The Malaysian Chinese are the only large ethnic group in Malaysia to use family names. Most other groups use a personal name and then a
patronym name. For men, the patronym consists of the title bin (from So, if Osman has a son called Musa, Musa will be known as Musa bin Osman. For women, the patronym consists of the title binti (from Arabic بنت, meaning ‘daughter of’) followed by her father’s name. So, if Musa has a daughter called Aisyah, Aisyah will be known as Aisyah binti Musa. Upon marriage, a woman does not change her name, as is done in many cultures. Arabic بن, meaning ‘son of’) followed by his father’s personal name.
Traditionally Malay names were taken from other languages:
Malay, for example, Kiambang, Mayang or Tuah
Khmer, Siamese or Cham, for example, Tam, Som or Lai
Javanese, for example, Ratnasari, Joyo or Kesuma
Sanskrit or Pali, for example, Wira, Darma or Wati
Arabic names are popular. In addition, names form other languages are also used and include:
Persian, for example, Jehan, Mirza or Shah
Greek or Latin, for example, Maria, Marina or Johana
English, for example, Tiara, Orked or Ros
Some names are taken from public figures around the world. The majority of Malay males have Mohammad or Muhammad (after the founder of Islam) as their first name.
A few Malay families use surnames such as Tengku, Megat, Nik, Wan, Raja and Che. Other common surnames include Sayid or Syed, and Teuku. It is common to take two or three first names. The Malaysian Chinese use traditional Chinese names of usually three words. The first name is the Chinese family name.
Boys’ and Girls’ Names
Following are the 25 most popular boys’ and girls’ names for parents in Malay to name their children:
Boys’ Names: Muhamad, Adam, Rayyan, Ahmad, Daniel, Darwish, Umar, Haziq, Irfan, Zikri, Aqil, Harith, Hakim, Aqif, Hadif, Ammar, Danish, Aidan, Jayden, Ashraff, Alif, Ariff, Syshmi, Isaac, and Amsyar
Girls’ Names: Nur (Nor or Noor), Zara, Hannah, Damia, Sophia, Alicia, Aishah, Humaira, Batrisyia, Safiyyah, Sarah, Iris, Alya, Adrianna, Amani, Keisha, Arissa, Balqis, Qistina, Arianna, Qaisara, Khalisha, Chloe, Marissa, and Mia.