I noticed many Indians choose to abbreviate their names when they are in a foreign country because it's difficult for foreigners to pronounce them, especially if they are longer. So when an Indian meets an American, he doesn't go by his full official name, just a short form. Example: Raj, from Rajendra

  1. Is this only for the foreigners, or do Indians also do that in their home country (in modern times) like in English there is Dan from Daniel and so on?

  2. How are they formed? Is it the first syllable or does it depends on the name? I would appreciate some examples.

  3. Is this a trend or just an isolated case?

Note: I know that in India there are multiple spoken languages like Hindi, Assamese, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil. Please let me know if it depends on the spoken language or regional traditions.

1 Answer 1


Long Indian names are indeed shortened for informal/semi formal usage in India too. It is typically shortened to the first two syllables. For example Venkataraghavan usually becomes Venkat and in the example you used Raj for Rajendra.

Male names which are thus shortened could be used for semi-formal usage too. Female names are shortened to form nicknames and are not common in formal or semi-formal usage. Eg: Sushmitha could become Sush for casual usage and Nazneen could become Naz.

Apart from the first names being shortened, last names are compressed to their initials. This is common for even official usage in many parts of southern India. So, Praveen Ramesh Jalahalli is almost always Praveen R J for most of his life and is referred to on many government documents including his drivers license (except on the passport where people expand the initials).

In some parts of Maharashtra and northern Karnataka, it is common for male names to be affectionately shortened to 1.5-2 syllables with a 'ya' suffixed at the end. Eg: Rajendra's friends might call him 'Rajya'.

Names ending with a half syllable are often suffixed with a 'u' or 'a'. Eg: Shiv could be Shivu or Shiva in many parts of the country. This is common in languages like Kannada, Tamil, Marathi, Telugu which do not often end proper nouns with half syllables.

  • Is the 'ya' suffix diminutival or does it mean anything?
    – PixelPower
    Oct 8, 2015 at 9:11
  • No. It is not diminutive nor does it carry inherent meaning. It is partly to make the name informal and partly to avoid making a sharp stop on the last half syllable like my other example states.
    – khal
    Oct 8, 2015 at 18:26

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