New Zealand Culture

Naming

Naming Conventions

  • New Zealand names generally follow English naming conventions. Overseas-born New Zealanders generally adapt their names to fit these conventions in formal documents.
  • English naming conventions arrange names as follows: [first given name] [middle given name(s)] [FAMILY NAME]. For example, Travis Samuel WILSON (male) or Emily Claire TAYLOR (female).
  • One’s ‘first name’, known as a ‘personal name’ or ‘given name’, is chosen at birth as the individual’s personal identifier. It always comes before the family name. 
  • The ‘family name’, known as a ‘surname’ or ‘last name’, is inherited from one’s parents and shared with other members of the individual’s immediate family
  • New Zealand names are traditionally patrilineal, whereby children are given their father’s family name. However, this is not an enforced custom. 
  • Some parents may choose to give their children a hyphenated surname that contains the family name of both the mother and father (e.g. Travis Samuel WILSON-ADAMS). 
  • It is traditional for women to adopt their husband’s family name at marriage. However, this practice is declining and less of a cultural requirement. 
  • Many New Zealanders also have a ‘middle name’, which is a secondary given name written between the person's first name and their family name. For example, Emily Claire TAYLOR’s middle name is ‘Claire’.
  • Middle names are optional and are rarely used in daily life. However, most New Zealanders have one or multiple.


Names

  • Most New Zealand parents choose their children’s personal names based on aesthetic appeal.
  • Many of the most common names have an English/British origin or Christian meaning (e.g. Joshua, Michael, Grace).
  • As of 2020, the most popular first names in New Zealand were Isla, Charlotte, Amelia, Olivia, Willow (female) and Oliver, Jack, Noah, Leo, Lucas (male).1
  • It is also common for names to be drawn from the Māori language. Some of the most popular Māori names include Aria, Mia, Kora, Amaia, Tiana (female) and Nikau, Ari, Mikaere, Manaia, Koa (male).2
  • It is common for a child’s middle name to reflect the personal name of a close family member (such as a grandparent).
  • The most common New Zealand family names have a British origin, e.g. SMITH, WILLIAMS, JONES, BROWN, TAYLOR.3
  • Other family names reflect the broad cultural, linguistic and geographic diversity of New Zealand families. For example, Nita KUMAR (Indian), Ashley MURPHY (Irish), Dylan WANG (Chinese).


Addressing Others

  • New Zealanders generally address one another verbally by the first name alone. In formal situations, people may use a person’s title (e.g. Mr., Mrs., Ms., Doctor, etc.) followed by their family name.
  • Middle names are almost never used to address a person, unless quoted on formal/legal documentation.


1 New Zealand Government, 2020

2 New Zealand Government, 2020

3 Forebears, 2021

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