B. R. Goodfellow.

WE give below a list of the common, or better-known Sherpa names, together with suggested explanations of meanings and derivations. Column A is by Ludwig Krenek; Column B by Johannes Schubert, who also provides philological corrections.

We do not propose to enter the controversy over the meanings, still less over the variety of spellings and pronunciations, which appear to be legion.

Generally, however, the pronunciation of Tibetan names deviates considerably from the original Tibetan spelling. For example, the Tibetan 'p and 'ch' are often pronounced 'b’ and 'ts’. The prefix 'Ang' is always stressed, e.g. Ang Tsering is pronounced Angts(e)ring, with an almost inaudible e. The same applies to the prefixes Da and Pa, e.g. DaN (or) bu, PaN (or) bu; the or being practically inaudible.

It is interesting to find that in some cases there is perfect agreement between the two versions; whilst in others, the opposite seems to be the case.

Mr. Krenek says that he has been helped in his interpretations and spellings by Rai Bahadur Tenduf La, son-in-law of the late Sirdar Bahadur Laden La, one of the best-known figures of his time in Darjeeling.

Days of the Week :

Monday .. .. Dawa
Tuesday .. .. Mingma
Wednesday .. .. Lhakpa
Thursday .. .. Phurba (Purba)
Friday .. .. Pasang
Saturday .. .. Pemba
Sunday .. .. Nyima (Njima).


suggested explanations oe sherpa names

  Name A B
1. Ajiba The fourth son Tib. bzhi-pa = the fourth, i.e. son.
2. Ang, Anga Infant, baby. As in similar eases (cf. Nullu) the name given to the small child is retained throughout life. The meaning 'baby' is doubtful.
3. Changba The youngest. This is not a Sherpa name. It derives from the Thamang; another branch of Nepalese Buddhists. Tib. chun-ba (also chun-nu) = the small or young one. The youngest in the case of many children.
4. Chettan, Tsetan Che == life, ten = safe, sure, hence an assured or long life. Tib. tshe-brtan = enduring, eternal, long life.
5. Chodi,   Tib. chos-Idan == having religion, pious.
  Chicade One who prattles unceasingly.  
6. Chung Small (Cf. changba; Tib. chun-ba).
7. Da or Dawn Born on a Monday Tib. zla, zla-ba = moon, month Pronounced da.
  Dakshi Perhaps the same as Dawa = born on a Monday.  
8. Dorji Thunderbolt . Better with e (Tib. rdo-rje) = Dorje.
9. Dukpa A native of Bhutan Tib. 'abrag-pa' = the man from Bhutan. The Bhutan woman would be ' abrug-ma'. Pronounced dukpa and drukpa.
10. Genden Amdo Genden (?) from the province of Amdo, aregion on borders of China and Tibet. Genden may be Tib. dge-ldan == virtuous.
Uncertain. Amdo is Tib. a-mdo.
11. Gna (better Nga) The fifth son Tib. Ina = five. Is, of course, an abbreviation of Ina-pa (nga-ba, nga-wa), the fifth.
12. Gyalgen Gyal = king, chen == great, hence great king. Not 'great king' (Tib. rgyal-/po/chen/po), but 'emblem of victory' (Tib. rgyal- mtshan), pronounced djalchen.
13. Gyali The victor (often in fisticuffs between brothers). Tib. rgyal-ba, or rgyal-la, or rgyal-le, or jal(l)e/i.
14. Hishe or Yishe The so of a priest Tib. ye-shes = absolute wisdom = Sskr. jnana. A very popular Tibetan name and, owing to the spread of Lamaism, also in Mongolia (Ishi).
15. Jigme Designation of a low caste. When the first son dies, the parents often call the second son by the name of a low caste or an animal, hoping thereby to confuse death or the god of death, as if to say: It is not worth while taking him, for he is only an animal. Tib. 'ajigs-med -= fearless.
16. Karma Star Tib. skar-ma == star. Perhaps associated with Karmi and Kami ?
17. Karsang   Tib. skar-bzan = favourable star (born under a favourable star ?).
18. Kesar Singh   Tib. ge-sar. By popular etymology also skye- gsar or ke-sar. Name of the hero of the Tibetan national epic. Skr. simha = lion.
19. Kikuli Name given to a dog (cf. Jigme) Contains Ki, Tib. khyi == dog.
  Kitar One who leads a carefree life.  
  Lewa (better Leba) Of good looks.  
20. Lhakpa Born on a Wednesday Tib. lhag-pa - Wednesday.
21. Lobsang Lob = heart, sang = good or big, hence kind, generous. Tib. blo-bzan == of good understanding. The meaning ' heart' for lob is an error. It is a very frequent name.
22. Mingma Born on a Tuesday Tib. mig-dmar = Redeye = Mars = Tuesday.
23. Namgyal also Norbu (the r almost inaudible). Nam = heaven, Gyal = king
Precious stone, jewel
Tib. rnam (par) rgyal (-ba) = thoroughly victorious. No connection with heaven' or 'king'. A name often met with in Sikkim.
24. Naspati   Probably Hindustani from Persian naspati = pear.
25. Norsang Nor == riches, sang - much, great Tib. nor-(bu) bzan(-po) = fine jewel.
  Nullu One who always cries. Name given to an infant (cf. Ang).  
26. Nyima (Njima) Born on a Sunday Tib. nyi-ma - sun, Sunday.
27. Palden   Tib. dpal-ldan = having fame = famous.
28. Pasang Born on a Friday Tib. pa-sans or wa-sans = Venus, Friday.
29. Pemba Born on a Saturday Tib. spen-pa = Saturn, Saturday.
  Phensing Not a Tibetan name. Mr. Kydd of Darjeeling nicknamed Angtsering III 'Fancy'. Angtsering pronounced it 'Phansi'. On later expeditions this became' Pansy'.  
30. Phu (pronounced more like

