Indonesian names and naming customs reflect the multicultural and the polyglot nature of the over 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago. The world's fourth most populous nation, Indonesia is home to approximately 365 tribal-ethnic groups, each with their own culture, customs, and language. The Javanese are the largest single group (40%). Over three hundred of these ethnic groups are officially recognized in the country.
In addition to the usual ranks and professional titles, it is customary to add Pak or Bapak and Saudara for addressing men, and Bu or Ibu for addressing women. Pak and Bapak are literally translated as "father", with Bapak being the more formal and used in speech much like the English word "sir". Saudara is a term of greater respect and formality, literally translated as "kinsman". Ibu is literally translated as "mother" and is used in speech much like the English words "ma'am" and "lady". If a person's name is unknown, one can call an Indonesian man Bapak or an Indonesian woman Ibu. Another informal way to address significantly older people is to call them Om and Tante, which mean "uncle" and "aunt". The terms are Dutch-influenced and quite commonly used in big cities. However, local honorifics continue to be employed throughout Indonesia, such as the casual general way Kakak is used for older sister/brother; in Javanese Mbak is used for older sister. Mas is used for older brother; in Sumatran Malay or Minangkabau cultural spheres it corresponds to Abang for older brother, but it is common to call a becak driver, angkot driver, vegetable vendor, fishmonger or hawker abang. Additionally, 'Gus' (from bagus), as used to address former president 'Gus Dur', is usually used exclusively to address honorable Eastern Javanese people with strong traditional and religious links.
Indonesians do not generally use the Western naming practice of a given first name and a family last name. The majority of Indonesians do not have family names as westerners would understand them, but their given names are geographically and culturally specific. For instance, names beginning with "Su" in Indonesian spelling ("Soe" in Dutch orthography), or ending with an "o" are usually Javanese, for example Suprapto/Soeprapto, Joko. Balinese names are quite distinct, as they have a naming system which denotes birth order (Wayan: first born, Made: second born, etc.) and caste (I Gusti for Kshatriya, etc.), as well as gender beside personal names. Sitompul and Rajagukguk are clan names usually found in people with Batak or North Sumatran heritage. In general, Indonesian names fall into one of the following categories (in order of popularity):
- A single name, such as Sukarno and Suharto
- Two (or more) names without a family name, such as Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
- Two (or more) names with a family name such as Abdul Haris Nasution or Mahyadi Panggabean
- Two (or more) names with a patronymic, such as Megawati Sukarnoputri or Abdurrahman Wahid
These categories of names are described below.
Indonesian naming system
Until recently, most Indonesians do not have family names, with their last name being merely another personal name. Usually, both men and women have had a given name and take the name of their father. Some married Indonesian women take the last/family name of their husband, but not all, and this name is usually added after their own 'last' name. Therefore, it is not rare for married couples to have different last/family names.
Naming also differs around the country, with some Javanese, especially old generation, having only one name; Bataks have clan names which are used as their surnames; and some Chinese Indonesians have Chinese-style names. In Indonesian telephone directories, names are listed under first/given names, not under family names.
- Child's name: Hasan
- Father's name: Suparman
- Mother's name: Wulandari
On the birth certificate, the child's name would be written as: Hasan child of Suparman and Wulandari
The birth certificate of an extramarital child would bear only the mother's name.
On a school diploma, the child's name would be written as: Hasan child of Suparman
On all other official documents (ID card, driver's license, and passport), only the child's name would appear: Hasan
Polynymic names without family name
- Child's name: Hasan Prasetyo
- Father's name: Suparman Prakoso
- Mother's name: Wulandari Hartono
On the birth certificate, the child's name would be written as: Hasan Prasetyo child of Suparman Prakoso and Wulandari Hartono
On all other official documents, the child's name would be written as: Hasan Prasetyo
Polynymic names with family name
As in Example 1 above, only the child's name will appear on official documents. If the parents want a family name (or surname) to appear on these documents, the family name should be included in the child's official name.
- Child's name: Hasan Herianto
- Father's name: Suparman Herianto
- Mother's name: Wulandari Sulistyo
On the birth certificate, the child's name would be written as: Hasan Herianto child of Suparman Herianto and Wulandari Sulistyo
On all other official documents, the child's name would be written as: Hasan Herianto
Polynymic names with patronymic
The patronymic is usually constructed from the father's name, with the word putra (for males, means "son" in Sanskrit) or putri (for females, means "daughter" in Sanskrit) appended.
