Meaning and History of ‘Singh’

Being from a Sikh family my son’s middle name is ‘Singh’. One day I was telling him the meaning of Singh and we took this as any other normal discussion of the day with him and forgot. But he somehow kept that in mind and a few days later, while coming back from school, told his father that we have a lion at home. My husband asked him to clarify as we don’t even have a dog, so what was this lion he was talking about. He said he was the lion, since his name was Singh. He looked very innocent when he narrated the whole story to me again. The word Singh has  been derived from the Sanskrit word Sinha, which means Lion. It is used both as a surname and middle name.

Singh was taken on by Sikhs in 1699, when Guru Gobind Singh instructed his followers to use Singh after their names on the auspicious day of Baisakhi. His purpose was to create a brave community who would fight against all the odds of the society at that time. Sikh’s being true to this are a very brave community.

But it is not only the people following Sikh religion who use Singh as their middle name or surname , since a lot of North Indian Hindus had started using Singh as a common surname. ‘Singh’ is also a general middle name of other castes and religions in South Asia especially in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. In some Southeast Asians countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, people use Singh as a family name.

There are evidences that first of all the two sons of Rudraraman in the second century CE, the ruler of Saka had their names ending with ‘Simha’. Indian Rajputs instead of their nickname ‘Varman’ started using ‘Singh’. Hence warriors in India used the surname Singh to signify courage. After this many non-Rajput marital tribes had started using Singh as their surnames just to copy Rajputs. In 19th century, many Bengal court peons had also used Singh in their names.

Depending upon the region and community many variants of Singh are used such as Simha, Sinh, Sinhji, Singham etc but it mean the same, lion or brave heart.

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For more related information, you may refer to the following:

About Sikhism

Sikh Empire map

Gurudwaras in Punjab

Religions in India