Heptune presents:

A Tragedy Told in Names

Chamoru Names From Early 18th Century Guam

by Brenna Lorenz

    This article is part II of the series Baby Names of the Pacific and Asia. Click here to proceed to the previous article, Names of the Sea.

Now available for the first time off Guam: The Pacific Islander's Book of Names! This is a book of baby names from the Pacific and Asia.

    A collection of names from two early census records taken on Guam, one in 1728 and the other in 1759, tells the story of the horror and despair of a people brutalized by war, disease and slavery.


    Guam was proclaimed a Spanish possession in 1565, but wasn't really settled by the Spanish until more than one hundred years later, when the missionary Padre Diego Luis de San Vittores decided to establish a mission on Guam. The priest was assassinated in 1672 by a Chamoru named Mata'pang. This event triggered vicious retaliation by the Spanish, resulting in a war that lasted until the end of the 17th Century. The war, and European diseases to which the Chamoru people had no resistance, came close to annihilating the Chamorus. Their population dropped from an estimated 40,000 before the wars to fewer than 4000 at the beginning of the 18th Century.

    The Spanish rounded up the survivors and forbade them to go near the sea. They were afraid that the surviving Chamorus would attempt to escape, reducing the slave population even further. Although the period of open warfare was past, the people continued to resist by preventing and terminating their pregnancies. They did not want to bring into the world children who would suffer the horrors that they were suffering.

    If you are interested in reading the details about this sad period in Guam's history, see Guahan, Guam, the History of Our Island by Pedro C. Sanchez, or Destiny's Landfall: A History of Guam by Robert Rogers.

The nature of 18th Century Chamoru names:

    The old census records recorded the names of persons grouped by household and village, along with their gender and an indication as to whether the person was a child or an adult. A casual glance at the name list reveals that each person had a Spanish first name and a Chamoru second name, just as you would be likely to find on Guam today. But a closer look reveals a very significant difference: among the Chamoru second names, there are very few duplicates. Almost everyone has a unique name.

    This tells us two things. First of all, the Chamoru names here are not surnames. That is, they are not family names. This tells us that the people of Guam at this point had two given or "first" names, a Spanish baptismal name and a Chamoru name which was presumably used in everyday life.

    Secondly, the lack of duplication tells us that the ancient Chamorus did not draw their names from a collection of name words, as we do in English, but instead, drew their names from the lexicon of everyday language, as is done by the Chinese. In the 1728 census, we find a very small number of duplicate names, and they are used randomly for males or females. In other words, names or words are not associated with a particular sex as they are in European languages. In the 1759 census, we find the beginnings of a trend toward the European system of naming. Although most names are unique, there are some names that have become very popular, and that are used predominantly for one sex or the other.

    In modern Chuukese culture, people change their names freely throughout life. Dr. Rosa Palomo, a Chamoru language specialist at the University of Guam, believes that the same thing may have been true of the ancient Chamorus. This means that the name recorded in the census record may not have been the person's birth name, but one acquired later in life.

What the names are saying:

    If names are drawn from everyday words, people can use their names to convey any message they like.

    Whereas a great many Chamoru names have positive meanings of the usual type, such as Dahi, "friend" or Faasi, "clean," an unusual number have names that express despair, hardship, striving, and deprivation. We also see many names involving basic needs such as food or the desire for such things.

    Following are the names of despair. References to the sea, wind, fishing and sailing probably refer to the Spanish policy of forbidding the Chamorus access to the sea.

