51 Popular Malay Names You Can’t Miss

In Malaysia, the locals would usually be pleased if a foreigner or tourist mention their names correctly. To impress the locals, you can always get familiar with some popular Malay names before traveling to Malaysia.

Common Malay names for boys include Amir, Adam, and Hafiz, while for girls, you’ll often encounter names like Aisyah, Farah, and Amirah. These names have a strong influence of Arabic, and you’re about to find out why!

Malay women in hijab talking and smiling to each other

Common Malay Names: The Malay Naming System

As Malaysia is a Southeast Asian and Muslim country, its national language was hugely influenced by the Sanskrit and Arabic languages. The first part you need to know before looking at some common Malaysian names is how important it is to understand how Malay name works.

At times, the Malaysians may not seem friendly to a stranger abroad because of how they’re addressed — most address the locals using their fathers’ names rather than their own.

That might be the naming system in a lot of European countries, where addressing a person using the surname is standard. But in Malaysia, things are a little bit different. Usually, a person is referred to using his first or second name. To make it more appropriate, especially when you’re addressing a stranger, you can always add a Encik (Mr.) , Puan (Mrs.), or Cik (Miss) in front of their names.

For example, if a Malaysian says his name is Adam bin Ali, you should call him Adam, or Encik Adam if he seems older than you). Avoid calling him Encik Ali because that is a direct reference to his father instead.

One important part 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’ (or sometimes bt or bte) 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 Malay names in Malaysia.

Common Malay Names For Boys

1. Ahmad/Muhammad

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, as Ahmad works like a ‘male identifier’.

2. Abdul

Similar to Ahmad, Abdul is another name acting as a male identifier. The origin of Abdul is Arabic, and 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 today’s Malaysian society. Al-Hakim is an Arabic word, meaning ‘The All-Wise’. Hence, the name Abdul Hakim means the Servant of The All-Wise.

3. Adam

This is an especially common name among the locals. Referring to the first Prophet in Islamic history, Prophet Adam, a lot of Malays choose this name for their firstborn male or the only male child. But then again, this is truly subjective and some people just like the name Adam!

4. Amir

Amir is a masculine name and a lot of Malaysians were given such a name. Sometimes, this name is extended to Amirul or spelled differently, like Ameer or Amer. But all carry the same meaning (derived from its Arabic word) — a leader.

5. Aiman

You can’t go around Malaysia and make new friends without having Aiman as one of them. Although this name – which simply means ‘the lucky one’ – is more commonly given to male babies, it is also quite popular among female babies. It doesn’t possess any distinctly masculine or feminine traits, making it suitable for both genders.

6. Hafiz

This is another common name in Malaysia. Originally from Arabic word, Hifz; meaning the guardian or the one who preserves. In context, Hafiz means a person who memorizes. In Islam, this is related to the act of memorizing the al-Quran scripture, acting as a guardian who preserves and protects the holy scripture from perishing or being distorted. Its noble meaning is the reason why this particular name is so widespread in Malaysia.

Common Malay Names For Girls

1. Nur

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! Yup, like Abdul or Muhammad, Nur acts as a female identifier. It’s also varied and spelled Nor, Noor, and Nurul. Still, these names essentially mean ‘light’ in Arabic.

2. Siti

Another common female identifier is Siti, meaning ‘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 followed by another one or two girl names. Some of the known celebrities in Malaysia are Siti Saleha, Siti Nurhaliza, and Siti Nordiana. When it comes to addressing these names, we call them by the names following Siti; Miss Saleha, Mrs. Nurhaliza, and Mrs. Nurdiana (unless they insist on being called Siti).

3. Fatimah

This popular girl name is easily found in 5 out of 10 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, 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!

4. Aisyah

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.

5. Farah

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.

Local tip: Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce these names accurately yet. The key to improvement is to learn speaking the language first. Since you might not encounter Malays every day, try using a language learning app like Ling app. It comes really handy for you to pick up Malay on the go and get yourself familiar with the sound of the language.

How Do You Say Names In Malay?

The Malay word for names is ‘Nama’.

To introduce yourself, if your name, for example, is Adam, you say: Nama saya Adam.

For a friendlier alternative, you can try: Panggil saya Adam – this literally means ‘call me Adam’. Want to know other different ways to say it? Keep reading!

Different Ways To Say Your Name In Malay

Here’s a variety of ways for you to say your name in Malay:

My name is Aisyah.Nama saya Aisyah.
Call me Aisyah.Panggil saya Aisyah.
Hi, I’m Aisyah.Hai, saya Aisyah.

Classic Malay Names

Boy NamesGirl Names

Common Malay Names

Boy NamesGirl Names

Modern Malay Names

Boy NamesGirl Names

Frequently Asked Questions About Malay Names

1. How to identify Malay names?

The structure of a Malay name consists of three basic element: Personal name + patronym + father’s name — this is the key to know if one has a Malay name or otherwise. Here’s an example of how a typical Malay name, Abdul Hadi bin Naim, is broken down:

  • Abdul Hadi – a personal name
  • Bin – an Arabic word that means ‘the son of’; a patronymic link that indicates this person is the son of the following name
  • Naim – the father’s name

Same goes to a girl’s name, Siti Saleha binti Abu:

  • Siti Saleha – a personal name
  • Binti – an Arabic word that means ‘the daughter of’; a patronymic link indicating this person is the daughter of the following name
  • Abu – the father’s name

Local tip: Sometimes, when a Malay is not creating a passport, registering for school, or having appointments with a doctor, the patronym is deliberately left out of one’s name. This is common, especially when it’s easy to recognize which one is the father’s name.

2. What is an example of a full Malay name?

Here’s a variety of full Malay names:

  • Amilah bt Aman
  • Ahmad Imran bin Osman
  • Putra Darwisy Anaqi Al-Yahya bin Putra Daniel Affan
  • Sharifah Nor Azean binti Syed Mahadzir Al-Yahya
  • Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Abdul Hamid
  • Siti Syahirah binti Ahmad Amri
  • Nenney Shuhaidah Binti Shamsuddin
  • Nik Nadirah bte Nik Wandin
  • Syed Mohamad Fahmi Syed Shabthar
  • Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Al Masrie bin Sheikh Mustapha
  • Princess Aura Nurr Ermily Amara Auliya Bidadari Nawal El Zendra binti Mohd Suffian (the longest Malay name to date)

Unlike Western names, Malays do not have any family or surnames. However, in specific cases, a few families do. Popular surnames such as Tengku, Megat, Nik, Wan, Raja, and Che are passed down through the paternal line and typically signify royal lineage. Other names like Merican, Daeng, and Syed indicate specific ancestries, such as Indian Muslim, Arab, or Bugis origins.

A group of Malays in traditional Malay attire at a paddy field with a Malay girl holding the Malaysian flag

Explore Malay Culture Beyond Names

Now that’s quite interesting, no? Today, we discovered that the Malay naming convention was heavily influenced by Arabic language. Some of the Malay culture and norms are similar to those of Arabic. Apart from that, most common Malay names also can be traced back to religious meanings or connotations. This practice, like many other cultures, stems from the Malay tradition of choosing names with good and positive meanings, believing it will lead to a blissful and prosperous life.

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