100+ Best South African Last Names With Meanings!

South African people

If you’re looking for some South African last names, look no more! We bring to you a list of South African surnames with their meanings. However, let’s learn a little about South African Culture first.

South African Culture

South Africa culture

South African culture is a rich tapestry of diverse influences. It draws from indigenous traditions, colonial history, and a range of ethnicities, including Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, and more. Music, dance, and art are vibrant expressions of its identity.

The nation’s struggles against apartheid and its emphasis on unity and reconciliation continue to shape its unique cultural landscape. source

South African Last Names Tradition

South African last names

South African last names reflect the nation’s diverse history and culture. They often draw from various linguistic, ethnic, and historical influences. Here’s an overview of the naming traditions for surnames in South Africa:


Indigenous Names

Many South African surnames have origins in indigenous languages such as Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Ndebele, Venda, and others. These names often carry specific meanings or references to aspects of nature, traits, occupations, or historical events. source


European Colonial Names

Due to colonization by the Dutch, British, French, and Portuguese, European names and surnames also became prevalent. These names might be of Dutch (Afrikaans), English, French Huguenot, or Portuguese origin.


Patronymic Names

Some South African surnames include a patronymic element, indicating “son of” or “daughter of.” For example, “Van der Merwe” (from the Merwe family), “Jansen” (son of Jan), and “Botha” (son of Bota).


Topographical and Occupational Names

Surnames might be derived from geographical features (like “Van der Berg,” meaning “from the mountain”) or from occupations (“Moloi,” meaning “sorcerer”).


Clan and Tribal Names

Names like “Dlamini,” “Mthembu,” and “Zwane” have origins in specific clans or tribes and reflect a person’s lineage.

Popular South African Last Names

South African giraffe

  • Van der Westhuizen – Dutch origin, meaning “from the western houses.”
  • Mabena – Meaning “one who lives in the open country,” of Sotho origin.
  • Van der Berg – Dutch origin, meaning “from the mountain.”
  • Baloyi – Meaning “they are in trouble,” of Tsonga origin.
  • Groenewald – Afrikaans origin, meaning “green forest.”
  • Madikizela – Zulu origin, meaning “she who builds her house.”
  • Van Staden – Dutch origin, meaning “from Staden” or “stone.”
  • Mahlangu – Meaning “refiner,” of Ndebele origin.
  • Basson – Derived from the Germanic name “Basso,” meaning “short.”
  • Molefe – Sotho origin, meaning “one who brings joy.”
  • Lombard – Derived from the Old Germanic name “Lombard,” meaning “long beard.”
  • Cele – Zulu origin, meaning “independent” or “free.”
  • Engelbrecht – Dutch origin, meaning “bright angel.”
  • Maseko – Derived from the Nguni word “asekhona,” meaning “they are not here.”
  • Olivier – French origin, derived from “Olivier,” meaning “olive tree.”
  • Maluleke – Venda origin, meaning “someone who is quiet.”
  • Van der Linde – Dutch origin, meaning “from the linden tree.”
  • Shabalala – Derived from the Zulu word “ushabalala,” meaning “to be surprised.”
  • Van der Walt – Dutch origin, meaning “from the forest.”
  • Vilakazi – Zulu origin, meaning “one who brings joy.”
  • Labuschagne – Afrikaans origin, meaning “the bushy area.”
  • Shongwe – Swazi origin, indicating a person of high rank.
  • Van Heerden – Dutch origin, meaning “from the lord.”
  • Mthembu – Zulu origin, meaning “one who restrains.”
  • De Villiers – French origin, meaning “of the village.”

Rare South African Last Names

South Africa on Map

  • Ndlovu – Meaning “elephant,” of Zulu origin.
  • Van der Merwe – Afrikaans origin, common Dutch surname.
  • Mokoena – Meaning “discipline,” of Sotho origin.
  • Botha – Derived from the Old High German “boza,” meaning “messenger.”
  • Nkosi – Meaning “king,” of Zulu origin.
  • Du Plessis – French Huguenot origin, meaning “of the small clearing.”
  • Dlamini – Derived from the Zulu royal clan, indicating royalty.
  • Van Niekerk – Dutch origin, meaning “from Niekerk.”
  • Modise – Meaning “founder,” of Tswana origin.
  • Jansen – Dutch origin, patronymic surname meaning “son of Jan (John).”
  • Moloi – Meaning “sorcerer,” of Sotho origin.
  • Meyer – Derived from the Middle High German “meier,” meaning “steward” or “farmer.”
  • Ngubane – Zulu origin, indicating a warrior or brave person.
  • Van Rooyen – Dutch origin, meaning “from the red (haired) one.”
  • Khumalo – Derived from the Zulu word “ukhuma,” meaning “to build.”
  • Fourie – French Huguenot origin, meaning “forge” or “blacksmith.”
  • Sithole – Meaning “difficult situation,” of Ndebele origin.
  • De Lange – Afrikaans origin, meaning “the tall one.”
  • Mbatha – Zulu origin, meaning “one who brings joy.”
  • Van Zyl – Dutch origin, meaning “from the village.”
  • Mohlala – Derived from the Sotho word “mohlala,” meaning “one who sweeps.”
  • Van Wyk – Dutch origin, meaning “from the creek.”
  • Magwaza – Zulu origin, meaning “one who ambushes.”
  • Le Roux – French origin, meaning “the redhead.”
  • Zwane – Derived from the Zulu word “izwane,” meaning “wilderness” or “wild animal.”


South Africa flag

The names contribute to and show the rich cultural diversity of South Africa.

Moreover, the meanings may vary with interpretations but the essence remains the same. Hopefully, you liked the list of South African last names!

Also Read: 100 Most Popular Polish Surnames

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