The original name for this town was Sohra, which was pronounced "Churra" by the British. This name eventually evolved into the current name, Cherrapunji. The name "cherrapunji" which means 'land of oranges' was first used by tourists from other parts of India. Despite perennial rainfall, Cherrapunji faces an acute water shortage and the inhabitants often have to trek for miles to obtain potable water. Irrigation is also hampered due to excessive rain washing away the topsoil as a result of human encroachment into the forests. The Meghalaya state government has renamed Cherrapunjee back to its original name, "Sohra". There is a monument to David Scott (British Administrator in NE India, 1802–31) in the Cherrapunji cemetery. The history of the Khasis – the inhabitants of Cherrapunji – may be traced from the early part of the 16th century. Between the 16th and 18th centuries these people were ruled by the 'Syiems (rajas or chiefs) of Khyriem' in the Khasi hills. The Khasi hills came under British authority in 1883 with the submission of the last of the important syiems, Tirot Singh.
The main pivot on which the entire superstructure of Khasi society rests is the matrilineal system