100 Top South African Last Names With Meanings

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Dec 12, 2023 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Nov 24, 2020
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
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Age: 0-99
Read time: 9.1 Min

Last names or family names are surnames that identify a person's family, community, tribe, or village.

South African names are derived from a variety of African dialects and regional languages. South Africa is considered to be a melting pot filled with traditions and systems adopted from all parts of the African continent.

Here is a list of the best and most common African last names from South Africa along with their meaning.

If you are looking for more unique names, you can look at our articles on  South African Names and African Last Names.

Popular South African Last Names

Ethnic sister with her baby brother

Here is a list of popular South African last names.

1. Abara (Igbo origin) meaning "spirit". Abara is a common last name in the Igbo community.

2. Abebe (Amharic origin) meaning "flower".

3. Abioye (Yoruba origin) meaning "son of royalty". Many African last names reference wealth and the aristocracy.

4. Achebe (Igbo origin) meaning "the Goddess protects".

5. Adebisi (Yoruba origin) meaning "the king produced more". Adebisi is one of the many African names that mean king.

6. Adeleke (Yoruba origin) meaning "the crown triumphed".

7. Adisa (Yoruba origin) meaning "one who is clear".

8. Afolabi (Yoruba origin) meaning "someone who is born into high status and wealth".

9. Afumba (Lozi origin) meaning "when they plan".

10. Chidubem (Igbo origin) meaning "guided by God". Chidubem is one of the many surnames that calls for a higher power.

11. Cisse (Madinka origin) meaning "professor".

12. Conteh (Sierra Leone origin) meaning "great eagle". Conteh is a common last name adopted throughout the African mainland.

13. Diallo (Fula origin) meaning "bold".

14. Etiename (Ibibio origin) meaning "benevolent".

15. Faraji (Swahili origin) meaning "consolation". Faraji is a common Swahili last name that is loved by all due to its sweetness and candor.

16. Gowon (Tiv origin) meaning "the rainmaker".  Many common South African last names make references to natural occurrences.

17. Igwe (Igbo origin) meaning "heaven". Igwe is an extremely popular surname used by various religious subsects.

18. Kenyetta (Kenya origin) meaning "musician".

19. Keita meaning "blessing". The surname Keita gained prominence after the rule of the Keita dynasty from the 11th to the 17th century.

20. Kimathi (Kenyan origin) meaning "earnest provider". Kimathi is a popular last name used in many African provinces.

21. Masondo (Zulu origin) meaning "wheels".

22. Mensah (Akan origin) meaning "third-born". Mensah is a common last name used by families residing in various parts of Africa, such as South Africa.

23. Mmeriemikwu (Igbo origin) meaning "to be better."

24. Mwanajuma (Swahili origin) meaning "born on Friday".  Many Swahili last names pay homage to the day or time that a person was born.

25. Nnadi (Igbo origin) meaning "my father lives". Nnadi is an extremely common surname used in much African community.

26. Nwachukwu (Igbo origin) meaning "child of God".

27. Obi (Igbo origin) meaning "heart".

28. Okafor (Igbo origin) meaning "born on Afor".

29. Okeke (Igbo origin) meaning "born on Eke". Okeke is an Igbo last name common in many ethnoreligious communities in South Africa.

30. Okoro (Igbo origin) meaning "greatness".

31. Okusanya (Yoruba origin) meaning "God has rewarded me".

32. Omenma meaning "one who does enough for others".

33. Onai (Shona origin) meaning "call to observe".

34. Oyekan (Shona origin) meaning "we are many".

35. Phukuntsi (Tswana origin) meaning "one who attracts flies".

36. Selassie meaning "trinity".

37. Tshabalal (Zulu origin) meaning "shooting star".

38. Umburter (Tiv origin) meaning "remember the father".  Umburter is one of the most prominent African last names from the Tiv language.

40. Yeboah meaning "helping others". Helping or aiding others is a common theme found among Afrikaans names.

41. Zadzisai (Shona origin) meaning "fulfillment of a promise".

Traditional South African Last Names

Ethnic family enjoying family time indoor

Here is a list of common South African names that have a rich history and lineage.

42.  Abimbola (Yoruba origin) meaning "born with wealth".  Surnames like Abimbola that reference wealth and prosperity are common in South Africa.

43.  Achebe (Igbo origin) meaning "Goddess protects". The term 'Goddesses' can be found among many common African names.

44. Agrinya (Yala origin) meaning "warrior".

45. Agu (Igbo origin) meaning "tiger".

46. Aguta (Igbo origin) meaning "to have many". Aguta is included in the list of conservative surnames found in the African mainland.

47. Akinyemi (Yoruba origin) meaning "destined to be a warrior". Akinyemi is a surname found mostly in descendants of the Yoruba people.

48. Alaneme (Igbo origin) meaning "the land is active".

49. Alasa meaning "lord of the shield."

50. Amaechi (Igbo origin) meaning "who knows tomorrow".

51. Amaike (Igbo origin) meaning "the compound stays strong".

52. Ayodele (Yoruba origin) meaning "joy comes home". Franklin Ayodele is a famous Nigerian footballer who has this common surname.

53. Bankole (Yoruba origin) meaning "build my house for me". Bankole is one of the few surnames that sets a directive for the people who pronounce the name, which is why it is known to be an assertive last name.

54. Buhari meaning "is a man". Buhari is one of South Africa's orthodox surnames.

55. Buhle (Xhosa origin) meaning "handsome". Buhle is a common surname among people who's identity is attached to the Xhosa clan.

