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Afrikaans names

Post 1


Names of Afrikaans people mostly come from Dutch origins, but there are also strong influences from German, French and English. For now just some men's names ...

My own name, Willem, is a typical Dutch name, and is just a version of William. The German version is Wilhelm, French is Guillaume, which occasionally occurs in Afrikaans and may be altered to Gieljam.

My surname, van der Merwe, is also of Dutch origin and very common, to the point of having spawned lots of jokes. 'Van der Merwe' jokes typically are about the stupidity of either Jan (= John) or Koos (= James) van der Merwe. Very much in the spirit of 'Dumb Blonde' jokes.

Surnames later, for now just given names.

Koos is an interesting case. It comes from Jakobus (my brother-in-law's name), which is the latinized form of Jacob which of course comes from the Bible. In old Latin it was Iacobus or Iacomus, which became James in Old French and then carried over to English. In Afrikaans, Jakobus can become Jakob and then Jaap, made into the diminutive Japie, or it can become Kobus and then Koos, diminutives Kobie or Kosie.

Jan comes from Johannes which in Latin was Ioannes or Iohannes, which is where John comes from. Johannes can also become Johan or Hannes, which can then become Hans. Diminutives Jannie and Hansie.

Gert comes from Gerard or Gerhard, sometimes in Afrikaans spelled Gerhardt. It can also change to Gerrit or Gerrie.

Piet comes from Pieter (Peter). Another form is Petrus, which can become Peet (my father's name - actually second name, his first was Willem like mine).

Henk comes from Hendrik, which is the same as Henry in English. Can become Hennie.

Riaan comes from Adriaan, from Latin Hadrianus (Hadrian, as in the guy who built the wall).

Andries (my gardener's name) comes from Andreas, the Greek name from which Andrew comes. André is the French form, very common here. Andries can be shortened to Dries, or changed in some local dialects to Anneries.

Louis, Etienne, Pierre, Jacques and Francois are common Afrikaans names that are also French. Several other names of French origin are also common amongst us. Francois can become Frans. The others are rarely changed.

There are also many English and even Irish names common among us. Mike, Stephen, Albert, Robert, Patrick for instance ... many 100% Afrikaans men have those names, pronounced exactly as you would pronounce them (except for Albert ... pronounced more like Ahlbert). Stefan is an alternative, more Afrikaans name. Robert can become Robbie.

Thomas and Tom are also Afrikaans names, but pronounced slightly differently from the English. Can become Tommie.

Dawid, or less frequently, David. Pronounced Daa-vid. Can then become Dawie (Daa-vy).

Daniël is pronounced slightly differently from Daniel. Can then become Danie or Daan.

Naas (a name of one of our most famous rugby players) comes from Ignatius, which is Latin and means 'firey one'.

Karel comes from Latin Carolus which gave origin to the English Charles. Can become Kallie.

OK those are a few, gives you a 'taste' maybe of Afrikaans names ... they are not at all that far from English!

Afrikaans names

Post 2

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Not Banned in China

smiley - laugh No, they're not. But you have a lot of shortened forms of names. That's kind of like the Southern US.

In some parts of the Southern US, we have double short names, too, such as 'Jim Bob' for 'James Robert'. smiley - winkeye

Afrikaans names

Post 3


This is most fascinating, Willem, and thankyou!

Now I could get really obsessed with names, and their origins. I was always fascinated by the double a in Dutch and Afrikaans. I need an audio tape really, for the true sound of the double a.

Hey, Jim Bob, smiley - rofl, I never thought about double shortened names, so now I might go drive my friends crazy, heheh. Hey Ricky Tim how you doing today?

Surnames are another whole area of study I think. Sometimes they can carry a lot of cultural, historical weight, which can take a bit of living up to. Or getting away from. I think. Their origins are interesting, quite often derived from Son Of, or the profession of the father.

Will wait for Willem's journal entry on surnames, which will say it better than I can. smiley - rofl

And then you go get married, like I did, you end up with another surname, another family name, and that's another whole question, for better or for worse. smiley - rofl

And then there are middle names, which a lot of people get shy about. My middle name is ... actually I just got shy. smiley - rofl.

Thanks for sparking some thought inspirations here, Willem.

Afrikaans names

Post 4


Fascinating stuff Willem, i look forward to more.

Websailor smiley - dragon

Afrikaans names

Post 5


Hi Dmitri, Cactuscafe and Websailor! I'm glad you find this interesting. For now, some women's names - then I'll speak of surnames.

What is happening here right now is that most Afrikaans girls seem to be given non-traditional names. I don't know why - but it often leads to some true made-up horrors - which little girls have to grow up with and then go through life with. Names like Elshandré, Devonique, Liorette, Creshenda or Biejanka. Or, somewhat better, but still entirely untraditional, names like Dané, Zoé, Kayla or Megan.

