Fun Fact about the Indian Name Nikki

Sikhs in India often call their youngest child a nickname starting with Nikk-, little in Punjabi. “Nikku” is for the youngest child who’s a boy, and “Nikki” for the youngest child who’s a girl.

Nimarata Nikki Randhawa Haley (the daughter of two Sikh Indian immigrants surnamed Randhawa, and the wife of Mr. Haley) was given the name Nikki at birth, as her middle name. Almost certainly, her parents chose it for both reasons of tradition, and in order to give her a name that the neighbors could pronounce and spell.

(I shouldn’t have to tell people this, but it is incredibly common for immigrants, or those with unusual ethnic names, to pick at least one name among their kids’ multiple given names which their neighbors can pronounce, or to give them a nickname that is easy to say. And why not?)

It’s even possible that the Randhawas had some helpful American friend or neighbor named Nikki or Nicole, and that they chose to honor such a friend by giving their daughter a similar name. But if that’s the case, they haven’t revealed it. (And why would they, in a time when that friend would be made to suffer for it?)

Nikki Haley’s rarely-used first name is “Nimarata,” the original form of a word often anglicized as “nimrata.” Nimarata means “humility”, but also roughly “benevolence.” It is associated with the custom of touching the feet of holy people, because humbly touching a humble person’s feet was seen as an act that helped purify the soul of pride and evil.

Nimarata or nimrata is one of the Sikh “Five Virtues”: Sat (truth), Santokh (contentment), Daya (compassion), Nimrata (humility), and Pyaar (love of God), which counter the Five Thieves (basically, five vices): lust, anger, greed, attachment, and pride.

Obviously this can be compared to Buddhist virtue systems, but also to the Christian one.

Anyway… it’s important to correct people if they misspell Nikki Haley’s name as “Nimrata” instead of “Nimarata,” because Nimarata is the legal, official spelling that her parents used on her birth certificate. (And misspelling someone’s first name in a news article is very bad form, and possibly a sign of prejudice.)

1 Comment

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One response to “Fun Fact about the Indian Name Nikki

  1. Wow! Did someone actually misspell her name??? I agree that is bad. Especially when an editor can pick it up. How lovely that it translates to Humility though! The Queen of Virtues according to Christianity!

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