What I Think about Indonesian : Indonesian Naming System (Introduction)

Indonesians’ naming system depend on the following aspects :

  1. Ethnicity
  2. Family background
  3. Religious background
  4. Title background (royal heritage)

Based on ethnicity, many Indonesians have got unique name which cannot be found in many parts of the world. Even Indonesian Chinese has got Indonesian-sounding surnames. However, most Indonesians do not have family surnames, only some ethnics whose the family surnames such as The Bataks, Nias in Sumatera and Eastern Indonesians particularly in Northern part of Sulawesi, The Moluccas and Papua. It also happens among Chinese, European and Arabs descendants.

In several occasions, you can tell someone’s ethnicity from his or her names. For example when you know someone’s name is I Nyoman Sudiarta, you can tell that he’s Balinese or Mochtar Pakpahan, he must be from Batak’s background (from his surname). While you encounter someone whose surname is Telaumbanua or Zebua, he or she must be from Nias (an island west of North Sumatera). About some Indonesians surnames, I will tell you in the next posting.

Many Indonesian Muslims will tend to give their children Islamic sounding names even though in some aspects those names are not even known among the Middle Easterners and other Muslims. Names like : Muhammad, Abdullah, Mahmud, Hamid, Ahmad, Razak, Ridho, Imam, Iman, Rahmad, Abu Bakar etc are common Muslim male names. While for females such names as Fatimah, Nur, Aminah, Khadijah, Fauziah etc. But some names maybe very uncommon among Middle Easterners such as : Misbakhul Khair, Miftahul Huda, Itsna Syahadatud Dinnuriyah, etc. Or some Indonesians use bin and binti in their ID card for showing their father’s names such as

Ibrahim bin Ahmad

Fatimah binti Zaid

But many Muslims also do not give Islamic sounding names to their children. They tend to use local sounded names, Sanskrit-based names or even Western-sounded names. While other Muslims combine Islamic-sounded with other elements so that’s why it looks unique.

Meanwhile Christians tend to give their children Christian names and mostly based on Latin names like Matius, Joseph, Alfonsius, Christina, Bernardus, Petrus, Yosefa, Maria, Basilius, etc. However, some Christians do not give or hide their Christian names and let their given names appear on ID Card, particularly among Javanese Christians (though there are many of them write their Christian names as well).

To be continued

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Hanno Phenn says:

    I read your post with interest.I just wonder the male name Iman. I know him as a female name from the wife of David Bowie the former Model from Somalia and she is Muslim.

    1. It’s common here when you see a male called Iman, Imam as Iman itself means ‘faith’.

      1. Hanno Phenn says:

        Cheers for this explanation.I have downloaded your pictures Today to have a look If I can do something .Na to small you better email me your pictures.I have a few Ideas what I could do itch hem but I need them bigger. Oh by the way ,did you like the Music?

      2. Okay, let me send you them tomorrow afternoon (Indonesian time) and see what you will do with those pictures then. 🙂

        By the way, maybe tonight I’ll listen to your shared music.

      3. Hanno Phenn says:

        Take your time there is no rush.I am still up to my ears in work.

      4. Hehehehehe..okay 🙂

  2. Badai says:

    my friend’s cousin was named after three religious leaders: Muhammad Jesus Gautama

    1. Hehehehe, so complicated

      1. Badai says:

        semoga gak keberatan nama sih *kepikiran*

      2. Kira-kira gimana ya karakternya? takut kabotan jeneng.

      3. Badai says:

        hahaha we’ll see in the future

      4. Hahahaha…soalnya kalau kabotan jeneng bisa sawanen kata orang sini.

      5. Badai says:

        sawanen apa sih

      6. Sawanen itu sakit-sakitan

  3. My Tropical Home says:

    Now this is really interesting. I know we had a naming system also put in place when the Spaniards came here and also even by the locals before the colonizers came. Thanks again for the share.

    Warm regards,

    1. You’re welcome again Mary.

      Yes, so many systems come to us along with colonization as well as global interactions. Now, many people name their children based on their preferences, even they take their idol’s names too.

      The warmest regards,’


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