Singh (IPA: /ˈsɪŋ/), is a title, middle name, or surname which
originated in India. Derived from the
Sanskrit word for lion, it was
adopted as a title by certain warrior castes in India. It was
Guru Gobind Singh
Guru Gobind Singh for all Sikhs. It was later adopted by
several castes and communities. As a surname or a middle name, it is
now found throughout the
Indian subcontinent and among the Indian
diaspora, cutting across communities and religious groups, becoming
more of a title than a surname.
1 Etymology and variations
4 Immigration issues: common surname
5 See also
Etymology and variations
Creation of the
Sikh Guru Gobind Singh, 1699
Pratap Singh of Thanjavur
Pratap Singh of Thanjavur (ruled 1739-1763)
Nepalese Prime Minister & Commander-in-Chief Mathabar
Lakshmeshwar Singh of
Raj Darbhanga in Bihar, published in
Graphic Magazine, December 1888
Singh Yadav, (born:1980) an Indian Soldier Awarded Param Vir
Chakra for his bravery in the Kargil War
The word "Singh" is derived from the
Sanskrit word for lion
(सिंह siṃha). Several variants of the word are found in
In Punjabi (
Shahmukhi script), the name is written as
ਸਿੰਘ/سِنگھ and pronounced as Singh.
In Bengali, the name is written as সিংহ (Sing-ho) which also
means lion, however the name is pronounced as Shingh.
In Hindi and Nepali, the name is written सिंह
(IPA: [sɪŋɦə]), and pronounced सिंघ ("singh",
In Urdu, it is written as سِنگھ with the same pronunciation.
Variations include Simha and
Sinha in Bihar.
In Maithili, the name is written as सिंह and both
Sinha are used interchangeably.
In Marathi, the name is written and pronounced as सिंह
In Gujarati, it is spelled as સિંહ (Sinh). Another variant is
Sinhji, the form of
Singh used in Gujarat, where the 'g' is dropped
and the suffix of respect 'ji' is added.
In Chinese, Shīzi (狮子) means lion.
In Telugu, the word for lion is simham (సింహం).
In Malayalam, simham (സിംഹം) means lion.
In Meitei, the name is written and pronounced as
Sinha or Singha.
In Tamil, the word for lion is Singham written as
In Sinhalese, the name is written as සිංහ and pronounced as
In Burmese, it is spelled သီဟ (thiha), derived from the Pali
In Thailand, singha is known as sing (สิงห์), meaning
Indonesia and Malaysia, Singa or Singha, means lion.
Singh is known as Siṅg or in
Kannada alphabet as
Sanskrit word for lion, variously transliterated as
Singh was used as a title by
Kshatriya warriors in northern
parts of India. The earliest recorded examples of the names ending
with "Simha" are the names of the two sons of the
Rudraraman in the second century CE. The first ruler of the Chalukya
clan bore the title Simha ruled around 500 CE. The Vengi branch of the
Chalukyas continued using Simha as the last name till the eleventh
century. The Rajputs started using
Singh in preference to the
classical epithet of "Varman". Among the Rajputs, the use of the word
Simha came into vogue among the Paramaras of Malwa in 10th century CE,
among the Guhilots and the Kachwahas of Marwar in the 12th century CE,
and the Rathores of Marwar after the 17th century.
By the sixteenth century, "Singh" had become a popular surname among
Rajputs. It was adopted by the Sikhs in 1699, as per the
instructions of Guru Gobind Singh.
Singh is used by all baptized male
Sikhs, regardless of their geographical or cultural binding; the
females use Kaur.
In the 18th century, several groups started using the title Singh.
These included the Brahmins, the Kayasthas and the Baniyas of what are
now Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In the 19th century, even the Bengal
court peons of the lower castes adopted the title Singh. Bhumihars,
who originally used
Brahmin surnames, also started affixing
their names. In
Bihar and Jharkhand, the surname came to associated
with power and authority, and was adopted by people of multiple
Ahir (Yadavs) also
characterized themselves as Kshatriya, and used 'Singh' as part of
People belonging to several other castes and communities have also
Singh as a title, middle name or a surname; these include
Sikh Punjabis, Gujjars (e.g. Nirbhay
Singh Gujjar), Marathas (e.g.
