Friday, March 13, 2009

On the title Dayang

Previously I have suggested the word "dayang" has survived as a remnant of the medieval empire of Zabag and/or its predecessors.

Dayang has the meaning of "Lady" in Kapampangan denoting a woman of noble standing. I derive it from the word daya "blood." In his dictionary of the Kapampangan language, Bergano gives the phrases matas a raya and maluto raya "es de sangre noble (one of noble blood)." The "d" in daya becomes "r" when preceded by a vowel sound. Literally matas a raya translates to "high of blood," while maluto raya probably means either "cooked, i.e. cultivated blood," or "dark-red-blooded."

The word dayi is almost certainly derived from or comes from the same root as daya. Dayi means "lineage." Bergano mentions the phrases dayiyan arian "es de linage real (of royal lineage)" and dayiyan mapia "es de linage noble (of noble lineage)."

A variant of these terms would be dayang arian or dayang mapia meaning respectively "of royal blood," or "of noble blood." And these could further be shortened to simply dayang.

Terms related to dayang are widely found across the region: dayang "lady," Tagalog; deyah "young woman of high rank," Old Javanese; dayang "lady, mistress" Tausug; dayang-dayang "princess," Tausug; dayang "court maid of honor, lady-in-waiting," Sundanese; dayang "daughter of a noble state dignitary (Datuk)," Sarawak Malay, Brunei Malay.

Spanish writers tell us little of the term except that it was basically the equivalent to "Dona," while the title Gat was equivalent to "Don."

However, from the situation that remains in places like Brunei and Sarawak might enable us to dig deeper. In those areas, a Dayang is a female descendant of a noble state dignitary known as an Awang or Abang, while a Megat is the title of the son of a royal female with a non-royal male.

Now, the term Gat as used in Kapampangan is a shortened form of Magat, which is still used as a surname and also sometimes as a personal name. Magat in turn is a shortened form of pamagat "title of honor, special name." Now, magat here obviously seems related to Malay megat.

One could suggest that in early Kapampangan society, a Dayang conveyed not the title of her father but a special title to her male descendants when she married a non-royal or a non-noble. The son would prefix "Gat-" to his surname to signify his half-noble birth. The female descendants would again have the title Dayang, and thus nobility of blood would also pass through the female line.

Since this nobility did not seem to carry the entitlements of land, etc. involved with the title of her father, the Dayang transmitted purely a nobility of descent or blood and thus the suitability of the term rooted in daya "blood." It is often suggested that "dayang" is derived from Sanskrit jaya "wife." However, the sound transformations suggested are too convoluted, and dayang or its cognates no where means "wife," but refers specifically to the "daughter" instead. Also, jaya conveys no meaning of nobility or royalty, while dayang as related to daya "blood," and dayi "lineage," appears to suggest precisely the role of the royal and/or noble female in passing on titles even when marrying non-royals or non-nobles.

Paul Kekai Manansala


Bergano, Diego (1690-1747). Vocabulario de la lengua Pampangan en Romance, Imp. de Ramirez y Giraudier, 1860.


Mr. A said...

This is very interesting. Please keep up the research so that the history is not totally lost.