About My NameThis page used to be called "How to Pronounce My Name", but now it includes (accurate) pronunciation, (hopefully accurate) spelling in various scripts, and (possibly fallacious) etymology for the components of my name.
This page is getting more traffic than I had originally expected, most likely from prospective parents researching the baby name "Kiran". If you find this page helpful for this purpose, I would enjoy hearing about it; for instance, here is a documented example.
Last updated: 28 August 2011.
Functional componentsAnalysis of Indian names can be confusing for those unaccustomed to them. Luckily, my name is also consistent with Western naming conventions: it starts with my given name ("Kiran") and ends with a family name ("Kedlaya"). The middle bit "Sridhara" is a patronymic, i.e., my father's given name.
You might be surprised to see the family name if you know that many Indian families (especially Brahmin families, like mine) suppressed their family names in the wake of affirmative action policies in India after independence. What seems to have saved "Kedlaya" is its ambiguity: some Kedlayas are Catholic.
PronunciationOne advantage of having a home page is that you can surf it without having to know how to pronounce my name. On the other hand, if explaining that here saves me the trouble of explaining this in person a few times, I'll take it. Note that pronounciation tips are directed towards a native speaker of American English; your mileage may vary. In case this description isn't sufficiently helpful, I finally got around to recording a sound file of the original pronunciation.
There exists some disagreement over how my first name should be pronounced. My immediate family has traditionally pronounced it with a short "i" and a long stressed "aa" vowel (rhyming with "John"). However, the original Sanskrit pronunciation has a short "a" in the second syllable (something like an English schwa, as in "uh") and the stress on the first syllable. (Actually, there isn't really a stress at all, but it sounds a bit like a first-syllable stress to an Anglophone ear. The syllables are both "short" according to Sanskrit prosody.) And that's just the vowels! The consonants also must be modified as follows. The "k" should not be aspirated (if you don't know what this means, dangle a piece of paper in front of your mouth, say "cat" and "gat", and watch what happens), the "r" should be flipped (as in Spanish or Italian), and the "n" should be retroflex (the tip of your tongue should be curled back against the roof of your mouth). Note to you Sanskritophone pandits reading this smugly: there is no final short "a" sound after the "n", even though there is one in the Sanskrit word "kirana" from which the name is derived (see below). But you knew that already, right?
My middle name is less debatable, but a little tricky. The "Sri" is pronounced "shree", as in "Sri Lanka". The "dh" is an aspirated "d" (try saying "tape", then change the "t" to a "d" without losing the puff of air after the "t"), the first "a" is short, the "r" is flipped again, and the last "a" is silent. Actually the last "a" is not really silent, it's a short "a" (otherwise it wouldn't be spelled out), but I typically suppress it in pronunciation, so you should too.
My last name is easy in comparison: just make sure the first "a", which is stressed, is a long "aa" vowel as in "par" and not as in "pair". (Since there's a "y" after it, the result sounds like "eye".) There's no vowel between the "d" and the "l" (as in the words "bedlam" and "headline"). Oh, and the silent "a" at the end isn't silent, it's a schwa. (Yes, my three names exhibit three different conventions about final short "a"s. Sorry.) And try not to aspirate the "k" here either if you can help it.
Don't take this too seriously, of course; I've heard so many variations of these pronunciations that I'll respond to almost anything you can dream up.
TransliterationsFor no good reason, I started collecting transliterations of my name into various scripts. The English spelling is the "original" spelling (see below); I also consider the spellings in in Hindi, Sanskrit, romanized Sanskrit, and Kannada to be "official", in that I would like my name to be spelled exactly these ways in these scripts. (In Turkish, the second "i" should be dotted; I originally thought the first should be too, but now I'm not sure.) The IPA transliteration is the exact rendering of what I was trying to describe above (thanks to Lance Nathan for it). The others are suggestions only; some variations may be appropriate in order to suit local usage. Thanks to Sungyoon Kim for the Korean version and Thanasis Kinias for the modern Greek version.
Note a change in policy from a previous version of this page: I am now writing a virama in the Sanskrit spelling of "Kiran", suppressing the final "a" sound as is done in Kannada.
Trivia tidbit: I received a request from Donald Knuth for the "original" spelling of my name, for a citation in Volume 4 (Fascicle 2) of The Art of Computer Programming. It turns out that Knuth lists cited authors in his index by their names in English transliteration followed, when necessary, by the original spelling in Chinese, Russian, Hindi, or whatnot. (Exceptions: Knuth himself and Ron Graham both get Chinese spellings too.) However, after a short email discussion, we decided that since I was born in the US and my birth certificate is in English, the "original" spelling of name is the English version!
English (in case you've forgotten): Kiran Sridhara Kedlaya
Hindi: as in Sanskrit, or as (i.e., without the virama in "Kiran"; I'd prefer to have the virama there, but traditional Hindi usage would typically drop it)
Kannada: (note that here "Kiran" definitely takes a virama)
International Phonetic Alphabet:
Japanese (Katakana): I originally rendered this as in which my last name is pronounced "ke-da-ra-ya". But it was pointed out to me that the more idiomatic pronunciation is "ke-do-ra-ya", yielding instead.
