Thursday, October 15, 2015

Malay Road Toponyms 1


Something I have been wanting to do for quite awhile now. Literally go around Singapore and compile and document all the Malay road names in the island.


Singapore became pre-independent in 1959. To somewhat detach Singapore's colonial ties and links, a decision was made to avoid colonial related toponyms and instead tried to use names in the national language. Bahasa Melayu, representing Singapore's ideology at that time of identifying with the mainland of Peninsular Malaysia and the region as a whole, in an effort to unite the population through a Malayan identity and remove all remnants of British rule. It was an effort spearheaded by Lim Yew Hock, the 2nd Chief Minister of pre-independent Singapore at that time.

Old Airport Estate was the first, with the naming of lanes within the estate "Jalan Satu", "Jalan Dua" till "Jalan Enam". Complications then started as the as the available Malay words and vocabulary related to fauna, flora, animals and other material culture were exhausted to the point that names of colors were used as seen in Holland Village. (Taman Warna, Jalan Kelabu Asap, Jalan Merah Saga, ect.) Soon, Singapore was separated from Malaysia. The government embraced a new ideology, multiculturalism. Fresh from the bitter and painful reminder of being kicked out of Malaysia, some years shortly after gaining full independence, the Street Naming Advisory Committee was ordered to stop naming roads in Malay and avoid the use of "Jalan" and "Lorong" in favor of English suffixes.

Thus over the years, some Malay road names were renamed to English names, most notably at the Jalan Tukang area, where multicultural toponyms are used ("Soon Lee Road" meaning "progressing smoothly" in Mandarin and "Neythal Road" meaning "to weave" in Tamil) and Lorong 1, 2, 3, ect in Goldhill Gardens were renamed to Place, Rise, View, ect. Even Jalan Merpati and Jalan Pipit in MacPherson are renamed to Merpati Road and Pipit Road respectively.

Today, with the exception of the more recent Bukit Panjang New Town, which are named after the original kampung tracks like Bangkit, Fajar, Gangsa, Jelapang, Jelebu, Lompang, Petir, Saujana and Senja, but however using English street suffixes. New roads build are not given full on Malay names and use English suffixes such as Avenue, Boulevard, Crescent, Drive, Lane, Rise, Road, Street with Jalan, Lorong, Lengkok, Persiaran and Taman totally avoided and fallen out of use.

My Reasons for Doing So

As the country develops, over the years, some historic roads baring Malay names have become expunged, some renamed and some becoming shorter and shorter and long forgotten.

People may argue, why am I overly concern of documenting Malay road names? Is this blogger biased towards his own race?

There is nothing wrong with being proud of who I am and embracing my culture. Readers may judge me from my articles alone but do not know who I am in person. I may be proud of being a Malay, but I do have friends from all races and I respect each and every culture in Singapore. Besides, this blog is in English and I'm more comfortable writing in English than Malay. After all, this is a blog for all to see. I hope this clears any doubts against me.

I've actually did a few Wikipedia edits myself, but was ultimately reverted back, rejected or re edited by other so called "established" Wikipedia users. As I couldn't handle the bureaucracy and politics of Wikipedia, I decided to publish my findings here, where I have greater control. Personally, it is unfair that there are translations of Hokkien, Pinyin and Simplified Chinese of the same place names have translations while Jawi is rejected simply because it's not an "official" script. (Is hokkien and pinyin even official anyway??)

Note that I will only document road names featuring Malay suffixes, excluding Malay baring road names with English suffixes. This includes a combination of Chinese and English road names with Malay suffixes. (Example, Jalan Boon Lay, Jalan Novena Barat)

Self-Explanatory Standard Translations  

Malay street suffixes are similar to the English street suffixes. Also, it is interesting to note that Malay roads names in Singapore are named during the 60s and before, so most of the spellings, pronunciation and even the vocabulary itself is in the older version of the language and are no longer used, spelled or even relevant in today's context by the majority of the Malays. Even as a Malay myself, I am not that proficient in my own mother tongue. Thus, further research has been done to look deeper into the meaning of the word, cross referencing dictionaries, enlisted the helped of the elders and even Google search the word. So it wasn't easy for me to compile this article and this has to be the longest as in duration I have been working on for a blog article. a lot of work, effort and research has been put into this and I'm just sharing what I know and have gathered.