Singh Rao Gaekwad) and Hindu Jats (e.g. Bhim
Singh Rana) The
surname 'Singh' is used by many caste groups in Bihar. The name is
also found among the Indian diaspora. For example, taking advantage of
the fact that there was no reliable way to ascertain a person's caste,
some of the low-caste Indian indentured labourers brought to British
Guiana adopted the surname "Singh", claiming to be high-caste
Singh is generally used as a surname (e.g. Manmohan Singh) or as a
middle name/title (e.g. Mahendra
Singh Dhoni). When used as a middle
name, it is generally followed by the caste, clan or family name.
To avoid being identified by their castes or clans, several Sikhs
append "Khalsa" to
Singh (e.g. Harinder
Singh Khalsa). Some Sikhs add
the names of their native villages instead (e.g. Harcharan Singh
Longowal, after Longowal).
Originally, a common practice among the
Rajput men was to have Singh
as their last name, while
Rajput women had the last name 'Kanwar'.
However, now, many
Rajput women have
Singh in their name as well.
Immigration issues: common surname
A section of around a million adherents of Sikhism that live abroad in
Western countries only keep
Kaur as their last name. This has
caused legal problems in immigration procedures, especially in Canada.
For a decade, the Canadian High Commission in
New Delhi stated in
letters to its
Sikh clients that "the names
Singh do not
qualify for the purpose of immigration to Canada", requiring people
with these surnames to adopt new ones. The ban was denounced by the
Sikh community, after which the Citizenship and Immigration Canada
announced it was dropping the policy, calling the whole issue a
misunderstanding based on a "poorly worded" letter.
List of people with surname Singh
Singh v Canada, a Supreme Court of
Canada case on the applicability of
Charter rights to refugee claimants
^ Angus Stevenson; Maurice Waite (2011). Concise Oxford English
Dictionary: Book & CD-ROM Set. OUP Oxford. p. 1346.
Kumar Suresh Singh (1996). Communities, segments, synonyms, surnames
and titles. Anthropological Survey of India. p. 32.
ISBN 9780195633573. Going by the usage,
Singh is more a title
than a surname, cutting across communities and religious groups.
^ Feuerstein, Georg (2002) . The Yoga Tradition: Its History,
Literature, Philosophy and Practice. Motilal Banarsidass/Hohm.
p. 444. ISBN 81-208-1923-3. OCLC 39013819.
^ Vanita, Ruth (2005). Gandhi's tiger and Sita's smile: essays on
gender, sexuality and culture. New Delhi: Yoda Press. p. 37.
ISBN 978-81-902272-5-4. OCLC 70008421.
^ a b Qanungo, Kalika Ranjan (1960). Studies in
Rajput History. Delhi:
S. Chand. pp. 138–140. OCLC 1326190.
^ Prakash Chander (1 January 2003). India: Past & Present. APH
Publishing. p. 120. ISBN 978-81-7648-455-8. Retrieved 11
January 2013. In those days, "Singh" as a surname was very popular
among a famous warrior caste of north India, the Rajputs. Some of the
first Sikhs were also Rajputs.
^ A History of the
Sikh People (1469-1988) by Dr. Gopal Singh
^ Catherine B. Asher; Cynthia Talbot (2006).
India Before Europe.
Cambridge University Press. p. 269.
^ Virendra Prakash
Singh (1992). Community And Caste In Tradition.
Commonwealth. p. 113.
^ Pranava K Chaudhary (2009-02-21). "Using surnames to conceal
identity". The Times of India. Retrieved 2013-01-18.
^ Bhavan's Journal, Volume 12, Issues 1-16. 1965. p. 123.
^ Singh, Santosh (2015). Ruled or Misruled: Story and Destiny of
Bihar. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9789385436420. Retrieved 28
^ Raymond Thomas Smith (1996). The matrifocal family: power,
pluralism, and politics. Routledge. p. 118.
^ Khushwant Singh, A History of the Sikhs, Volume I
^ B. V. Bhanu Contributors Kumar Suresh Singh, B. V. Mehta,
Anthropological Survey of
India (2004). People of India: Maharashtra,
Part 3. Popular Prakashan,. p. 1846.
ISBN 9788179911020. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list
^ Kolff, Dirk H.A., The
Rajput of Ancient and Medieval North India: A
Warrior-Ascetic; Folk, Faith and Feudalism, edited by NK
Rajendra Joshi, Institute of Rajasthan Studies, Jaipur, India. Rawat
Publications, Jaipur and New Delhi. ISBN 81-7033-273-7
^ San Grewal (2007-07-26). "'Singh' ban denounced". T