Traditional women's names in Afrikaans, though:

Sara (= Sarah) - can become Sarie or Saartjie.

Anna or Annette - can become Annie or Ans. Annette can become Nettie or Netta.

Magda (from Biblical Magdalena), usually not changed. Daleen has the same origin, and can become Lena, Leen or Leentjie.

Susan - not pronounced as in English, but 'Soo-sun'. Can become San, Sannie or Santjie. Sometimes lengthened to Susanna.

Maria or Marie (= Mary). Can become Marietjie. My sister's name, Maryke, is a Dutch diminutive. Sometimes spelled Marijke which is even more Dutch. Another form is Mariëtte.

Marta (= Martha) can become Martie.

Wilhelmina or Willemien - feminine form of my name. Can lead to Helmien or Elmien, Mien, Mina or Mientjie.

Elsa can become Elsie.

Amanda - rarely changed.

Ronel - means Song of God, rarely changed.

Margrieta (= Margaret) - Margriet - Grieta - Griet - Grietjie.

Karolien (= Caroline) - Lien - Lientjie - sometimes Rolien.

Elisabet (= Elizabeth) - Liesbet, Elize, Lisa, Bettie. Another common form is Elsabé, which is rarely changed.

Christina - Kristien - Tina.

Erica/Erika - rarely changed.

Jacolien/Jakolien = Jaqueline. Like Karolien can also become Lien or Lientjie.

Aletta (my housekeeper's name) - Letta - Lettie.

Louise - rarely changed.

French and English first names are very common among Afrikaans women.

There are several Afrikaans feminine names that have been traditionally common but seem to have fallen by the wayside, although you'll still find them in some conservative families, like Alida, Jakoba, and Gertruida (= Gertrude).

Right, surnames next time!

Afrikaans names

Post 6

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Not Banned in China

Now, all those traditional names are nice. You wouldn't mind giving them to a child.

But stuff like Creshenda. There oughta be a law.

It's like the horrible names girls get here: There was, no lie, a baby born in Philadelphia who got the name Anesthesia...

Don't name your kid on the way into the delivery room, madam...smiley - rofl

Afrikaans names

Post 7


smiley - rofl You are kidding right? This is a DG fiction story, surely? heheh. I thought I had heard it all. smiley - rofl It is a hazy,sleepy and mellow name, though. smiley - rofl

And thankyou Willem, this is so interesting to me, about names, but also an accessible way of learning about the Afrikaans language. Thanks, and looking forward to surnames also!

cc smiley - choc

Afrikaans names

Post 8


Aw heck Dmitri, you folks ain't got nothin' on us in *that* department. Now I didn't really go into that because my aim wasn't to make fun of people but now that you mention it ...

Okay, this doesn't happen a lot. I mean girls get named things like Creshenda *a lot*, but less frequently (whew!) it gets even worse. Like:

- Children getting named after popular brands of household products (detergents or soaps, batteries, crisps, peanut butter, shoe polish etc.)

- Children getting named after a person the parents admire even if that person is not the same gender as they are, so girls getting boy's names and vice versa (boys named Lucy, Sally, Betty and so on; girls named Herbert, Russel, Ernest, Richard ...)

- Children deliberately given absolutely atrocious names so as to make them 'unpopular' with ... wait for it ... evil spirits. Or maybe to let the spirits think the child's had it bad enough already, no need for them to mess him/her up even further. Imagine children named 'Hatred' or 'Armpit' or 'Tuberculosis' ...

- A perfectly fine and rather sophisticated-sounding name is chosen for the child ... EXCEPT that when the birth certificate is drawn up, neither the parents nor anyone else working in the office releasing the certificates know how it should properly be spelled. Consequently, the name that appears on the certificate ... smiley - facepalm

But anyways, I actually don't want to make this entry about that. I want it to be about typical Afrikaans names. Anyways. Cactuscafé, it would be quite easy for me to put a simple little primer on YouTube about Afrikaans pronunciation, if I can get someone to record a video of me. I have a little recorder here, that would give me an excuse to try and use it. Afrikaans is quite simple to pronounce except for a couple of sounds, one of which not even I can pronounce properly, making me one of the few people in the world who cannot pronounce their own names ...

Afrikaans names

Post 9


Willem, your post made me think of one of my favourite songs by Johny Cash - 'A Boy Named Sue'. Don't know if you are familiar with it?

