Indonesian names and naming customs reflect the multicultural and 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 state officially recognises more than 300 of these ethnic groups. The Javanese are the largest single group, comprising around 40 percent of Indonesia's population.


Since Indonesian was part of Indosphere of Greater India, Indonesian royal and noble titles are based on the ancient Hindu Indian honorifics.

Historically Southeast Asia was under the influence of Ancient India, where numerous Indianized principalities and empires flourished for several centuries in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam. The influence of Indian culture into these areas was given the term indianization.[1] French archaeologist, George Coedes, defined it as the expansion of an organized culture that was framed upon Indian originations of royalty, Hinduism and Buddhism and the Sanskrit dialect.[2] This can be seen in the Indianization of Southeast Asia, spread of Hinduism and Buddhism. Indian diaspora, both ancient (PIO) and current (NRI), played an ongoing key role as professionals, traders, priests and warriors.[3][4][5][5] Indian honorifics also influenced the Malay, Thai, Filipino and Indonesian honorifics.[6]

In Indonesia, ranks and professional titles are used. It is also customary to use Pak, Bapak or Saudara to address men and Bu, Saudari or Ibu to address women. Pak and Bapak are literally translated as "father". Bapak is more formal and is used much like the English word, "sir". Saudara (for men) or Saudari (for women) is another term of greater respect and formality. It translates to "kinsman", "lady" or "gentleman". Ibu is literally translated as "mother". It is used as "ma'am" or "lady" would be in English. If addressing a man whose name is unknown, one uses Bapak and if addressing a woman whose name is unknown, one uses Ibu.

An informal way to address a significantly older person is to use Om, Paman, Bibi or Tante, which mean "uncle" and "aunt". The terms are Dutch-influenced and quite commonly used in the big cities.

Local honorifics continue to be employed throughout Indonesia. In a casual situation, Kakak is used to address a person as an older sister or brother. In Javanese Mbak is used for "older sister" and Mas is used for "older brother".

In Sumatran Malay or Minangkabau cultural spheres, an older brother is addressed as Abang. However, it is also common to address a becak driver, angkot driver, vegetable vendor, fishmonger or hawker with Abang.

"Gus" (from bagus) is used exclusively to address an honorable Eastern Javanese person with a strong traditional and religious identity. For example, the Indonesian former president, Abdurrahman Wahid is often addressed as Gus Dur.

Naming forms

Indonesians do not generally use a given or first name and a family, last or surname name. The majority of Indonesians do not have family names. Rather, their given names are geographically and culturally specific. Names beginning with "Su" in Indonesian spelling ("Soe" in Dutch orthography), or ending with an "o" are usually Javanese people. For example, people called "Suprapto" or "Soeprapto, Joko" are likely to be of Javanese descent. Suharto is another example.

Balinese names are quite distinct, as they have a naming system which denotes birth order. Wayan means first born. Made means second born. A Balinese name may also indicate caste. For instance, a Kshatriya person may be named "I Gusti".

"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:

Indonesian naming system

Until recently, most Indonesians did not have family names. Both men and women usually have a given name and then take the name of their father as a last name. Some, but not all, married Indonesian women take the last name of their husband. This name is usually added after their own "last" name. Therefore, it is not rare for married couples to have different last or family names.

Naming also differs regionally. Some Javanese, especially those of the old generation have only one name. Bataks have clan names which are used as their surnames. Some Chinese Indonesians have Chinese-style names. In Indonesian telephone directories, names are listed under the first or given name and not under the last or family name.

Mononymic 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 a 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

If the parents want a family name (or surname) to appear on official documents, the family name should be included on the child's birth certificate.


Child's name: Yovan Gunardio Darmawan
Father's name: Budi Darmawan
Mother's name: Natalena Tirrand

On the birth certificate, the child's name would be written as "Yovan Gunardio Darmawan child of Budi Darmawan and Natalena Tirrand". On all other official documents, the child's name would be written as "Yovan Gunardio Darmawan".

Polynymic names with patronymic

The patronymic is usually constructed from the father's name, with the word putra (for males, "son" in Sanskrit) or putri (for females, "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 patronymics are used.

Occasionally, the father's name will be used as the surname, without appending putra or putri (in this example it would be Hasan Suparman). This might be done unofficially, that is, not matching the birth certificate. Nevertheless, this format sometimes appears on government documents.

