Tag Archives: The Literal Translation of Country Names

The Twisted Etymology of Malaysia?

I came across a series of posters on the internet, entitled “The Literal Translations of Country Names”, which as the title says, lists out the literal translations of the names of the countries in this world. (Please click here for my article in Malay)

Skimming through the posters which was made in a map format, I was excited to see that Malaysia is also listed, but was really shocked to find out their literal translation of the name of my country!

As most of us know, the ‘word’ Malaysia is originated from two Greek words which are ‘Malay’ and ‘-sia’.

Like English, ‘Malay’ is the Greek for the word ‘Malay’, the dominant race in South-East Asia; whilst ‘-sia’ is a suffix which means ‘land’ in Greek (‘-σία’ in the Greek alphabet), which may also sometimes be shortened to ‘-ia’, as in Mongolia, Columbia and others.

So, the literal translation of the word Malaysia to English is ‘Malay Land’ or more precisely, ‘The Land of the Malays’.

However, the poster states that the literal translation of Malaysia is ‘Mountain City’!

I find this weird because the poster translated Russia and Mongolia as ‘Land of the Rus’, and ‘Land of the Mongols’ respectively.

The question is, if Russia is literally translated as ‘Land of the Rus’ and Mongolia as ‘Land of the Mongols’, why must Malaysia be literally translated as ‘Mountain City’ and not as ‘Land of the Malays’?

Malaysia is a country and not a city and geographically it does not make any sense for Malaysia to be called ‘Mountain City’.

When I checked their reference, it turns out that they referred to the Oxford Dictionary, which states that the word ‘Melayu’ was originated from two Sanskrit words which are “Malai” which is Mountain, and “Ur”, that means city.

The point is:

  1. The poster is supposed literally translate the word Malaysia, and not Melayu!
  2. The word Melayu or Malay in this context is referred to the Malay race and not a place or a city. 

Now, is this a silly mistake or is it a deception in order to slowly erase the fact that Malaysia actually means Land of the Malays or Tanah Melayu from the mind of the people?

We had been seeing a lot of efforts done by various groups to deny the fact that Malaysia is actually the ‘Land of the Malays’ or Tanah Melayu.

I can’t help but to wonder if this is another effort to confuse and to corrupt the mind of the people by using the term Mountain City instead of Land of the Malays in order to distance and eventually eliminate the Malay race from the meaning of the word Malaysia.

We as the citizens of Malaysia must be patriotic and put an effort into understanding the history and ideology of our beloved country and not to be fooled by others who are spreading false informations about our country.

As stated by eminent historians, Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim and Datuk Ramlah Adam, Malaysia is indeed Tanah Melayu or the Land of the Malays!