Sunday, 25 October 2015

Brunei and its Place Names

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time to cast my net a little wider. This time Brunei and a look at some of its largest settlements and most interesting names and starting with the capital.

Bandar Seri Bagawan was known in English as Bandar Brunei or Brunei Town. At the abdication of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III in 1967, his eldest son Hassanal Bolkiah succeeded him and later renamed the city Begawan to honour his father as it was used to mean 'abdicated' when referring to former monarchs, it coming from the Sanskrit word for 'god'. It should also be noted that Seri Begawan means 'blessed one', the Sanskrit seri easily seen as related to the honorific sri. The word bandar has come down from the Persian tongue and originally meant 'harbour, port, haven', and is also found in Malay where it means 'town, city'.

Sengkurong is traditionally said to be 'the people of Kurong'. This is supported by the Bengkurong meaning 'the Kurong River'. Both seem to suggest this area was once known as Kurong, although there are no surviving records to support this. However it would make sense as kurong also means 'enclosed' and the meandering river could easily be said to have enclosed an area, particularly during times of flood.

Sungai Nagalang is a river named from the Murut galang or 'circular bracelet' and a description of its meandering course.

Sungair Peliunan is a second river, again describing its course in lium or 'to circle around'.

Sungai Batu Apoi is a third river name, this time named for a local feature and meaning 'fiery rock'. Unlike the previous two the rock is no longer visible, for traditional tells of how this rock, it making the whole area quite uninhabitable, was encountered by a great hero. He took one look at the offending rock and, with his great strength, launched it into the sea thus making the area perfect for the village.

Tutong has many explanations, most often said to be the word for 'turtle'.

Bukit Ambok is a hill near the town of Tutong. While the true origin is uncertain, there are two conflicting suggestions as to its origin. Either this represents ambok from Malay and thus understood as 'monkey hill', or is from a fruit known as 'cat's eyes' growing on the ambug trees which once dominated this hill.

Lamunin refers to fauna not flora. This is from lat munin or 'fox hill'.

Merimbun has two conflicting but equally interesting explanations. It is said a man named Imbun had been hunting when he stumbled upon the place. Finding the forest alive with game and the lake teeming with fish he decided to bring his family here to settle permanently. When others of his village followed, they named it to honour the man who had made their lives so much easier. The second also suggests Merimbun had been named after an individual, this time the story involves a trader from China who brought so much prosperity they named it after him, his name being Eng Boon.

Bukit Udal also speaks of an early event giving it a name. Folklore speaks of a great flood, the rising waters forcing men, women and children to seek higher ground. Naturally the animals, birds and insects did the same to wait it out. However so many mouths crowded in a small area soon meant there was nothing left to eat, all the vegetation had been stripped and giving it its name of 'bald hill'.

Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.

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