Sherpa (Tibetan: “eastern people”, from shar “east” and pa “people”) are an ethnic group from the most mountainous region of Nepal, the Himalayas.
Sherpa as a surname is the result of mistaken census takers of the Nepalese government. Not recognizing that some people only had one name at the time, census takers wrote “Sherpa” in the place of a last name. The surname “Sherpa” has thus been adopted and involuntarily used as last names even though last names are not part of Sherpa culture.
Most Sherpa people live in Nepal’s eastern regions; however, some live farther west in the Rolwaling valley and in the Helambu region north of Kathmandu. Tengboche is the oldest Sherpa village in Nepal. Sherpa people also live in Tibet, Bhutan, as well as in the Indian states of Sikkim and the northern portion of West Bengal, specifically the district of Darjeeling. The Sherpa language belongs to the south branch of the Tibeto-Burman languages, and it is mixed Eastern Tibet (Khamba) and Lhasa dialogue. However, this language is separate from Lhasa Tibetan and unintelligible to Lhasa speakers.