The word gotra means "lineage" in the Sanskrit language. While it is akin to a family name, the given name of a family is often different from its gotra; given names may reflect the traditional occupation, place of residence or other important family characteristic rather than gotra.
Gotra also can mean cow, land, veda and guru.
People belonging to a particular gotra generally are of same caste in the Hindu social system. However, there is a notable exception among matrilineal Tulu speakers, for whom the lineages are the same across the castes.
People of the same gotra are generally not allowed to marry. At weddings, the gotras of the bride and the groom are read aloud to verify that they are not breaking this rule.