10 S’pore Road Names’ Origins That S’poreans Should Know to Impress Their Friends

Image: Marechal Lenaic / Shutterstock.com

We all know where Clementi is, where Bedok is and where Ang Mo Kio is, but do you know what they are?

In this digital age, it seems like we’re moving into the future so fast, we’ve forgotten about our history. So, instead of writing about the new features of, say, Instagram, let’s take a trip back in time to make you sound like a smarter person during a casual conversation.

Here’re the 10 of Singapore road names’ origins to impress your friends.

If you prefer we watch, we’ve done a video of this topic here:

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Now, before anything, here’s a disclaimer: in some of the roads, there’re different accounts of their origins, so they might or might not be 100% accurate. Just take it with a pinch of salt and don’t argue with your friends on whether Ang Mo Kio is a bridge, a red tomato or a lady on a bridge.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s go explore Singapore!


Image: mitsueki.sg

Of course we should start with Yishun, shouldn’t we? One of the more popular towns in Singapore now, Yishun is actually the Mandarin Romanisation of the name Lim Nee Soon. Lim Nee Soon is a rubber magnate who has also contributed much to Singapore. As a community leader in Singapore, he was also a Justice of Peace, one of the founders of The Chinese High School and President of Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce

Lim Nee Soon is a rubber magnate who has also contributed much to Singapore. As a community leader in Singapore, he was also a Justice of Peace, one of the founders of The Chinese High School and President of Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce

Now, to impress you further…he’s even a close friend with 孫中山!

The reason why Yishun was chosen over Nee Soon is actually a move to use Standard Chinese in Singapore. And here’s an even more interesting tidbit: some of you in Yishun might know Chong Pang, either for the nasi lemak or the place. But do you know that that is named after his second son, Lim Chong Pang? #mindblown

(Article continues below) Xing Xing is a 34-year-old Singaporean lady who decides to meet up with an online friend she found in Facebook. But it turns out that he’s not what he seems to be: Prepare boxes of tissue and watch the saddest Singapore Facebook love story here:

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Image: streetdirectory.com

Bedok started development in 1966, and now has the highest population in Singapore. The name itself goes way back to 1604. During that time, there was a place known as Bedok River – which is now known as Sungei Bedok. Any information before 1604 is…well, lost in history because there were no Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

There’s one theory about it, though. It could mean biduk, a small fishing boat in Malay That’s because in the past, that area had many fishing villages!


Image: streetdirectory.com

Think this is named after one angmo? Well, you’re kind of right, but might be wrong as well. It’s suggested that it is named after one of these two people: Sir Cecil Clementi Smith, the first British High Commissioner in the Straits Settlements, or Sir Cecil Clementi, a former Governor of the Straits Settlements.

By the way, there’s no typo: both their names are Sir Cecil Clementi. Clementi Sua (two cups of iced lemon tea), anyone?

 Toa Payoh

Image: rentinsingapore.com.sg

Okay, this is very simple: It’s actually Hokkien. “Toa” means big and “Payoh” means swamp

One interesting thing is that the road names are given Malay suffixes, like Jalan Toa Payoh or Toa Payoh Lorong 8. This is because the town was conceived when Singapore was part of Malaysia, hence the Malay words!


Image: tp.edu.sg

Here’s the interesting thing: the word tempinis is a tree. There were so many tempinis in Tampines that Tampines was named Tampines for its tempinis (try reading that ten times!).

There’re some places that are named after trees as well, like Sembawang, but because Sembawang didn’t want to pay for the wall around Yishun, we’re leaving Sembawang out.

Anyway, do you know that you can still find some tempinis trees in Tampines?

Ang Mo Kio

Image: penang-traveltips.com

What does Ang Mo Kio in Hokkien means? It’s either an ang mo bridge or red tomatoes. We can’t find anything related to red tomatoes, but there’s an account of the ang mo bridge

A long time ago, a British civil engineer, John Turnbull Thomson, built a bridge to connect the British military bases from Seletar to Ang Mo Kio He has red hair, so people started calling the place “Ang Mo Kio” because he was the red-hair caucasian (cute way to name a place, isn’t it?).

And just so you know, Upper Thomson Road is also named after John Turnbull Thomson. This is why these two areas are so close to each other!

Choa Chu Kang

Image: singaporepropertyresources.com

In order to understand the origin of this name, you’ve got to understand what “Chu Kang” means. “Chu” actually means owner, and “Kang” means riverbank. In other words, Chu Kang means the owner of the riverbank. In the past, they used to call it kangchu instead.

The first word of all the Chu Kangs is the clan name of the first headman. So Choa Chu Kang means it’s managed by the “Choa” clan, Yio means it’s by the “Yio” clan…so on and on

In other words, Choa Chu Kang used to be under the Choa clan. But of course, there’re no clans now lah – not even any Counterstrike clans (remember them?).


Image: rentinsingapore.com.sg

This is pretty self-explanatory: It means river end in Hokkien. It was named that way because it’s located at the end of Sungei Serangoon, a river back then. Now, Sungei Serangoon has been converted into a reservoir named Serangoon Reservoir

Now you know why Hougang and Serangoon are BFF.


Image: channelnewasia.com

Jurong took its name from Sungei Jurong, but how did the word Jurong come about in the first place?

There’s a theory that it comes from several meanings in Malay. “Jerung” means shark in Malay, so there could have been many sharks there. Or it could also be “Jurang”, which is like a canyon. But if you’ve noticed something, it has something to do with water in all its origin stories…and nothing to do with pigs. #justsaying


Image: 20yearsrunningwild.wordpress.com

This new town isn’t simple, man. There’re many origin stories about this name: In Malay, it means throwing sticks at fruit trees to bring the fruits down, and it could also mean a place where fruits are sold wholesale

In other words, all that is known is that this is a place related to fruits. But now, it’s related to nasi lemak and BTO…no?

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