Websailorsmiley - dragon

Afrikaans names

Post 10

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Not Banned in China

smiley - rofl I love your not being able to pronounce your own name, Willem. This is like my student Richard, from Taiwan. When his son was born, he named him William. I said, 'Why not something you can pronounce?' smiley - whistle

I thought of that song, too, Webbie. smiley - laugh

Afrikaans names

Post 11


whoah. smiley - rofl. I thought I had heard it all.

Now I don't feel so bad about my middle name being .... being ... smiley - rofl.

No, wait, smiley - rofl, I didn't mean that my middle name was Being. I name this human being, Being. I was trying to be secretive, with lots of dots.

Anyway, loving this conversation.

That sounds great, Willem, about the YouTube project, so's I can hear the sound of the language. Yay! Let me know. That would be magic.

I love the sound of languages, even if I don't understand a word. The sound, the rhythm of language.

I guess that children mimic the sound, when they are very young, and it gradually starts to make sense.

Or else, and also, Willem, you could do an audio/visual project here on h2g2? I don't know if its possible. Its just that I heard Spanish here on h2g2 ... a lovely researcher spoke Spanish to me ... no really, 'tis true.

Afrikaans names

Post 12


Hello Websailor and Dmitri! I've *heard of* the song before but I checked it out on YouTube so now I've *heard* it as well, thanks! But over here it's certainly not like that ... kids with gender-inappropriate names will not be in fights and become 'tough' as a result, they'll simply find themselves frequently embarassed. Anyways, Sue is not so bad ... its not so far from 'Stu' which is of course a perfectly respectable masculine name ( ... now if the boy had been given a name like Lucille or Gwendolyn or Clarabelle ...

Heh heh! To be clear about it, the part of my name I can't pronounce is not my first name, but my second name and my surname. My second name is Sternberg, and my surname is van der Merwe, and I can't properly pronounce the Afrikaans 'r' sound. Enough of us can't do this that we have a word for it. Anyways, to 'properly' pronounce the sound, the tip of the tongue has to be trilled. This is, to me, obviously physically impossible, and I've been trying it all my life. Instead, to make the trill I use my uvula. But the fact that most Afrikaans people can actually do this impossible thing is one of the biggest reasons that I know science and rationality do not have all the answers.

Surnames, now! Most Afrikaans surnames come from Dutch. Actually, the top 10 current Dutch surnames are, according to Wikipedia, these ones:

1. De Jong
2. De Vries
3. Jansen
4. Van de/den/der Berg
5. Bakker
6. Van Dijk
7. Visser
8. Jansen/Janssen
9. Smit
10. Mijer/Meyer

ALL of those surnames are still common here among us Afrikaans folks!

Now linking up with the ridiculous names we were speaking of, in Dutch you get some truly silly surnames, such as:

Uiekruier (onion porter/carrier)
Spring in't Veld (jump in the field)
Rotmensen (rotten people)
Poepjes (little sh*ts)
Naaktgeboren (born naked)
Zeldenthuis (seldom at home)
Scheefnek (crooked neck)
Piest (urinates)
Suikerbuik (sugarbelly)
Uittenbroek (out-of-(his/her)-pants)
Zonderkop (without head)
Niemand (nobody)

The story my father always told me about those funny surnames was that when in 1811 Napoleon had all the Dutch folks registered and they had to produce surnames, many did not take it seriously and invented silly or even insulting names to put on the register ... and then those names stayed the way they were forever after.

Anyways this *seems* to be a bit of a myth ... but there could still be some truth behind it!

But those surnames are mostly found in The Netherlands, not South Africa. Except for Niemand! That one is quite frequent here. Oh, and Haasbroek (Bunny Pants). And Onkruydt as well as Malherbe, both of which mean 'weed'. I know people with those surnames. And 'Poggenpoel' ... that one just sounds funny ... and Koekemoer ... meaning in Afrikaans, beating up (but 'moer' has obscene overtones) cakes ... or 'Kleingeld' (small change) ... or 'Kotze' ('kots' is a crude Afrikaans word for vomiting) ... . There might be other ones you folks will find funny as well. I'll start on the surnames proper in the next posting ...

Afrikaans names

Post 13


Oh! I just learnt that 'Poggenpoel' means 'Frog pool'.

Afrikaans names

Post 14

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Not Banned in China

smiley - rofl Those are just great, Willem. That beats our weird names, like 'Metcalf' and 'Thigpen', all to pieces.

When I was a kid in Memphis, we had friends with Dutch surnames, too. One I remember was Groendyk. Of course, it was pronounced 'GROW-in-dyke'.

And then the man on the corner told us his first name was Ian. He pronounced it 'AAAAHHHH-uhn.' smiley - whistle

I wonder if that Napoleon story is true. Bunny pants, indeed. smiley - rofl

During that era, Jewish people got stuck with lots of silly surnames, such as Dreyfuss (tripod), Tintenfass (inkwell), or Streisand (strewing sand, for drying ink on documents). They got named for what was in the office. If they paid the official, they could get better ones, like Edelstein (precious stone) or Goldberg (mountain of gold).
There are many jokes about this.