Modifications to the name beyond Indonesia

Other nations may modify an official Indonesian name to conform to local standards. This is most apparent in nations where individuals normally have a family or last 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 identification 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 three ways to record people with a single-word name. One way is to use the existing single word name as the surname. Then, an official body will add "Fnu" (family name unknown) as the first or given name. This can lead to a false belief that "Fnu" is a common Indonesian first name.

Conversely, the existing single word name can be used as the given or first name and then "Lnu" (last name unknown) may be added as the family, surname or last name. This can lead to the misconception that "Lnu" is a common Indonesian surname. In some cases "Fnu" will be used as the surname or last name.[7]

Lastly, the existing single word name may be duplicated to give a first name and surname such as "Hasan Hasan".

Origin of names in Indonesia

Local family names

There are some Indonesian ethnic groups or tribes whose people do maintain a family, last or surname. These include the:

  • Alas people of Aceh, for example, Keruas, Kepale Dese, or Pagan.
  • Bantenese people of Java, for example, Djajadiningrat, Soerjaatmadja, or Prawiranegara.
  • Batak people of Sumatra, for example, Nasution, Hutagaol, Sitompul, Karokaro, Rajagukguk, or Sinaga.
  • Nias people and people of the islands off the west coast of Sumatra, for example, Amuata, Falakhi, Laoly, Marunduri, Ote, or Wau.
  • Minangkabau people of Sumatra, for example, Bodi, Caniago, Sikumbang, Koto, or Piliang.
  • Tribes in Lampung, for example, Badak, Limau, Gunungalip, or Way Tube.
  • Christian Betawi people, for example, Baidan, Djaim, or Senen.
  • The royals and nobles from the Javanese people and the Sundanese people of Java, for example, Sastrowardoyo, Djojohadikusumo, or Natalegawa.
  • Dayak people of Kalimantan, for example, Belawan, Manuwu, Ngayoh, Kuntai, or Unus.
  • Minahasan people from Manado and other parts of North Sulawesi, for example, Ratulangi, Gerungan, Sondakh, Mongilong, Waworuntu, or Tambayong.
  • Sangirese people from North Sulawesi for example, Mohede, Sahanaya, or Palar.
  • Toraja people from South Sulawesi for example, Batusura, Lumba, Rambulangi, or Manganan.
  • Tribes in the Molucca Islands, for example, Malaiholo, Hehamahua, Sahanaya, or Sahilatua.
  • Tribes in the East Nusa Tenggara, for example, Hurek, Riberu, Fernandez, da Costa, da Gama, Lamaborak, or Leyn.
  • Tribes in the Papua, for example, Suebu, Maniani, Wanggai, or Wonda.

Sanskrit-derived names

Indonesians regardless of personal religion, particularly the Javanese, Sundanese and Balinese may have names strongly derived from Sanskrit. This is because Indian mythologies are seen as part of Indonesian culture, not only a part of religion. As a result, it is common to find Muslim or Christian Indonesians with Indo-Sanskritic sounding 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 a "w".

Some common names derived from Sanskrit and using the names of Indian Hindu gods or heroes include Indra, Krisna, Wisnu, Surya, Dharma, Rama, Lesmana, Sudarto (Javanese for Siddharta), Dewi, Pertiwi, Sri, Sinta, Ratna, Paramitha, and Kumala[disambiguation needed].

For example, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, former Indonesian president, has a Sanskrit-derived name. "Susilo" comes from sushila meaning "good character" and "Yudhoyono" comes form yudha meaning "war" or "battle" and yana meaning "an epic story". Sukarno is derived from the Sanskrit su (good) and karno or Karna (a warrior) in 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. Some such names are Adiningrat, Notonegoro, Suryasumantri, Dharmokusumo, Wongsoatmodjo, Natalegawa, Kusumaatmadja, Kartadibrata, Kartapranata and Kartasasmita.

In the case of the Indonesian foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, "Marty" is his first name, indicating his birth in March. "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, and Catur Pamungkas.

Chinese names

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.

Arabic names

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. Such names are 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. However, some of these ethnic groups with strong Islamic influences, such as the Betawi people, have Arabic names which have been suitable with the local pronunciation, such as Rojak (Razak), Leman (Sulaiman), etc.

Arabs settled in Indonesia many generations ago, and their descendants still use their family names, for example, Assegaf, Alhabsyi, or Shihab.

