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Person names

Afrikaans has a number of (native, nativised and non-native) suffixes for coining person names and inhabitant names. These suffixes differ in input/output category, productivity, etc. Generally speaking, person names are unmarked for gender, since gender is not a grammatical feature of Afrikaans (except for pronouns). A person name is therefore in principal gender neutral (e.g. werk·er work·NMLZ worker), unless it is juxtaposed with a feminine counterpart (e.g. werk·ster work·NMLZ.F female worker). Such gender marking is realised through either suffixation (as in the aforementioned examples), or compounding (e.g. leeu+mann·etjie lion+male·DIM male lion, or wyfie+kat female+cat tabby (cat). However, note that feminine marking can be considered by and large obsolete and unproductive in Afrikaans (Combrink 1990:15), except in cases where gender is relevant, e.g. in discussions on single-sex schools, or whether the time that was run by an athlete was a male or female, etc.

An example of a native suffix forming person names is -aar (examples in (1)), of a nativised suffix is -er (examples in (2)), and of a non-native suffix is -or (examples in (3)).

Example 1

a. eie·n·aar
b. min·aar (> minn·aar)
Example 2

a. werk·er
b. swem·er (> swemm·er)
Example 3

a. lekt·or
b. aggress·or

Native (e.g. -ster in (4)) and nativised (e.g. -es in (5)) feminine-marking suffixes are either nominalisers, or category neutral when they append to existing person names, while non-native feminine-marking suffixes (e.g. -rise in (6)) are nominalisers:

Example 4

a. werk·ster
female worker
b. swem·ster
female swimmer
Example 5

a. eie·n·ar·es
female owner
b. baron·es
Example 6

a. lekt·rise
female lecturer
b. akt·rise

Inhabitant names are gender neutral, and are formed with either native suffixes (e.g. -aard in (7)), nativised suffixes (e.g. -er in (8)), or non-native suffixes (e.g. -iet in (9)):

Example 7

a. Spanje + -aard (> Spanj·aard)
b. Savoje + -aard (> Savoj·aard)
Example 8

a. Nederland·er
person from The Netherlands
b. Algiers·er
person from Algiers
Example 9

a. Jemen·iet
b. Durban·iet
[hide extra information]

In addition to the above-mentioned morphological strategies to indicate gender and inhabitants, it could also be expressed periphrastically, e.g.:

Example 10

vroulike lektor
female lecturer
[Synonym for lektrise.]
Example 11

inwoner van Botswana
inhabitant of Botswana

Feminine marking is still more productive in Dutch than in Afrikaans. Compare for example the following Dutch cases that don't have equivalents in Afrikaans:

Example 12

a. wandel·aar·ster
female walker
b. student·e
female student
c. histor·ica
female historian

The productivity of Afrikaans suffixes forming person names, have not been investigated thoroughly yet. According to Kempen (1969:371-372), -er is the most productive suffix forming person names, and is in complementary distribution with -aar that occurs after stems ending in a coronal consonant preceded by a schwa. When -er occurs with stems ending in /r/ or /əi/, the interfix -d- is most of the time compulsory (e.g. in leer to learn > leer·d·er learner; bevry to emancipate > bevry·d·er emancipator). However, this distribution is not completely phonologically governed, since there are some nouns in -aar and -er with stems of a different phonological make up, such as ler·aar preacher, or dien·d·er policeman.

[+]Schema(ta) and/or paradigm(s)

The following general, high-level schemata can be identified for derived person names:

  1. [[a](V)[b](NMLZ)](N) ↔ [person/agent who SEM(V)] (e.g. werk·er worker)
  2. [[a](ADJ)[b](NMLZ)](N) ↔ [person with property SEM(ADJ)] (e.g. wreed·aard brute, cruel person)
  3. [[a](N)[b](CN)](N) ↔ [person related to SEM(N)] (e.g. winkel·ier shopkeeper)
  4. [[a](N)[b](CN)](N) ↔ [female counterpart of SEM(N)] (e.g. baron·es baroness)
  5. [[a](PR)[b](CN)](N) ↔ [inhabitant of SEM(PR)] (e.g. Nederland·er person from The Netherlands)
  6. [[a](PR)[b](CN)](N) ↔ [follower of SEM(PR)] (e.g. Luther·aan Lutheran)
  7. [[a](root)[b](NMLZ)](N) ↔ [person related to SEM(root)] (e.g. lekt·or lecturer)

Some of the suffixes that create person names, also derive nouns denoting objects, e.g. -er in werk·er worker is also found in klits·er (egg) beater; and -or in lekt·or lecturer is also found in indukt·or inductor.

[+]Native suffixes

The native suffixes found in nouns that denote persons of male or unspecified gender are listed below; many of the nouns derived with these suffixes can also have an object noun reading. Follow the links to see discussion of the individual suffixes.