That the Dutch did it to themselves, on purpose, is just about the funniest thing in the world. Shows what a great sense of humour they have. smiley - biggrin

Afrikaans names

Post 15


smiley - roflsmiley - lurk loving this conversation. smiley - rofl.

Afrikaans names

Post 16


Well I'm happy y'all are enjoying this Dmitri and Cactuscafé!

Anyways, now for some common Afrikaans surnames and where they come from. Let's go by the alphabet (more or less) ... won't get finished tonight but let's see ...

Alberts - quite common. Simply means 'son of Albert'.

Bakker - means Baker. Bekker does as well.

Bauer - German for farmer.

Bezuidenhout - south of the wood (= forest, but in Afrikaans means the material).

Botha - (from Both/Bothe/Botho/Bode/Boudier - different forms of an old Dutch/Germanic name). Pieter Willem Botha was our president for most of the eighties, the last elected Apartheid president.

Brand(t) - a shortend form of Germanic name Hildebrand.

Braun - German, 'the brown one'.

Breytenbach - the surname of one of our best and most famous poets, Breyten Breytenbach. He was imprisoned for anti-Apartheid writings and activism, and later exiled. He became a Buddhist and married a Vietnamese woman, whom the government refused to let into the country. He's back now, of course, and still critical - of the current government this time. Actually a very nice guy, but 'persona non grata' for many conservative Afrikaners, still. Breytenbach is the name of several places in Germany. I think it means 'broad stream'.

Brink - another famous Afrikaans writer is André P. Brink. My dad knew him and I knew his ex-wife and one of his sons. Also a vocal opponent of Apartheid, but he somehow managed to remain here and wasn't censored too much. In Dutch, 'Brink' means a grassland area, a town field, or a hill in a swampy region.

Carstens - son of Carsten, 'Carsten' being derived from Christ.

Celliers/Cilliers/Cillié - French, keeper of a wine cellar.

Claas(s)en - my mother's maiden name. Means son of Claas - derived from Nicholas.

Coetzee/Coetsee - Son of Coet/Koet.

Cruywagen - Wheelbarrow. When we got TV in the early seventies one of the news presenters was Riaan Cruywagen - and he's still reading the news today.

De Bruyn - 'the brown' (i.e. eyes or hair)

De Klerk - the clerk/writer. Our last white president (unelected, took office when P. W. Botha had a stroke) was Frederik Willem de Klerk.

De Lange - 'The Long(= tall) One'.

De la Rey - French, 'of royalty' sort of, probably signifies the sign of a hostel or something. General Koos de la Rey was one of our strongest and most popular leaders during the Second Boer War, and there's currently a popular and controversial Afrikaans song about him, sort of ...

Delport - French, originally 'de la Porte', 'of the port'.

De Villiers - French, 'of the town'.

De Vries, 'from Friesland'. Casper de Vries is a comedian, tends to swear a lot and to be controversial.

De Wet - a law officer or official. Christiaan de Wet was a military and political leader of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Du Plessis, French, 'from a small town or smallholding'. Pieter Georg (commonly known as P. G.) du Plessis is an author of mostly humorous stories, but a few serious ones, and also of television and stage dramas.

Du Preez, French, 'of the pasture'. Max du Preez is a writer, used to be a dissident against Apartheid for which he was persecuted, currently presenting a 'voice of reason' amongst us, still perceived as being very liberal.

Du Toit, French, 'of the roof', later 'of the house' or 'of the farmstead'.

Duvenhage, French, 'of the vinyard'.

OK enough for now I think ... this is a good start, and I get to tell you a bit about some famous Afrikaans people as well!

Afrikaans names

Post 17


smiley - offtopic Do you know anything about the relief of Ladysmith or HMS Terrible?

Websailor smiley - dragon

Afrikaans names

Post 18


Hmmm ... I didn't know a lot about it, but I've now read up on it so now I know a bit more! What made you think of it, Websailor?

Afrikaans names

Post 19

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Not Banned in China

This is turning into a useful compendium. smiley - whistle Knowing the names helps navigate the history and current events. Thanks for this!

Afrikaans names

Post 20


Willem, Because I have a small wooden barrel on my desk with a plaque which says the timber is from the HMS Terrible when it was broken up years later. It came to me from a lady who had family in SA at one time. I researched the whole story out of curiosity.

The barrel is of teak and about two inches high.

Something in your list of names sparked the thought, but I can't remember what. I will go back and read again when I have time.

Websailor smiley - dragon

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