Thorough (Not Really) Research on "who-like-many-Indonesians-goes-by-one-name"

(Have been itching to write something about this, at last, I did it)


This is a very magical phrase that almost always appears when foreign media report something about Indonesia. This appears recently after news covering earthquake (please donate, some links here, here, and here). Though the addition of the phrase is understandable to assess the integrity of the reporting of mononymic individuals for audience whose first name-last name is a standard, one can wonder why all these authors don’t paraphrase it to something like “mononymic is common in Indonesia”, “Indonesian commonly has no family names”, or something else. The phrase is still important though, knowing that questions like “Was there really somebody called “Merry, Merry…” and “Why you say many Indonesians use only one name” are still being uttered.

A lot of Indonesian has noticed about this phenomenon, as well as other countrymen with mononymic or no-family-name culture such as Afghan or Indian (but you don’t have “who-like-many-Afghans-goes-by-one-name”, do you?). The fact that Indonesia has a lot of citizens-with-only-one-name, with a very high internet penetration to boot (though mostly spent on social media), has been well-responded by Facebook that allows Indonesian to have a singular name out of its true name policy. This (Facebook allowing singular name for Indonesian) has been picked up by a lot of “hack” or “tutorial” website to change your Facebook name to one-word only like this Wikihow page.


Even Madonna needs to change her IP to Indonesian one to be able to change her Facebook name (this is a joke)


Ah, don’t exaggerate, you say. No, really. Based on Google Search, the same exact phrase has been written for exactly 16800 times (by 17 October 2018) , originated (?) from the print archive of The 8 October 1992 New York Times article titled “Rearranging the Population: Indonesia Weighs the Pluses and the Minuses” (any source for earlier appearance if any will be great! I have found one older link but it didn’t work when I tried clicking it).


Indonesia has a very convenient free-for-all naming system (I don’t think we even have any list of banned words for names?), proven by a lot of viral-worthy names such as Batman bin Suparman (who is actually not an Indonesian citizen but of Javanese origin) or Polisi (lit. Police), or Tuhan (lit. God). One-word names are quite common, especially for Javanese, Sundanese, and Chinese-Indonesians. A lot of Indonesians, however, have agreed that one-word name is not as common nowadays compared to the old days, because one-word name is perceived as “countrified”. To prove this, I will look at the result of the year 2018 SNMPTN (public university entrance test), assuming that the students were born around 2000-2001. The 2018 SNMPTN result is obtained from  with a total of 110.946 names for 85 public universities.

I’m actually planning to compare the list with the result for 2017 CPNS (assuming that the applicants were born between 1982-1992), but the data is a bit harder to clean, so maybe I’ll update this with the comparison next time.

I converted the 2018 SNMPTN file (PDF) to Excel/ CSV (using this website), then count the number of space to assume the number of words. Based on that we obtain 8476 students (7.64%) of students with singular names (hmm, not a lot, actually). The longest names are 8 words in total. If we assume that students apply to university near to their place of origin (though this is a very far-fetched assumption), my hypothesis is that the longest names in Indonesia, in general, have to be Balinese as there five word-names are easily available there, such as I Gede Bagus <name> <name> (shout out to one of high-school Balinese friend whose name is written just as letters and dots, all shortened up in a competition nametag).


Now, looking at the data, out of 110946 students, we have 8476 students with one-word names, 44144 students with two-word names, 46382 students (3 words), and 10231 students (4 words), and. We can see that two-word and three-word names are the standards, with 3-word names as the most common for 2000-2001-born Indonesians. The number of students with 5-word or more, however, decreases a lot, with only 1477 students with 5 word-names and 207 students with 6 word-names. There are 23 people with 7 word-names (with, as I correctly guess in a glance, about 20 are Balinese). I’m not sure why they are not exactly added to 110946, however, I don’t want to delve further, sorry.

I have also found two people with 8-word names (congrats! You have the longest names in the list!), which are curiously not Balinese (though one is a Raja Guk Guk, so I’m not really sure whether that supposed to be 1 word only or three words).

I have tried to skim into the names, however, and found some not-so-correct result such as Balinese names shortened as something like I.G.B.N <name>, which was counted as 4 words less than the original, as well as a student whose names separated into 9-word but actually one word with space for each character, so please take this with caution. I have tried fixing them, but more in-depth tweaking is definitely necessary.

Looking at the universities, we can also list universities based on different criteria (Note: ISBI Aceh only has 17 new students, so the percentage is a bit skewed)

The most “Indonesian” Universities (largest percentage of 3-word names)


Representation of who-like-many-Indonesians-goes-by-one-name. You assume that one-word is common in Java, but apparently not as none of these universities is in Java.


Universities with students with longer names (6 or more words). As predicted, Balinese Universities are up ahead with 3.9% and 2.78% respectively.


Anyway, as I have the database already, will be good to play around with the list of names, maybe (such as finding the popular names and the tendency of “uneeq” names in recent Indonesian children names). I’m still working with the 1982-1992-born Indonesian data to add as well.

Also, for journalists planning to write an article about Indonesia who somehow stumbled into this article, paraphrase, please!

About alfiahrizky

Currently Indonesian university student trying to submit more useful contents to share one's limited knowledge. Rather has wide range of interest with quite limited knowledge, the writings will be as sporadic as it can be. Expect more on technical related writings especially softwares and apps, cultures, music, and random things.

Posted on October 18, 2018, in Learning, Plugging, Scattering and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Something to be curious about?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: