Chekavar is derived from the Sanskrit words Sevakar, Sevakan or Sevaka, which means soldiers in service or soldiers in royal service. Hermann Gundert's English-Malayalam Dictionary, defines the term as militiaman and warrior.
According to George Mathew, "In the south and in some parts of central Travancore the community was known as Ezhava, Chovan or Chekavan."
Sangam literature and hero stones found in Tamil Nadu show that Chekavar were engaged in combat, often on behalf of a lord. On these hero stones, Chekavar are generally depicted by an image of an armed man along with a Shiva Linga. Hero stones were erected to commemorate men who had fallen in battle or cattle raids and were traditional during the Sangam period.
Military exploits of the Ezhavas are recorded in folk songs such as the "Vadukkan Pattukal".
- Mathew, George. Communal Road to a Secular Kerala. Concept Pub.Co, 1989. p. 30. ISBN 81-7022-282-6.
- Smith, Bardwell L. (1976). Religion and Social Conflict in South Asia. BRILL. p. 27. ISBN 90-04-04510-4.
- Gundert, Herman (2000) . Malayalam-English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Sahythia Pravarthaka Sahakarana Sangham, Kerala.
- Orr, Leslie C. (2007). "Domesticity and Difference/Women and Men: Religious Life in Medieval Tamil Nadu". In Pintchman, Tracy (ed.). Women's Lives, Women's Rituals in the Hindu Tradition. Oxford University Press. p. 113. ISBN 0-19-517706-1. Retrieved 13 December 2008.