Table 1
Suffix Base category Base Derived form
-aard A gierig miserly gierig·aard miser
PR (only two attested cases) Spanje Spain Spanj·aard Spaniard (other example is Savoj·aard Savoyard)
-and (allomorph of -end) V (only two attested cases) heil < German heilento heal heil·and saviour (other example is vy·and < Proto-Germanic *fijēn-to hate)
-e ADJ blind blind blind·e blind person
-en PR (only one attested case) Christus Christ Christ·en Christian
N (only one attested case) heide heath heid·en heathen
-end V (only one attested case) vry < Proto-Germanic *frijōn-to woo someone vri·end friend
-erd (allomorph of -aard) A stout naughty stout·erd naughty child
V stink to stink/smell stink·erd smelly person
-erik A (only two attested cases) dom stupid domm·erik stupid (person) [pejorative] (other example is stomm·erik fathead)
-ie (diminutive suffix, and all its allomorphs) A dom stupid domm·ie stupid (person) [ameliorative]
-ling (often combining with interfix -e-) A jonk young jong·e·ling youngster
V huur to hire huur·ling mercenary; hireling
N guns favour gunst·e·ling favourite
NUM twee two twee·ling twins

There are four native suffixes for feminine marking, of which only one (i.e. -ster) is semi-productive.

Table 2
Suffix Base category Base Derived form
-e N orrelis organist orrelist·e female organist
-egge N (only one attested case) dief thief diev·egge female thief
-in N held hero held·in heroine
-ster V tik type tik·ster female typist

[hide extra information]

In the case of be·ampt·e official, functionary one might be tempted to analyse the word as consisting of a circumfix be-...-e, since *beamp is not a verb in Afrikaans. However, the WNT indicates that the Dutch adjective be·ambtprovided with an official position was attested in 17th century Dutch, and the Dutch word be·ambt·eofficial, functionary is therefore derived using the same -e suffix as in blind·e blind person mentioned above.

[+]Nativised suffixes

A number of suffixes originated in Latin and Ancient Greek, but underwent such significant changes that they can be considered nativised. Such suffixes can combine, for instance, with lexical items from the native and non-native stratum.

Table 3
Suffix Base category Base Derived form
-aar (often combining with the interfixes -en- and -n-; allomorph of -er) V min to love minn·aar lover
PR Hongarye Hungary Hong·aar Hungarian
N sonde sin sond·aar sinner
-aner (concatenation of non-native -aan and native -er) PR Italië Italy Itali·aner Italian
-er (often combining with the interfixes -d- and -t-) V wen win wenn·er winner
PR Madrid Madrid·t·er Madridian
P draad sit wire sit to sit on the fence draadsitt·er fence-sitter
NUM tien ten tien·er teenager
-ier (often combining with interfix -en-) N winkel store/shop winkel·ier shop-keeper
V vlieg to fly vlie·ën·ier pilot
PR (only one attested case) Arabië Arabia Arab·ier Arab
root barb- < Latin barbabeard barb·ier barber
-is (with allomorph -ist in PL and F constructions; often combining with interfix -en-) N alkohol alcohol alkohol·is alcoholic
PR Boeddha Buddha Boeddh·is Buddhist
root kompon- < Latin componereto put together kompon·is composer
-(oh)olis (confix from alkohol·is alcoholic) N werk work werk·olis or werk·oholis workaholic
-yn N chirurg surgeon chirurg·yn ship's doctor
PR Argentinië Argentina Argent·yn Argentine
root praktis- < Latin practicareto do, perform, practice praktis·yn practitioner

The only feminine denoting suffix that is nativised, is -es, which is historically related to Latin -issa. Nativised -es is mainly in competition with native -ster.

Table 4
Suffix Base category Base Derived form
-es N baron baron baron·es baroness
Derived N, ending in -er dans·er dancer dans·er·es female dancer

[+]Non-native suffixes

A large number of non-native suffixes that form person names, can be identified in Afrikaans. However, very few of these are productive in Afrikaans, with the exception of those that combine with proper names to form toponyms, etc.

