Being a foreigner in another country can sometimes compel you to learn about the nation’s culture and identity. In Malaysia, the locals would usually be pleased if a foreigner or tourist mention their names correctly. Surely, it’s completely understandable if you get them wrong since you’re a non-native but this idea is just undeniable – hearing your name pronounced spot on is music to your ears and you’ll be quite impressed especially if it came from a non-citizen. So, to know names in Malaysia is a must-know thing, before traveling to Malaysia.
As Malaysia is a Southeast Asian and Muslim country, its national language was hugely influenced by the Sanskrit and Arabic languages. Later in this blog today, you’ll see a strong influence of Arabic, especially in the most common names among the Malaysian people.
Common Malaysian Names – The Malay Naming System
The first part you need to know before looking at a number of Malaysian names is how important it is to understand how Malay name works. At times, the Malaysians don’t seem personally friendly to a stranger abroad because foreigners always address them using their fathers‘ names rather than their own (first name).
That might be the naming system in a lot of European countries, where people address a person using his surname. But in Malaysia, things are a little bit different. Usually, a person is referred to using his first or second name. If you feel that it’s a bit inappropriate, you can always add a Mr., Mrs., or Miss in front of their names!
So, if a Malaysian says his name is Adam bin Ali, you should call him Adam (or Encik Adam if he’s older than you). Avoid calling him Encik Ali because that is a direct reference to his father instead.
One great guide that you should know – the word ‘bin‘ in a man’s name means ‘the son of’. So, from his name, Adam is literally Ali’s son. For the female counterpart, their names usually have the word ‘binti’ in them, which means ‘the daughter of’.
Well, now you know how to properly address a local or what to call them. Great! Let’s dive right into the most famous names in Malaysia.
Common Malay Names Among Boys
This set of names, in particular, are especially popular in Malaysia. Ahmad, Muhammad, and Mohamad have always been used by people from past generations to name their sons. These names share the same origin – it’s a direct reference to the Prophet Muhammad (as he was also regarded as Ahmad, which means ‘praiseworthy’ or ‘much-praised’). The spellings vary a lot – some people use Ahmed, Muhd, Mohd, and Mohamed.
Usually, the name Ahmad or Muhammad is placed in the first part of a person’s name, like Muhammad Adam or Ahmad Adam. So, from this name, people will usually call him Adam, rather than Ahmad.
Similar to Ahmad, Abdul is another common name placed in front of a boy’s full name. The origin of Abdul is Arabic as it literally means ‘the servant to’. In Islam, if a person is named Abdul, it’s a must for the name that follows to be one of God’s attributes. For example, the name Abdul Hakim is quite prevalent in Malaysian society. Hakim is from Arabic, which means all-wise. Hence, the name Abdul Hakim can be understood as the servant of the all-wise.
If you enroll in any school in Malaysia, it’s impossible to not come across this name because it’s just so widely used and given to boys that we sometimes don’t even realize it!
This is an especially common name among the locals. As the first Prophet in Islamic history is Prophet Adam, a lot of Malaysians; Malay Muslims in particular, choose this name for their firstborn male or the only male child.
Amir is a masculine name and a lot of Malaysians were given such a name. Sometimes it’s extended to Amirul or spelled differently, like Ameer, but all carry the same meaning – a leader.
You can’t go around Malaysia and make new friends without having Ismail as one of them. Though this name is more commonly given to male babies in the 90s era, it is still quite popular. Its meaning can be traced back to Islamic history as Ismail is the name of a Prophet.
Another common name in Malaysia, originates from Arabic too. Hafiz means the person who memorizes. In Islam, it is often related to the act of memorizing the entire al-Quran scripture.
Common Malay Names Among Girls
Nur is definitely the most overwhelmingly used name for females in Malaysia! Trust me, you don’t say you work in Malaysia unless your bunch of female colleagues’ names mostly start with a Nur in front! It’s also varied and spelled Nor, Noor, and Nurul. Still, these names essentially mean ‘light’ in Arabic.
Another common name for a Malaysian girl starts with a Siti. It’s a word that means ‘a lady’. Siti can be quite traditional as it was most prevalent during the times of our parents and the parents before them. And usually, Siti is combined with another one or two girl names. Some of the known celebrities in Malaysia are Siti Saleha, Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza, and Siti Nordiana.
This popular girl name is very commonly found in 5 out of 1o Malaysian families. Fatimah was the name of Prophet Muhammad’s beloved daughter. It’s a name that suits all age groups, be it for daughters, women, mothers, and grandmothers – doesn’t really matter! As long as you’re a female family member, Fatimah can be the name of your new sister (if you’re a local, that is)!
This is another famously used name for any girl in the family! Apart from being the name of Prophet Muhammad’s wife, Aisyah also means life in Arabic. The name conveys a sense of liveliness and vigor in someone. Generally, the name Aisyah is used flexibly – sometimes it’s someone’s first name (like Aisyah Humaira) and sometimes it is preceded by other names (such as Siti Aisyah or Nur Aisyah). The written form is also varied most of the time – Aisya, Aishah, or Aiesyhah.
This name’s origin can be traced back to Arabic, which means ‘happiness’ and ‘joy’. You can have many female friends, acquaintances, or colleagues in Malaysia with this particular name.
Learn More About Malay
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