Japanese (Kanji): My best approximation is , pronounced "kado-rai ki-ran" (with the surname first, as Japanese names are written in Japanese). The kanji mean roughly "gate-thunder spirit-view"; that second combination is a decent approximation to the original meaning "ray of light" of the name "Kiran".
Greek (ancient): I'm guessing a bit on the diacriticals here.
Greek (modern): Note spelling change due to sound shifts in modern Greek.
Korean: pronounced "kee-ran shoo-ree-dah-rah ke-d-rah-yah".
EtymologySince I am also sometimes asked what the parts of my name mean, here is a bit of etymology. Comments/complaints/corrections are welcome.
"Kiran" is easy; it's basically the Sanskrit word "kirana", meaning "ray of light". (As in that Madonna album with the weird Sanskrit stylings from a few years ago, though that title seems to have been sourced from Kabbala rather than anything Indian. See false cognates below.)
"Sridhara" is a mythological figure about which I don't know anything, except that this site identifies him with Vishnu. "Sridhara" also happens to be the name of a ninth-century Indian mathematician. (One site I found states that in Sanskrit, "Sri + dhar" = "beauty upheld".)
"Kedlaya" is more mysterious. My father has spent some time tracing its etymology; at some point, I'll add his results here. (The variant spellings "Kedilaya" and "Kedalaya" also exist; the latter seems to be the original form.)
Other people named KiranThere are a bunch more Kirans listed in the Internet Movie Database, most probably with some Bollywood connection. As you'll notice, the name "Kiran" is gender-ambiguous; I'm not sure how this breaks down. One theory is that the name is more commonly female in northern India, more commonly male in southern India, and unsurprisingly unpredictable in diaspora. In the small but growing number of cases of parents with no Indian ethnicity using the name, it seems to be trending female.
- Kiran Kedlaya... oh wait, that's me.
- Kiran Kolarov is a Bulgarian film director. I think this is a false cognate; see below.
- Kiran Shah is (per Guinness) the shortest active stuntman in Hollywood. He was the "scale double" for Elijah Wood in the Lord of the Rings films.
- Turgay Kiran (that's trying to be a dotless "i" between the K and r) is (or was?) the vice-president of the Turkish football club Galatasaray. Unsurprisingly, this is another false cognate, and a rare one at that: in Turkish, "Kiran" carries the inauspicious meaning "pestilence".
- Kiran Ahluwalia is a Canadian singer of ghazals (Urdu devotional poem-songs); hear her NPR interview.
- Kiran Bedi seems to have been the first woman to join the Indian Police Service.
- Kiran Chetry is a newscaster formerly of Fox News and CNN (where she appropriately hosted "American Morning").
- Kiran Desai won the 2006 Man Booker Prize for her novel The Inheritance of Loss. This may finally make her more famous on her own right than for being the daughter of novelist Anita Desai (who made the Booker short list three times but never won).
- Krystal Kiran Garib appeared in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Bombay Dreams" on Broadway.
- Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is thought to be India's richest woman, having founded the biotech firm Biocon.
- Kiran Rathod appears to be a Tamil actress.
UncertainTo me, anyway.
- Kiran R. Naik seems to be a Bollywood makeup artist, but is much more notable for his/her extremely cool name.
False cognates of "Kiran"The name "Kiran" is apparently not related to any of the following, but prospective parents in mixed marriages might find some of these coincidences useful. (True variant spellings seem to include: Kiron, Kirron, Kiren.)
- The Irish male names "Ciaran", "Kieran", "Kieren", "Kieron", "Kyron", "Kiron": from Gaelic for "black". Female variants "Ciara", "Kiera", "Keira".
- The English (?) female name "Kira/Kyra": possibly from Greek "kyria" for "lady". (Compare "Kyrie eleison".) Also possibly from Persian for "sun", as in the Persian king Cyrus. (Compare also "Cyril", "Kyril".)
- The Hebrew female name "Keren": from Hebrew for "horn". (Compare the Greek root "ker", source of English words like "horn" and "unicorn"; it's unclear whether the Greek root is a loanword from Semitic or vice versa.) Odd fact which is likely a coincidence: Hebrew "keren" can also mean "ray", as in "ray of light"!
- The female name "Karen" and variants: I'm not sure about this one. It may ultimately derive from "Katherine", whose etymology is a long story in its own right.
- The female name "Corinna": from Greek "kore" for "maiden".
- The Japanese female (?) name "Kirin" (as in the beer): from Chinese "qilin" for some sort of dragon.
- The Armenian name "Keran": from Armenian for "wooden post". I'm betting this, rather than the Sanskrit, is the source for the name of the Bulgarian director Kiran Kolarov.