Son Not Tib. bu = son, but abbreviation of Phurba.
31. Phu or Phurba (Purba) Born on a Thursday Tib. phur-pa = peg, nail, magic dagger. Also = Jupiter, Thursday.
32. Pintso   Tib. phun-(sum)-tshogs(-pa) = perfect, excellent ; very common for men and women alike.
33. Rinsing   Tib. rigs-'adzin = understanding science, having great talents.
34. Samdup Reliable, true Tib. bsam-'agrub = executing the will.
35. Sanglu Good singer. His voice may have been good when he was a child. Tib. bzan-glu = good song.
  Sarki Leather merchant (a very low caste, cf. Jigme).  
36. Sona, Sona(m) A happy one Tib. bsod-nams - luck.
37. Tashi One who lives happily Tib. bkra-shis =% blessing, happiness.
38. Temba Equable, reliable Tib. brtan-pa = sure, certain.
39. Tensing (better than Tenzing)
Tewang (more correctly Tewing)
About the same as Temba
Name of a monkey (cf. Jigme)
Tib. bstan-'adzin = understanding the teaching. A frequent name.
  Tharke A name without a special meaning  
40. Thondup Successful in life Tib. don-grub - one who has reached his goal; Skr. Siddhartha.
41. Thupden   Tib. thub-ldan = having strength, endurance.
42. Tinle One who works fast Tib. phrin-las = the busy one. Better Thinle. Also occurs as Thinlay.
43. Tobge Very strong Tib. stobs-rgyas = extended power.
44. Tse (I) Tibetan che - life Tib. tshe = life. Better aspirated with h.
45. Tse (II) Mountain top, summit Tib. rtse = summit.
46. Tsering Long life. Abbr. Tsin Tib. tshe-rin = long life (same as Chettan). Abbreviated to Tsin.
47. Tsong Name of a Tibetan province near the borders of Nepal. Tib. gtsan = pure. Name of one of the chief provinces of Tibet, the Sherpa pronunciation being tsong.
48. Urgent A Bhutia name of unknown meaning Tib. o-rgyan or u-rgyan = Skr. udyana = garden.
49. Wangdi also Ongdi (more
correctly Wongdi)
A powerful or mighty one Tib. dban-ldan = having power, strong, mighty,
50. Wangyal also Ongyal   Tib. dban-rgyal = powerful.
51. Yila, Yula, Yil A local god in the Khumbu district Tib. Yul-lha == a national god.


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