Drive - Persiaran (Eg: Persiaran Keiling/Circular Drive. The road has since been renamed to Circuit Road. Singapore no longer uses the Persiaran suffix)
Gardens - Taman (Eg: Taman Warna/Color Gardens)
Lane - Lorong (Eg: Lorong Buangkok/Buangkok Lane)
Road - Jalan (Eg: Jalan Jurong Kechil/Small Jurong Road)
Square - Medan (No roads in Singapore use the suffix Medan)
Street - Lebuh/Lorong (No streets use the suffix "Lebuh". However, some roads, Lorong is meant to be translated as street)

Its is also interesting to note that in other countries, most notably Indonesia and Malaysia, "Jalan" is shorten to "Jln" in Singapore and Malaysia, while Indonesia further shortens it to "Jl". "Lorong" is usually shorten to "Lrng" while only Singapore shortens "Lorong" to "Lor". Indonesia however substitutes it for "Gang". Only Malaysia shortens Taman to "Tmn".

Jalan Batai
   جالن باتاي

Located in Sembawang Hills Estate and flanked by landed houses, Jalan Batai is named after a kind of tree found in Malaysia. The small minor road first appeared on maps in 1958.

Jalan Berjaya
    جالن برجاي

This particular minor lane is located off Jalan Binchang at Thomson Rise Estate. "Jalan Berjaya" meaning "Success Road" in English serves as an access road into the estate. The road is flanked by landed housing.

Jalan Binchang
       جالن بنچڠ

Binchang means discuss in Malay. Jalan Binchang is located off Bishan Road and existed before the town of Bishan was built in 1983. The road has spawn other roads with English suffixes, Binchang Walk and Binchang Rise. The road is flanked by private landed houses.

Jalan Bunga Rampai
     جالن بوڠا رامڤأي

Bunga Rampai in Malay means an assortment of sweet scented cut-up flowers. Usually used in important occasions of Malay culture such as weddings and engagement. Jalan Bunga Rampai spawned off another road named Bunga Rampai Place and the estate itself, Bunga Rampai Estate.

Jalan Chengam
      جالن چيڠام

First appearing on 1958 historic maps, Jalan Chengam is a minor lane located within Sembawang Hills Estate. "Chengam" is an older Malay spelling of "cengam" meaning "to grab something with your mouth".

Jalan Chempedak
     جالن چيمڤدق

I presumed that Jalan Chempedak is named after the Cempedak tree. Chempedak is a popular fruit in Southeast Asia. This minor road, flanked by landed houses is located within Sembawang Hills Estate and first appeared on maps in 1958.

Jalan Gelenggang
      جالن ڬيليڠڬڠ

Jalan Gelenggang is located in Sembawang Hills Estate. Gelenggang is a Malay word for cassia, a type of tree. Its bark is used to make cinnamon. Located off Jalan Kuras, Jalan Gelenggang is a minor road flanked by landed housing.

Jalan Insaf
  جالن انصاف

Jalan Insaf, a minor road located in Thomson Hills Estate. Insaf means "conscious" in Malay, as heard countless times during religious classes and lectures.

Jalan Kubor
   جالن كوبور

Jalan Kubor, using the older Malay spelling of "kubor" instead of the current "kubur" is located in Kampong Gelam but not a part of the "Kampong Gelam Conversational District". The name directly translates to Grave Road in English as it is named after the old Malay burial ground previously known as, “Tombs of Malayan Princes”, next to it. The cemetery has existed since the time of Stamford Raffles.

Jalan Kuras
  جالن كوراس

Located in Sembawang Hills Estate, Jalan Kuras refers to a spices of plant known by its scientific name, Dryobalanops oblongifolia. The minor road serves private housing.

Jalan Lanjut
   جالن لنجوت

"Lanjut" in Malay means "detailed", a common term I used to hear from my secondary school Malay teacher. Jalan Lanjut is a minor road located in Sembawang Hills Estate and first appeared on maps in 1958.

Jalan Leban
    جالن ليبن

Located off Upper Thomson Road and built sometime before 1958, Jalan Leban, together with the other sister lanes in Sembawang Hills Estate are named after Malayan plants. Pokok Leban is known as "Vitex spp" by its scientific name.

Jalan Lengkok Sembawang
          جالن لڠكوق سمباوڠ

"Jalan Lengkok Sembawang", literally meaning "Sembawang Crescent Road" in English is located off Sembawang Road. The road itself, as stated in its name does form an actual crescent if one were to drive on it.

Jalan Mas Puteh
     جالن مس ڤوته

The Malay word for Platinum is Mas Putih. Located in Pasir Panjang Gardens Estate, this is one of the few roads named after precious metals.

Jalan Mas Kuning
     جالن مس كونيڠ

Like its sister road, Jalan Mas Putih, Jalan Mas Kuning is named after yellow gold, particularly to note its purity, another precious metal. Located in Pasir Panjang Gardens Estate, the road houses several private housing.

Jalan Mengkudu
      جالن مڠكودو

Mengkudu, also commonly known as great morinda or Indian mulberry fruit is a type of plant used to make brownish-purplish dye that may be used for making batik. Jalan Mengkudu is located in Sembawang Hills Estate.

