Sunday 16 February 2020

Singapore Place Names Explained

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 I cast my net a little wider. As English place names share some links to other tongues it would be interesting to see if any of the elements contributing to our place names could be found elsewhere. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the Singapore's names.

Bishan gets its name from the Cantonese for 'large burial ground'. this established in 1870 by Cantonese and Hakka immigrants.

Marymount comes from a Mandarin pronunciation of MacRitchie, itself the name of the reservoir here.

Bukit Merah translates to 'red hill' from Malay, a reference to the red-colour of the soil on the hill. Traditionally the name is derived from a plague of swordfish, a wall of banana stems and blood - so no need to explain further.

Bukit Ho Swee is named from Tay Ho Swee (1834-1903), a Chinese opium and spirit farmer, timber merchant and ship owner. His infuence can still be seen today.

Tiong Bahru means 'new cemetery', from the Hokkien thiong and Malay bahru 'new'.

Bukit Timah is a Malay place name and translates as 'tin hill'. However, the hill has nothing to do with tin but was earlier known as Bukit Temak 'the hill of the temak trees', the poko temak was once abundant here.

Holland Road was named after early resident Hugh Holland, an architect.

Raffles Place is named after the founder of modern Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, who died in 1826 aged just 44.

Tanjong Pagar comes from the Malay for 'cape of stakes', this fishing village being on a promontory.

Geylang is from the Malay geylanggan meaning 'twist, crush', referring to the process of extracting meat and milk from coconuts.

Aljunied was named after former land owner Syed Sharif Oman bin Ali Al Junied who died in 1852.

McPherson was named after Lieutenant Colonel Ronald MacPherson, a soldier, architect and colonial administrator who died in 1869.

Kallang is an old Malay reference to the orang laut or 'people of the sea'.

Lavender took its name from Lavender Street, itself suggested by residents owing to the stench from the nearby gas works.

Katong is an extinct species of sea turtle.

Mountbatten is named after Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Dhobi Ghaut comes from the Hindi dhobi 'washerman' and ghat steps leading down to the water where the washing took place.

Istana means 'palace' in Malay.

Orchard Road took its name from the orchards where fruit, nutmeg and pepper grew.

Outram was named after the British general Sir James Outram, who died in 1863.

Pearl's Hill is named after Captain James Pearl, the captain of the Indiana who carried Sir Stamford Raffles to Singapore.

Pasir Panjang means 'long sand' and a reference to the beach here.

Sungei Road comes from the Malay sungei or 'river'.

Toa Payoh translates as 'big swamp'.

Siglap is said to come from when the first Dutch vessels appeared here. As the dark thunder clouds appeared overhead the Malay si-gelap was said to refer to 'darkness that conceals'.

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

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