56. Chidozie (Igbo origin) meaning "God repairs". Chidiozie is a long-established surname in many African communities.

57. Dogo (Hausa origin) meaning "little".

58. Eze (Igbo origin) meaning "king". Many last names in South Africa make references to royalty.

59. Igwe (Igbo origin) meaning "sky". Igwe is one of the most common surnames found in the Igbo community.

60. Kalu (Ibo origin) meaning "God of thunder", Kalus is one of the most prominent surnames found in the African continent.

61. Kasongo (Congolese origin) meaning "bushbuck". This last name is commonly used by joint families in Africa.

62. Kikelomo (Yoruba origin) meaning "to be cherished".  Kikelomo is one of the most conventional names that can be found among African languages.

63. Madaki meaning "warlord".

64. Mambwe (Zambian origin) meaning "the Lord is good".

65. Ngige meaning "locust". Ngige is one of the most old-fashioned surnames that people in Africa have.

66. Odili meaning "peace". Odili is a surname that is common among many people in the Zulu community.

67. Olanrewaju (Yoruba origin) meaning "my prosperity is moving forward".

68. Olantungi (Yoruba origin) meaning "wealth wakes again".

69. Orji meaning "mighty tree". Orji is a common surname in many South African cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg.

70. Quansah (Ghanaian origin) meaning "God is watching". Quansah is one of the many surnames that makes reference to religion and a higher power.

71. Uduike (Igbo origin) meaning "full of power".

Famous South African Last Names

Here is a list of famous South African last names and meanings.

71. Biko (Bantu origin) meaning 'a person of the people". Stephen Biko was an African nationalist who was at the forefront of the internal resistance to the apartheid movement.

72. Buthelezi (Zulu origin) meaning "chief". Mangosuthu Buthelezi was an African tribal leader and one of the founders of the IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party).

73. Chaka (Bemba origin) meaning "year".  Yvonne Chaka Chaka is an acclaimed South African entrepreneur, singer, humanitarian and actress, and has also been given the title 'Princess of Africa' by her fans.

74. Dlamini (Etswana origin) meaning "royalty". Zodwa Dlamini is the Vice Chancellor for Research at the MUT (Mangosuthu University of Technology), a residential university located in Durban, South Africa.

75. Gumede (Zulu origin) meaning "to end what you have started". Archi Gumede was a prominent African politician, lawyer and human rights activist.

76. Khumalo (Ndebele origin) meaning "descendant of the fish tribe". Theophilus Khumalo is a retired South African football player, best known for playing in South Africa's national team.

77. Luthuli (Zulu origin) meaning "the month of dust". Albert Luthuli was an African  Nobel Peace Prize winner, teacher, and anti-apartheid activist.

78. Mahlangu meaning "one who carries the shield". Esther Mahlangu is an artist best known for contemporary paintings based on her cultural heritage.

79. Makeba meaning "precious jewel". Miriam Makeba was a civil rights activist, United Nations goodwill ambassador, singer and actress.

80. Mandela (Xhosa origin) meaning "gift of God". Nelson Mandela was the first president of South Africa in the post-Apartheid era.

81. Maponya meaning "king of elephants". Richard Maponya was a South African conglomerate who built a business empire.

82. Mbatha meaning "protector". Nomzamo Mbatha is a South African businesswoman, actress, and human rights activist.

83. Medupe (Tswana origin) meaning "gentle rain". Thebe Medupe is an African Astrophysicist recognized for his work on a project called 'Cosmic Africa'.

84. Mlambo (Xhosa origin) meaning "river".  Ambuya Mlambo was a groundbreaking broadcaster and television host best known for her programs geared towards children.

85. Molungu (Bantu origin) meaning "God". Molungu is a popular surname that many  African people in the Bantu community hold.

86. Motaung meaning "lions". Kaizer Motaung is the founder and manager director of Kaizer Chiefs FC, a South African soccer team.

87. Msiza meaning "helper". Masoja Msiza is a South African artist known for appearing in the hit telenovela 'Uzalo'.

88. Ndaba meaning "news". Themba Ndaba is a renowned South African director who selected the cast of 'Zone 14' and 'Machine Gun Preacher'.

89. Nkosi (Nguni origin) meaning "king". West Nkosi was a South African songwriter and music producer.

90. Osei meaning "royalty". Prince David Osei is an admired African philanthropist, investor, entrepreneur and actor.

91. Owusu meaning "strong-minded and determined". Akosua Adoma Owusu is an African-American producer and filmmaker focused on creating content that depicts the collision of different identities.

92. Phiri (Malawi origin) meaning "mountain". Ray Phiri was a Malawian immigrant who went on to become one of South Africa's most renowned Jazz musicians.

93. Radebe (Zulu origin) meaning "big tree". Lucas Radebe is a former African football player who became known as 'The Chief' during his time at Leeds United.

94. Sefako meaning "hail". Ramotholo Sefako is known as one of the first black South African astrophysicists.

95. Tambo meaning "rope". Oliver Tambo was a South African revolutionary and head of the ANC (African National Congress) for 24 years.

96. Toure (Soninke origin) meaning "elephant". Amadou Toumani Toure was a radical Malian military leader who served twice as Mali's president.

97. Tutu (Subiya origin) meaning "wealth". Desmond Tutu is a renowned clerk and theologian, known for his work in the human rights sector.

98. Twala meaning "to carry". Mary Twala was an artist who started her career by starring in 'Generations',  a South African TV series.

99. Zulu (Zulu origin) meaning "heaven". Shaka Zulu was the leader of the Zulu Kingdom in the early 19th century.

100. Zuma meaning "of God". Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is an anti-apartheid activist and politician, who worked under Nelson Mandela as the South African Minister of Health.

Kidadl has lots of great names articles to inspire you. If you liked our suggestions for South African last names then why not take a look at something different like Nigerian Last Names or Caribbean Names.

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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