Jalan Menarong
      جالن مناروڠ

The road first appeared on maps in 1958 and presently located in Sembawang Hills Estate. Jalan Menarong is named after Cyperus, a species of sedges. The spelling is in the older Malay version as it is currently spelled as "menerong".

Jalan Pemimpin
     جالن ڤميمڤين

Located in Bishan, the road was built sometime in 1958 together with the rest of Thomson Rise Estate. The road was much longer back then as it was accessed through Thomson Road. Today, its main access is through Bishan Street 21 and serves a mixture of private residential and industrial properties. Pemimpin in Malay for "guide" or "guidance"

Jalan Rukam
    جالن روكم

The road was built sometime before 1958 as it only started appearing on historic maps that year. Located in Sembawang Hills Estate, Jalan Rukam is a Malay word describing a group of plants or vegetation. 

Jalan Sappan
    جالن سڤڤن

The road first appeared on maps in 1958 and its located in Sembawang Hills Estate. Jalan Sappan is named after "kayu sapan", a type of wood.

Jalan Tarum
   جالن تاروم

Located in Sembawang Hills Estate, Jalan Turam was build sometime before 1958. Tarum is a Malay word used to describe Indigofera tinctoria, a plant belonging to the bean family.

Jalan Telang
      جالن تلڠ

Located in Sembawang Hills Estate, Jalan Telang is a Malay word for bamboo. Possibly an older word as "buluh" also means bamboo.

Jalan Ulu Sembawang
      جالن اولو سمباوڠ

One of the roads I greatly admired upon research. Jalan Ulu Sembawang was a very long path, stretching all the way from Mandai Road to Sembawang Road near to Canberra. Roughly translated to "Rural Sembawang Road" in English, it served as an access road into the kampungs, plantations, cemeteries, and farmlands along the road. By the late 1980s, redevelopments of Woodlands caused large chunks and sections of the road to be expunged, leaving a short portion at Sembawang Road in existence today.

Lengkong Satu, Lengkong Dua, Lengkong Tiga, Lengkong Empat, Lengkong, Lima, Lengkong Enam and Lengkong Tujoh
ڠكوڠ ساتو، لڠكوڠ دوا، لڠكوڠ تيڬ، لڠكوڠ امڤت، لڠكوڠ، ليما، لڠكوڠ انم اند لڠكوڠ توجوه

Lengkong Satu till Lengkong Tujoh is located in Kembangan. The area was once part of Kampong Eunos, an area specially designated for the resettlement of Malay Settlements as they were being driven out of Kampong Gelam. "Lengkong" is a variation and the older spelling of "Lengkok" meaning "Crescent" in Malay. The direct translation for the road with mean "Crescent One", "Crescent Two" and so forth. It is also interesting to note that Seven in Malay is "Tujuh" is also in the older spelling, "Tujoh".

Lorong Bekukong
     لوروڠ بكوكوڠ

Lorong Bekukong is named after ikan bekukon in the older spelling, a species of fish commonly found in the waters of Southeast Asia. A fitting road name considering that its located in Changi Village, a known fishing haven.

Lorong Halwa
    لوروڠ حالوا

Located and serving as the main access to Bukit Brown Cemetery, Lorong Halwa in Malay refers to crystallized fruit, fruits preserved in syrup. The lane may be in danger of being expunged soon due to the building of Jalan Bukit Brown. Updated on Dec 2016: The road has since been realigned to facilitate the construction of the Bukir Brown Viaduct.

Lorong Paya Lebar
      لوروڠ ڤايا ليبر

A sister road of Paya Lebar Street, it was build after 1958. Given that at that time was the height of when Malay road names was being named, it used the suffix "Lorong" rather than "Lane" or "Street". It is located in Bunga Rampai Estate. Paya Lebar means "Wide Swamp" in Malay.

Taman Mas Merah
       تامن مس ميره

Located in Pasir Panjang Gardens and surrounded in private housing, Taman means "Gardens". One of the Malay street suffix used. Sadly, I couldn't find the exact meaning to Mas Merah which literally translates to "Red Gold" in English. The closest I got to is "sliver thread used to attach attractive ornaments on clothing". 


There will be more Malay roads to come for translation and scrutinizing. From this experience, I have learnt a lot from my own language, from unique vocabulary to how much the bahasa has evolved since the 60s. I also discovered many unique Malay road names Singapore has. It is interesting to note that despite being a global multi-cultural country, the identity of being a Malayan state is somewhat still preserved and shown through names of places and roads. 

Do look out for more articles published on my blog featuring more Malay road names and their history.  

Singapore Street Names: A Study of Typonomics
ISBN: 978-981-4408-35-6

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