Abag lost
Anajo defeat
Asi pity
Asonn lie down
Attau hide herself
Ayuhan that's all
Canaho I am suspended
Chamiyu not enough of you
Chammangro not enough wind
Charfaulus not smooth enough, one with a rough appearance
Charguiya not enough of him
Chata not enough
Chataga not enough chopping
Chatgadi not catching enough fish
Chatgaia disliked
Chatguemangro he doesn't have enough wind
Chatguiot not enough support
Chatguma not enough of a house
Chathanum not enough water
Chatigan not enough fish
Chatlahe not enough men
Chatpangon not awake enough
Chatongo not knowing enough
Chatsaga not enough to live, poor
Chattai barely enough
Dafi weak
Fatangisña she cries a lot
Fetangis one who cries a lot
Godo entrapped
Godongña she is entrapped
Goflache very wrong
Hocchocña no more of him
Hochoc no more
Hochocguafiña his fire is no more
Hochochinagu no more breath
Hococnineti no more sharp like sword grass
Hudaña she is mute
Humaisña she is alone
Lago teardrop
Langit Humasña she is alone in heaven
Maañao fear
Maanot exposed
Maasi pity
Macbo finished
Machargui not feeling well
Machatli hated
Mafnas faded, wiped out
Maho thirsty
Mahogña he is thirsty
Maigi defeated, overcome
Mamaisa alone, solitary
Manaitay to have nothing
Manfatta to be absent, lacking
Manoga caught, snared
Mapappa someone who has been detached or removed
Masga repent, be sorry
Masogni accused, suspected
Matangis to cry for
Namaasi cause of pity
Ogogta no more of us
Pinita grief
Pintiña her grief
Putinhoccos no more stars
Sipigña her weariness
Tadguaha not having anything
Tadlahi has no man
Tadmamaoni having no betel wad
Tadmaulig having no good
Tadquatano having no land
Tadsamay having no children (seedlings)
Tadtaotao one who has no people
Tafaye not wise
Tahayo no wood
Taiadingan not talking
Taicano nothing to eat
Taichagi not trying
Taichigo no kiss
Taifagas not clean
Taifalac not going to
Taifino no language
Taigachong no mate, lonely, friendless
Taiguaha having nothing
Taigualo without a farm
Taiguia having nothing, not here
Taiguima no drink
Taihilon not requested, not chosen
Tailagua no net
Tailayag no sail
Taimagof unhappy
Taimagong not healed
Taimanglo no wind
Taimaulig no good
Tainaan no name
Tainahon not satisfied
Taingatanga no fuel
Taingatongo no friendship, no pleasantness
Tainini no light
Taipati no shore
Taipilo no blade
Taipingot no flower
Taisagua poor, destitute
Taisagui no pull
Taisamay no seedling, no child
Taisangan no speaking
Taisigui not advancing
Taisongsong no village
Taitagui not her way
Taitaho not fishing
Taitanga not wished for
Taitano no land
Taitasi no sea
Taiticho not erect
Taitichong no seat
Taya nothing
Timatanga not strong, fearful
Uda mute

    The following are defiant names, showing the undercurrent of resistance that persisted after the military defeat of the Chamorus by the Spanish.

Agñasiña mighty for each other
Ahi no
Allei insult
Aña to overpower, to punish
Añaho I punish, I overcome
Añaña she punishes
Añao to conquer
Atti trick, one who plays tricks
Babaota our battle flag
Chomma forbid
Dadau fierce, ferocious
Felu blade
Gabi slash, cut
Gamomo loves a battle
Guatapang alert guard
Lalalo enraged
Machatlu stubborn
Mafac shatter
Manfaysinho I am asking questions
Momo battle, fight
Nahagua one who draws blood
Naputi one who causes pain
Nayaoyao troublemaker
Punu kill, murder
Quetago striving to command
Quetogsa striving to pierce with a spear
Quetogua striving to conquer or strike down
Taiasi savage, cruel, no pity
Taimañao no fear
Taimasga no repentance
Tayañao not afraid
Tayigi not defeated

    These names reflect the struggle to survive and to support one another, and the longing for basic necessities in hard times:

Abi to provide for, to sustain
Adagi to guard, protect
Aguon basic food, bread, taro
Amog medicine
Amta heal
Asin salt
Atugud to prop up each other
Cadassi to have something of the sea
Chaggi try, attempt
Chocholage eat a little more
Comemaulig it's getting better
Gofchegi try a lot
Gofhenum lots of water
Gofhigan lots of fish
Gogui protect, save, rescue
Guiran fish
Hanumta our water
Magogui protected
Maharang yearning, desiring, lonely
Malala to be alive
Malulug satiated
Mamuranta to watch over our own
Manongsong to make a village
Mantanga wished for
Mantanoña being his land
Matangn longed for
Mesngon enduring
Queagon striving for food
Queamot striving for medicine
Quecano trying to eat
Quechogui striving to work
Queguma striving for a home
Quehofa striving to hang on, striving to keep what he has
Queleleg striving to live
Quesamaiña striving for her children
Quesoho striving to dip water
Quetaca striving to achieve, attain
Quetano striving for land
Saga living, staying
Sagualahe living man
Saguaña his living, his staying
Saguataotao living person
Samai seedling, child
Samailahi boy seedling, male child
Sunamu my taro
Sungot enduring
Tano land
Tasi sea
Tugut prop, support


Chamoru names today:

    The majority of modern Chamoru surnames arose from personal names found among the 18th Century census records. Today the telephone book contains families with names like Taitano, Mafnas, Mesngon, Ogo (Hochoc), Masga, Naputi and Gogui. How did these names make the transition from individual personal names to surnames?

    We can see this very transition happening now in Palau and Micronesia. The people of these islands traditionally have had no surnames, but contact with Western culture has placed pressure on them to adopt surnames. Typically, when a person is asked to a supply a surname, he uses the given name of his father (or, more rarely, his mother). This practice may continue for a few generations, meaning that each generation has a different surname. Eventually, however, the process fossilizes when a person uses his father's surname (i.e.: his grandfather's name) instead of his father's given name. In the islands today, different families are using different options for choosing surnames, and no tradition or uniform practice has yet established itself.

    By means of this process, the names that were used during the time of the Chamoru people's greatest hardships and struggles have survived to the present day.

Return to the previous article, Names of the Sea.
Read about The Pacific Islander's Book of Names.

Published 8/1/99.
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