In southern India, Tamil names traditionally include the family's place of origin, the father's name, and given names, sometimes punctuated with the caste name (now less common). Often in writing, the place of origin and/or the patronym are initialized. For example, Aiyalam Parameswaran Balachandran has a given name of Balachandran, his father's name was Parameswaran, and his family is from the village of Aiyalam. His name may be written A. P. Balachandran. Kannada names and Malayalam names are similar to Tamil names. Telugu names are usually one or more surnames followed by one or more given names. Southern Indians may sometimes write the given names before the surnames, especially on legal documents.
In much of the north (for example among Assamese, Bengali and Punjabi speakers), the full name typically consists of one or two given names followed by a surname. In writing, the two given names may be combined, for example Satishchandra. Gujarati and Marathi names might be given name, father's name, surname. When a woman marries, the father's name is replaced by that of her husband.
Most Sikh men have a surname of Singh (meaning "lion"), while most women have a surname of Kaur (meaning "princess"). This was instituted by the guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), who wished to diminish the power of the caste system. In some cases Singh or Kaur is the middle name, and it is followed by a family name.
Hindu given names often originate from Sanskrit, the ancient Indo-European language of India. The sacred texts of Hinduism are an important source, providing, for example, Krishna, Ajit, Shiva and Indra for males, and Lakshmi and Sita for females. Sanskrit vocabulary words are also used as names, such as Gita "song" and Anand "happiness".
Sikh given names tend to derive from Sanskrit, though in most cases they are distinct from Hindu names.
Surnames usually originate from the local language. Typically they derive from either a profession or the family's place of origin. Some surnames indicate the caste.