This website uses cookies to provide a rich user experience. Please consult our Cookie Policy to learn about what cookies this website uses, or to control the cookies you receive. You need do nothing if you are happy to receive cookies.
Look and Learn History Picture Library License images from £2.99 Pay by PayPal for images for immediate download Member of British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA)

A grateful King of Sumatra gave Singapore its name

Posted in Geography, Historical articles, History, Interesting Words, Language, Legend on Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Click on any image for details about licensing for commercial or personal use.

This edited article about Singapore originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 714 published on 20 September 1975.

Singapore, picture, image, illustration


How did Singapore get its name?

A long, long time ago the country was known as “Tumasek” or “Sea Town”. According to Malay legend, the first king of Singapore was Sang Nila Utama, who was king of Sumatra in Indonesia.

One day, Sang Nila Utama went with his friends to hunt in one of the Riau islands. These are Indonesian islands just south of Singapore. When he reached the Riau islands he climbed a hill and stood on the top looking out across the water.

He saw far across the sea, the white beach of another island. The king said: “How white is that beach! It looks like a piece of white cloth. Where is it?” His friend replied. “It is on the island of Tumasek.”

The king then decided to visit the island.

As they sailed, a storm broke, and the ship began to sink. The king and his men threw all their goods over the side of the ship, including the king’s crown. At once, the sea became calm and the storm stopped.

They landed safely and then went inland and found themselves in a jungle. They saw a beautiful animal. It was graceful, swift and bold and when the king saw it he said “This must be a fine place if it breeds such beautiful strong animals.” The animal he saw was a lion and so the king decided to name his new kingdom ‘Singapura’. ‘The City of the Lion’.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.