A member of a traditionally matrilineal Hindu ruling caste in Kerala, India. Formerly also in extended use.
Before the period of British administration the caste included most of the royal and noble lineages and the military, and subsequently became prominent in the professions.
Of or relating to the Nairs.
Late 16th century; earliest use found in Nicholas Lichefield (fl. 1582). From Portuguese naire from Malayalam nāyar members of ruling caste, soldiers in general, plural of nāyaṉ leader from Sanskrit nāya from nī- to lead.