- Child's name: Hasan Suparmanputra
- Father's name: Suparman
- Mother's name: Wulandari
On the birth certificate, the child's name would be written as: Hasan Suparmanputra child of Suparman and Wulandari
On all other official documents, the child's name would be written as: Hasan Suparmanputra
This would be somewhat analogous to the practice in Iceland, where mainly patronymics are used.
Occasionally, the father's name will be used as the surname, without appending putra or putri (in this case it would be Hasan Suparman). This might be done unofficially, i.e. not matching the birth certificate. Nevertheless, this format sometimes appears on government documents.
Modifications to the name outside of Indonesia
Countries often modify the official Indonesian name to conform to their typical naming standards. This is most apparent where individuals normally have a family name.
In the Netherlands, for example, a person without an official family name would be given the surname Onbekend (which means Unknown). Individuals with multiple-word names will often be given this surname, particularly if the last name on the birth certificate differs from the father's family name. Individuals with a distinct family name may also be given this surname if it is recorded differently on the birth certificate.
Referring to the examples above, a Netherlands ID card would record the individual's name as:
- Example 1: Hasan Onbekend
- Example 2: Hasan Prasetyo Onbekend
- Example 3: Hasan Herianto
- Example 4: Hasan Suparmanputra Onbekend
In Germany, the one-word name is used as both given name and surname. This is often displayed on official documents as Hasan Hasan or H. Hasan.
In the U.S., there are generally three ways to deal with person with only single-word name.
- Use his/her name as his/her surname, then the official records (ID or Driving Licenses or school records) added FNU (or Fnu) as their first name. This can lead to a false belief that Fnu is a common Indonesian first name.
- Use his/her name as his/her first name, then the official records (ID or Driving Licenses or school records) added LNU (or Lnu) as their surname. This can also lead to another false belief that Lnu is a common Indonesian surname. In some cases "FNU" will be added after the name, then standing for "Family Name Unknown".
- Use his/her name as his/her first name and surname, such as Hasan Hasan.
Origin of names in Indonesia
Local family names
Traditionally, there are few Indonesian ethnic groups or tribes whose people maintain family names. These include
- The Alas of Aceh; example: Keruas, Kepale Dese, Pagan.
- The Batak of Sumatra; example: Nasution, Hutagaol, Sitompul, Karokaro, Rajagukguk, Sinaga.
- Tribes in the islands off the west of Sumatra (mainly Nias); example: Amuata, Falakhi, Laoly, Marunduri, Ote, Wau.
- The Minangkabau of Sumatra; example: Bodi, Caniago, Sikumbang, Koto, Piliang.
- Tribes in Lampung; example Badak, Limau, Gunungalip, Way Tube.
- The Christian Betawi; example: Baidan, Djaim, Senen.
- The Javanese and Sundanese of Java (only the royals and the nobles); example: Sastrowardoyo, Djojohadikusumo, Natalegawa.
- The Dayak of Kalimantan; example: Belawan, Manuwu, Ngayoh, Kuntai, Unus.
- The Minahasan from Manado and other parts of North Sulawesi; example: Ratulangi, Gerungan, Sondakh, Mongilong, Waworuntu, Tambayong.
- The Sangirese from North Sulawesi; example: Mohede, Sahanaya, Palar.
- The Toraja from South Sulawesi; example: Batusura, Lumba, Rambulangi, Manganan.
- Tribes in the Molucca Islands; example: Malaiholo, Hehamahua, Sahanaya, Sahilatua.
- Tribes in the East Nusa Tenggara; example: Hurek, Riberu, Fernandez, da Costa, da Gama, Lamaborak, Leyn.
- Tribes in the Papua; example: Suebu, Maniani, Wanggai, Wonda.
Indonesians of various religions, especially among Javanese, Sundanese and Balinese ethnicities, have names strongly derived from Sanskrit. Hindu mythologies are seen as part of the Indonesian culture and are not associated with the religion only. As a result, it is common to find Muslim or Christian Indonesians with seemingly Hindu names.
Unlike Sanskrit-derived names in Thai and Khmer, the pronunciation of such names in either Javanese or Indonesian is similar to the original Indian pronunciation, except that the 'v' is changed to 'w'.
Some common names derived from Sanskrit, including names of Indian Hindu gods or heroes, are: Indra, Krisna, Wisnu, Surya, Dharma, Rama, Lesmana, Sudarto (Javanese for Siddharta), Dewi, Pertiwi, Sri, Sinta, Ratna, Paramitha, and Kumala. For example, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, former Indonesian president, has a Sanskrit-derived name: Susilo from sushila (good character); Yudhoyono from yudha (war or battle); and yana (epic story). Sukarno is derived from Sanskrit su (good) and karno (from Karna, a warrior in the Mahabharata).