The name "Maysaroh" is a common female name amongst the 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 names

Western names were brought to Indonesia by the Portuguese and later the Dutch. Names with a Dutch origin include Henry, Agus, Johan, Andri, Anto (Antonius), Siska, Roni, Jono, Riska, Suzanna, Rian, and Markus. These names are found in Muslim and Christian people of Java.

Catholic Indonesians may use Latin first or Christian names such as Antonius, Ignatius, Johannes, Markus, Paulus, Anastasia, Fransiska, Maria, Georgius, and Theresia. Protestant Indonesians may use Anglicised names such as Anthony, Martin, George, James, John, Paul, Caroline, Eva, Stephanie, Mary, or Melinda.

There are some similarities between the Indonesian Catholic and Muslim names such as Fatima, Omar, and Soraya.

Due to globalisation non-Christian Indonesians may use shortened Western names such as Courtney, Tony or Julie.

Combinations such as "Ricky Hidayat" (Western-Arabic) or "Lucy Wiryono" (Western-Javanese) are to be found as well.

Western-derived names may indicate the month of birth. For example,

  • January: Januri (m), Yanuar (m). Example: Yanuar Tri Firmanda.
  • February: usually identified from prefix 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 prefix 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 prefix Seft- or Sept-. Example: Seftia Hadi.
  • October: usually identified from prefix Oct- or Okt-. Example: Yati Octavia.
  • November: usually identified from prefix 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 example is former Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of former President Sukarno. However, it is also 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.


It is uncommon, and considered rude, to refer to an Indonesian person by their full first name, unless that name has only one or two syllables. Former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, for example, had "Abdurrahman" shortened to "Dur". 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 for the nickname to become integrated as the first name. For example, someone with the name "Komariah", "Gunawan" or "Suryana" written in their birth certificate may become known as "Kokom" for Komariah, "Gugun" or "Wawan" for Gunawan, and "Yaya" or "Nana" for Suryana. The result is rhyming names such as "Kokom Komariah", "Wawan Gunawan", and "Nana Suryana". Notable people having such names include politician Agum Gumelar, comedian Entis Sutisna (with stage name Sule'), and sportsman Ajat Sudrajat.

Indonesian people might also take a Western style nickname such as Kevin, Kenny, Tommy (Tomi), Jimmy, Ricky, Dicky, Bob, Nicky, Nico, Susy, Taty, Lucy (Lusi), Nancy, Marry (Maria) and so on. 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 from the Javanese name, "Hutomo".

Noble titles as part of personal name

In some ethnic groups it is common to include a nobility title into the formal personal name. Due to the various traditions of nobility in each ethnic group, it may be difficult for people from outside a particular ethnic group to discern the nobility title from the personal name.

Acehnese have titles such as Teuku (male) and Cut (female). Celebrities with such titles include, for example, Teuku Ryan, Teuku Wisnu, and Cut Tari.

Bantenese have titles such as Tubagus (male) and Ratu (female). People with such titles include, for example, Tubagus Ismail, and Ratu Atut Chosiyah.

The Bugis and Makassar people have titles such as Daeng and Andi and the Buton people have titles such as La (male) and Wa (female), for example, La Nyalla Mattalitti or 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.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Acharya, Amitav. "The "Indianization of Southeast Asia" Revisited: Initiative, Adaptation and Transformation in Classical Civilizations" (PDF). amitavacharya.com. 
  2. ^ Coedes, George (1967). The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. Australian National University Press. 
  3. ^ Lukas, Helmut (May 21–23, 2001). "1 THEORIES OF INDIANIZATIONExemplified by Selected Case Studies from Indonesia (Insular Southeast Asia)". International SanskritConference. 
  4. ^ Krom, N.J. (1927). Barabudur, Archeological Description. The Hague. 
  5. ^ a b Smith, Monica L. (1999). ""INDIANIZATION" FROM THE INDIAN POINT OF VIEW: TRADE AND CULTURAL CONTACTS WITH SOUTHEAST ASIA IN THE EARLY FIRST MILLENNIUM C.E.')" (PDF). Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient,. 42. (11-17). 
  6. ^ Krishna Chandra Sagar, 2002, An Era of Peace, Page 52.
  7. ^ Example of court document using FNU as a placeholder last name
  8. ^ "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 [1][permanent dead link]

External links