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"Shenai" redirects here. For the instrument, see Shehnai.
Plaque outside commercial establishment, Goa, India.

Shenoy (Devanagari: शणै or शणय) is a common surname amongst the Goud Saraswat Brahmins and Rajapur Saraswat Brahmins in India. They usually speak Konkani which is considered as their mother tongue.


श्रेणीपति > शेणीव्वई > शेणय

The original word is Shrenipati or the leader of the guild, which got converted as Shennivayi in Apabhraṃśa, and later as Shenai or Shenvi in old Konkani.

Background and origins[edit]

The Goud Saraswat Brahmins are from Goa, India and are originally part of the larger Saraswat community of north. Saraswat brahmins used to live on the banks of the river Saraswati during ancient times . After the river got extinct some migrated towards south and since then settled in Goa. The Shenoys were generally involved in administration of the city.[1] The word "Shenoy" itself means a writer.[2] GSBs were administrators of the temples. The word "Shenoy" is also interchangeable with its Sanskrit counterpart Shanbhag or Shanbhogue which means clerk.

The Saraswats migrated from Goa during the Muslim and Christian conquests during 1600 , and carried their surname with them . Thus the word 'शणै' is transliterated in Latin script as Shenoy in Karnataka, as Shenoi in Kerala, and as Xennai, Shenai or even Sinai in Goa. "Xennoi" was used in the erstwhile Portuguese territory of Goa but has given way to "Xennai" today.[3] Another possible origin of the surname Shenoy is from the word "Shennvi" meaning ninety six. This denotes the ninety six families of Saraswat Brahmins who initially settled in Goa.

It was common in Goa for Shenoys and other Saraswats to add the name of their ancestral village or title after Shenoy to denote their origin. Thus we have persons with surnames such as Shenoy-Kuncoliker and Shenoy-Salgaonker (denoting village) and Shenai-Khatkhate[4] (denoting the title).

Some other Saraswat surnames are Bhat, Kamath, Mallya, Pai, Bhndarkar, Nayak, Padukone, Rao. The surname continues to be used by the Konkani Roman Catholics of Goa and Canara, who were descendants of the Shenoys.[2] They may use their Catholic surnames along with their Saraswat surname (e.g. Pereira-Shenoy)[5]

The 16th century saw the exodus of Hindus from the Portuguese conquests of Salcette, Tiswadi, and Bardez, where forced conversions and destructions of Hindu temples were carried out by the Jesuits and Franciscans. The Shenoys fled along with their Hindu cousins and settled along the western coastline. Large settlements of Saraswats were at Basrur, Kundapur, Udupi Mangalore, and in Cochin and other places along the Canara and Kerala coast and Shenoys are also found in large number in these place.

The Shenoys also migrated to the West. They have, along with other Saraswats and Indians as a whole, assimilated well in countries like the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Prominent Shenoys[edit]


  1. ^ GSB surnames - GSB
  2. ^ a b Maffei 1882, p. 217
  3. ^ Saradesāya 2000, p. 24
  4. ^ Shenai-Khatkhate
  5. ^ Pinto 1999, p. 168, "The Konkani Christians had names of saints like Peter, John, James, Jacob and Portuguese surnames like Saldanha, Britto, Coelho, Pinto, Vas and others. Some did have Hindu surnames: Shet, Shenoy, Kamath, Padival, etc."


Further reading[edit]