Tamil names with positive meanings.

Aatral (N) – wisdom

Amara (F) – fitting, perfect, desire, strife

Anbu (N) – love, affection

Aran (M) – warrior like

Arivu (N) – wisdom

Avira (F) – bright

Emi (N) – alone

Ilan (M) – youthful

Iniya (F) – sweet

Kalaiselvi (F) – rich in skill

Kalini (F) – flourishing

Kamari (F) – beauty

Madhi (N) – intelligence

Magizhan (M) – happy

Nalina (F) – pride

Narumai (N) – goodness

Navilan (M) – leadership

Salini (F) – great

Valavan (M) – skilful

Valli (F) – benevolence

Veeran (M) – warrior, brave

Via, Veeya (F) – perfect

Viyan (M) – pride

Names Honoring the Tamil Language and Literature

The great love and respect Tamil people feel towards their language is often compared to a child’s love for their mother. Sangam (classical Tamil) literature, which dates from at least 100 BCE, includes various poems specifically dedicated to the reverence of the language. Naming children after the Tamil language or taking inspiration from literature is an age-old practice that is still very popular today. 

Aadhirai (F) – literary name; star

Inthamizh (N) – sweet

Isai (N) – music

Iyal (N) – literature, text

Kannagi (F) – epic heroine

Kavya (F) – poetry  

Manimekalai (F) – one of the five great Tamil epics; girdle of gems

Poonguzhali (F) – literary character; hair adorned with flowers

Thamizhachi (F) – Tamil woman

Thamizhchelvan (M) – rich in Tamil knowledge

Thamizhchelvi (F) – rich in Tamil knowledge

Thenmozhi (F) – honey-like language

Tholkappiyan (M) – ancient Tamil text

Venba (N) – classical form of Tamil poetry

Yazhini (F) – musical instrument