Some of these Sanskrit-derived names might be used by ningrat or menak (noble) families, especially among Javanese and Sundanese, in much the same way as some family names in western culture indicate lineage and nobility. Examples are: Adiningrat, Notonegoro, Suryasumantri, Dharmokusumo, Wongsoatmodjo, Natalegawa, Kusumaatmadja, Kartadibrata, Kartapranata and Kartasasmita. For example, Marty Natalegawa, Indonesian Foreign Minister: Marty is his first name, indicating his birth in March, while Natalegawa is his family name, which indicates that he is from a Sundanese noble family.
Many Indonesians use Sanskrit-derived names to indicate their position among siblings (birth order). The first-born child might bear the name Eka or Eko (mostly Javanese), the second-born child might be named Dwi, the third-born Tri, the fourth-born Catur, and the fifth-born Panca or Ponco (usually Javanese). Some examples are Eko Yuli Irawan, Rizky Dwi Ramadhana, Triyaningsih, Catur Pamungkas.
Under President Suharto, Indonesia attempted to deconstruct organisations and groups that might represent an internal security threat. As a part of the policy to limit the influence of the Chinese Communists and to encourage the ethnic Chinese to assimilate, the state required Chinese Indonesian individuals to change their names. This was a difficult balance because while the names were changed, laws continued to identify them as 'different' from indigenous Indonesian groups. Indonesian businessman Liem Sioe Liong, for example, had his name changed to Sudono Salim. With Suharto's downfall came new laws, one of which allowed the Chinese to revert to Chinese family names.
Many of the later generations have kept the Indonesian form of the name. Other Chinese Indonesians, however, maintain their Chinese name as well as their family names. As is customary with Chinese names, the family name (or surname) is traditionally written in front of the given (or first) name.
As Islam is the largest religion in Indonesia, it is quite common to find Arabic first names or words. Popular Arabic names include Muhammad or Mohammad, Abdul, Ali, Amir, Annisa, Aisyah, Aziz, Ahmad, Hassan, Habibie, Hidayat, Ibrahim, Nur, Nurul, Rahman, Taufik and Umar, all being used by Indonesians not of Arab descent, both as first names and as surnames.
Ethnic groups with strong Islamic influence, such as the Acehnese, Malay, Minangkabau, Betawi and Bugis, tend to use Arabic names. For example, Indonesian politicians Teuku Muhammad Hasan (from Aceh) and Mohammad Hatta (from Minangkabau) have Arabic names.
Arabs settled in Indonesia many generations ago, and their descendants still use their family names (e.g. Assegaf, Alhabsyi, Shihab).
The name Maysaroh is a common female name amongst Betawi people. However, this name is actually a male name in Arab countries. It is probably mistaken with the name Saroh, which is in turn derived from Sarah.
Western name brought by Portuguese and later Dutch to Indonesia. Name Dutch origin such as Henry, Agus, Johan, Andri, Anto (Antonius), Siska, Roni, Jono, Riska, Suzanna, Rian, Markus. Most of people using this name are Javanese both Muslim and Christian
Baptismal Latin names (e.g. Antonius, Ignatius, Johannes, Markus, Paulus, Anastasia, Fransiska, Maria, Georgius, Theresia) are mostly used by Indonesians of Roman Catholic religion, while Protestant adherents tend to choose the English versions (e.g. Anthony, Martin, George, James, John, Paul, Caroline, Eva, Stephanie, Mary, Melinda). Most of Western names comes under Dutch influence as Christian names that were used had shown, however Western influence also grew through globalization.
Many Indonesian Roman Catholics have some given names similar to Indonesian Muslims: Fatima, Omar, and Soraya.
Due to the influence of Western popular culture and celebrities, many non-Christian Indonesians also have shortened Western names (e.g. Courtney, Tony, Julie), so some combinations like Ricky Hidayat (Western-Arabic) or Lucy Wiryono (Western-Javanese) are to be found as well.
Western-derived names may indicate the month of birth, as shown by examples below.
- January: Januri (m), Yanuar (m). Example: Yanuar Tri Firmanda.
- February: usually identified from suffix Febr-. Example: Febriyanto Wijaya.
- March: Marti (derived from Maret, Indonesian word for March, which in turn is derived from Dutch Maart). Example: Marty Natalegawa.
- April: usually identified from prefix Afri- or Apri-. Example: Aprilia Yuswandari.
- May: Mei or its derivations such as Meilanie, Meiliana, Meiliani (all are feminine). Example: Meiliana Jauhari.