Table 5
Suffix Base category Base Derived form
-aal root gener- < Latin genus, gener-kind gener·aal general
PR Provence Provens·aal inhabitant of Provence
-aan (often combining with the interfix -i-) root veter- < Latin vetus, veter-old veter·aan veteran
PR Meksiko Mexico Meksik·aan Mexican
-aat root advok- < Latin advocareto summon for counsel advok·aat advocate
PR Asië Asia Asi·aat Asian
-ak root (only one attested case) mani- < Greek maniamadness mani·ak maniac
-andus (with allomorph -endus) root doktor- < Latin doctoroto award a doctorate doktor·andus person working towards a doctoral degree
-ans root (only one attested case) ordon- < Latin ordo, ordin-to order ordinn·ans ordinance
-ant root remonstr- < Latin re-back; again + monstrareto show remonstr·ant remonstrant
N debuut debut debut·ant debutant
-aris root sekret- < Latin secernereto set apart sekret·aris secretary (functionary)
N biblio·teek library biblio·tek·aris librarian
-arius root ordin- < Latin ordo, ordin-to order ordin·arius ordinariate
-as (with allomorph -ast when followed by other morphemes) root entoes- < Greek enin + theosgod entoes·i·as enthusiast
-eel root krimin- < Latin crimenindictment; crime krimin·eel criminal
-een PR Chili Chile Chil·een Chilean
-ees PR Angola Angol·ees Angolan
-eet root atl- < Greek athleinto contest atl·eet athlete
-ein root kapt-, allomorph of kapit- < Latin caputhead kapt·ein captain
PR (only one attested case) Rome Rom·ein Roman
-ent (with allomorph -ënt in words like pasiënt pasient) root dos- < Latin docereto teach dos·ent docent; lecturer
-êr root vision- < Latin videreto see vision·êr visionary
N miljoen million miljoen·êr millionaire
-eur root massa < probably Arabic massato touch, handle mass·eur masseur
-iën root elektr- < Greek elektronamber elektr·is·iën electrician
-iër root ager < Latin agerfield agrar·iër agrarian
PR Zimbabwe Zimbabw·iër beggar
-iet PR Durban Durban·iet Durbanite
-ikus root histor- < Greek historwise man histor·ikus historian
-ino root baller- < Greek ballizeinto dance baller·ino male ballet dancer
-ioen root (only two attested cases) spi- < Old French espierto spy sp·ioen spy (other example is kamp·ioen champion)
-liet root prose- < Greek protitoward + root of eleusesthaito be going to come prose·liet proselyte
-oos root (only two attested cases) virtu- < Latin vir·tusmanliness; excellence virtu·oos virtuoso
-oot root sel- < Greek zeloszeal sel·oot zealot, fanatic
-tor (with allomorph -sor (as in sen·sor sensor), -toor (as in pas·toor pastor, and -oor (as in maj·oor major)) root modera- < Latin moderomitigate (or sens- < Latin sentioto feel) modera·tor moderator (or sens·or sensor)
-urg (sometimes combining with the interfix -t-) root metall- < Greek metallonmetal metall·urg metallurgist

A few non-native suffixes are used to derive female person names, all of which are by and large unproductive in Afrikaans.

Table 6
Suffix Base category Base Derived form
-a root (with masculine form ending in -arius, -ikus, -anda, and -enda) prim·ari- < Latin primariuschief, principal prim·ari·a chief female delegate; head-girl
N sultan sultan sultan·a mother, wife, mistress, sister, or daughter of a sultan
-esse root (with masculine form ending in -aris) sekret·ar- < Latin secretariussecretary (functionary) sekret·ar·esse (female) secretary
-ette (with allomorph -et) root brun- < Latin brunusbrown brun·et brunette
PR Paul (male first name) Paul·ette (female first name)
-euse root mass- < probably Arabic massato touch, handle mass·euse masseusse
-ina root baller- < Greek ballizeinto dance baller·ina ballerina
PR Paul (male first name) Paul·ina (female first name)
-ine root blond- < Latin blondusyellow blond·ine a blond(ine)
PR Paul (male first name) Paul·ine (female first name)
-trise (often combining with the interfix -a-; also with allomorph -rise) root (with masculine form ending in -eur or -tor) ak- < Latin agoto do, act, make ak·trise actress

[hide extra information]

The following Dutch suffixes are not present in Afrikaans:

  • -air (as in Dutch diamant·airdiamond dealer)
  • (as in evacu·é evacuee)
  • -ier (as in Dutch cabaret·iermale stand-up comedian)
  • -ière (as in Dutch cabaret·ièrefemale stand-up comedian)
  • -t (as in Dutch fantas·tdreamer)
  • -us (as in Dutch anonym·usanonymous person)

[+]Confixes and affixoids

Person names are also formed through (neo-)classical compounding, with confixes like the following:

Example 13

Example 14

Example 15

Example 16

Example 17

Example 18

Example 19

Example 20

Example 21

Example 22

Example 23

Example 24

Example 25


From the Germanic stratum, there are three gender-neutral suffixoids that form person names, namely:

Example 26

Example 27

nature lover
Example 28


The affixoid man (functioning either as prefixoid or suffixoid) lost its original gender-neutral meaning of human, person, and is used in modern Afrikaans to form masculine person names, e.g.:

Example 29

a. man÷student man÷student male student
b. koerant÷man newspaper÷man pressman; male journalist

Die gender-opposite affixoid vrou woman functions in exactly the same way to form female person names, e.g.:

Example 30

a. vrou·e÷student woman·LK÷student female student
b. koerant÷vrou newspaper÷woman press-woman; female journalist

Consider also the following opposite pairs of suffixoids and prefixoids:

Example 31

a. tiener÷seun teenager÷boy male teenager
b. skoon÷seun clean÷son son-in-law
c. seun·s÷kind boy·LK÷child young boy
Example 32

meisie; dogtergirl; daughter
a. tiener÷meisie teenager÷girl female teenager
b. skoon÷dogter clean÷daughter daughter-in-law
c. meisie÷kind girl÷child young girl
Example 33

heer; damegentleman; lady
a. beskerm÷heer protect÷gentleman male patron
b. beskerm÷dame protect÷lady female patron
c. dame÷student lady÷student female student
  • Combrink, J.G.H1990Afrikaanse morfologie: capita exemplaria.Academica
  • Instituut voor Nederlandse Lexicologie1995Het Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal (WNT)
  • Kempen, W1969Samestelling, afleiding en woordsoortelike meerfunksionaliteit in Afrikaans.Nasou
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