What’s in a name?

The most popular name given to babies in 2017 is Enzokuhle. The name, which shares the top spot for both males and females, loosely translates to, “to do good”.

According to the Recorded Live Births, 2017 report released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), a person’s forename and surname are fundamental human rights enshrined in the Births and Deaths Registration Act (Act No. 51 of 1992). It is one of the most distinctive markers of individuality and is a prerequisite for the issuing of a birth certificate.

In South Africa, and in most African countries, traditional African names often have unique stories behind them. From the day or time a baby is born to the circumstances surrounding the birth, several factors influence the names parents choose for their children.1 Whichever ethnic group you look at, the name a baby is given at birth may reveal a wealth of information about the bearer.

The most popular first name for males was Enzokuhle, followed by Lethabo, then Melokuhle. Popular middle names were Junior, followed by Blessing and Gift. Amongst females, the top three first names were Enzokuhle, Melokuhle, then Amahle while for middle names, it was Precious, Princess and Angel. What is interesting to note is that Enzokuhle, Melokuhle and Amogelang were in the top five for both sexes.

The most popular middle names in 2017 are generally expressions of pride, joy and thankfulness and appear to be religiously influenced. For example, Precious means “affectedly concerned with elegant or refined behaviour”. Some names, such as Blessing, Faith or Hope, may reflect the mood or circumstances of the family at the time of birth.

Enzokuhle was the most common baby first name amongst male babies in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, while it came fourth amongst male babies in Western Cape. Amogelang and Amohelang were the most common male baby names in Limpopo and Free State, respectively. Amogelang was the second most common first name amongst male babies born in the North West province. Blessing was the most common male baby name in Mpumalanga, with Lethabo taking the top spot for North West and Northern Cape. Junior was the most common second name in seven of the nine provinces with the exception of KwaZulu-Natal, with Lubanzi and Mpumalanga with Blessing.

Amongst female baby first names, Lethabo was the most common first name for babies born in Gauteng and Limpopo, Amogelang in North West, Amohelang in Free State, Enzokuhle in KwaZulu-Natal, Mia in Western Cape, Iminathi in Eastern Cape, Melokuhle in Mpumalanga and Reatlegile in Northern Cape. Lethabo and Amohelang were the most common baby names in 2017 for both sexes.

In terms of baby surnames, Jacobs was the most common baby surname in both the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, with Nkosi taking the top spot in Gauteng and Mpumalanga. For the other provinces, Van Wyk was the most common baby surname in Northern Cape, Baloyi in Limpopo, Mokoena in Free State, Dlamini in KwaZulu-Natal and Molefe in the North West province.

Dlamini was the most common surname for both sexes, followed by Nkosi and Ndlovu. All the top ten baby surnames were generally of the Nguni clan, with the exception of Mokoena, which ranked sixth.

For the full report click here.

Vivian de Klerk & Barbara Bosch, 1996