- June: Yuni (f) or its derivations such as Yuniar (f), Yuniarti (f), Yuniarto (m). Example: Yuni Shara.
- July: usually identified from suffix Juli- or Yuli-. Example: Alvent Yulianto.
- August: Agus (n) or its derivations such as Agustin (n), Agustina (f), Agustinus (m, usually borne by Indonesian Catholic). Example: Agus Ngaimin.
- September: usually identified from suffix Seft- or Sept-. Example: Seftia Hadi.
- October: usually identified from suffix Oct- or Okt-. Example: Yati Octavia.
- November: usually identified from suffix Nov-. Example: Novita Dewi.
- December: Deasy, Desi, Dessy (all are feminine). Example: Desi Anwar.
Patronymic family names
The Indonesian patronymic family name is usually constructed of the father's name, with the word putra (for male) or putri (for female) appended. One famous example is former Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of former President Sukarno. However, it is common for the father's name alone to form the child's surname (for instance, 'Ali Ahmad' from the father 'Ahmad Sudharma').
Matronymic family names
Located in Western Sumatra, the Minangkabau are the largest matrilineal culture in the world and the fourth largest ethnic group in Indonesia. Tribe, clan (or suku) titles, properties and names are all handed down through the female line. A man's children are not his clan's heirs. Instead, they are heirs of his wife's clan. When a man dies, he has to leave his possession of clan properties to the children of his sisters. The grandmother is the ultimate matriarch and a power figure. Although the Minangkabau are Muslim, their customs are unique and unusual in a state with a predominantly Muslim culture. Most such matriachial customs are justified by tradition, although they are sometimes supported by examples from the sira of the Prophet Muhammad, especially stories revolving around the centrality of Muhammad's first employer and subsequent wife, Khadija.
It is uncommon - even rude - to refer to an Indonesian by their full first name, unless that name has only one or two syllables. Former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, for example, had the 'Abdurrahman' shortened to 'Dur'; it would sound excessively formal to call him 'Abdurrahman'. Many Indonesians use a different name altogether; a woman born as 'Khadijah' may be known as 'Ida' or 'Ijah' to all her friends and family.
In Sundanese culture it is common that the nickname or calling name later would become integrated as the first name. For example, someone was born with the name Komariah, Gunawan or Suryana written in their birth certificate. Later they acquired nicknames such as Kokom for Komariah, Gugun or Wawan for Gunawan, and Yaya or Nana for Suryana; as the result the nickname become the first name thus creating rhyming names such as Kokom Komariah, Wawan Gunawan, and Nana Suryana. Notable people having such names are politician Agum Gumelar, comedian Entis Sutisna (with stage name Sule), and sportsman Ajat Sudrajat.
It is also common for Indonesian to have somewhat western-derived nicknames. Many Indonesian might have western names such as Kevin, Kenny, Tommy (Tomi), Jimmy, Ricky, Dicky, Bob, Nicky, Nico, Susy, Taty, Lucy (Lusi), Nancy, Marry (Maria) etc. It does not necessarily mean their names are Thomas (for Tommy) or James (for Jimmy). For instance Suharto's son Hutomo Mandalaputra is popularly known as "Tommy Suharto", the "Tommy" here was not derived from "Thomas", but Javanese name "Hutomo" instead.
Noble Titles as Part of Personal Name
In some ethnic groups it is common to include nobility title into formal personal name. Due to various traditions of nobility of each ethnic group, it is difficult for people from outside a particular ethnic group to discern nobility title from the personal name. Therefore, the titles are usually perceived as personal names as well.
Example: Acehnese have titles such as Teuku (male) and Cut (female). Celebrities with such titles are e.g. Teuku Ryan, Teuku Wisnu, Cut Tari. Bantenese have titles such as Tubagus (male) and Ratu (female). People with such titles, e.g. Tubagus Ismail, Ratu Atut Khosiyah. Bugis and Makassar people have titles such as Daeng and Andi. Buton people have titles such as La (male) and Wa (female), e.g. La Nyalla Mattalitti, Wa Ode Nurhayati.
According to the Chicago Manual of Style, Indonesian names are indexed differently according to the individual practices and customs. If there is one name, it is only indexed under that name. If the family name is printed first, index under the family name with no comma and no inversion.
- Example of court document using FNU as a placeholder last name
- "Indexes: A Chapter from The Chicago Manual of Style." Chicago Manual of Style. Retrieved on December 23, 2014. p. 25 (PDF document p. 27).
- A. Kohar Rony, Indonesian Names: A Guide to Bibliographic Listing, Modern Indonesia Project, Cornwell University, 1970