Meanings & Facts Of Most Common Singapore Surnames in Singapore & Malaysia


Last Updated on 2023-03-26 , 12:00 pm

What does your last name mean?

Our research shows that the top ten most common Singapore surnames are (in order) Tan, Lim, Lee, Ng, Ong, Wong, Goh, Chua, Chan and Koh. While we can’t find the statistics for Malaysian Chinese surname, we’re quite sure it’s quite similar.

So, what is the meaning or facts of each surname? Here’re the meanings or facts of the top five surnames:

Most Common Surname In Singapore 

This last name seems to come from the State of Tan, an ancient state that no longer exist since more than 2,500 years ago. Now, the land that used to be the State of Tan is in Shandong Province (China).

Lim 林
The story behind this last name dated back more than 3,000 years ago, and it meant “forest”. It is, surprising, the same “family” as Lin and Lam. In Singapore and Malaysia, “Lim” is used more often as they follow the pronunciation of their dialects, with “Lim” for Hokkien and “Lam” for Cantonese.

Lee 李
Lee, also known as Li, is the second most common surname in China. With China having the most number of Chinese, you can bet that Lee (but it’s more of Li) is a very common surname. In Chinese, it could mean “plum” or “plum tree”. The story is that someone survived just by eating plums for a long period, so he changed his surname to “Lee”. Hmm…

Why the Ridout Road Colonial Houses Saga is Actually NOT a Saga:

Ng 黄
Technically speaking, only people of Cantonese or Hakka dialect use this last name. The Hokkien version of it is “Wu”—which means “five”.  One interesting thing that you might have realized: this one of the shortest surname in the word with only two letters. Cool, eh?

Ong 王
There are so many stories about its origin that we’ve decided to focus on thing: it’s the most common Chinese surname in the world. But then again, it’s Wang, but Ong and Wang share the same Chinese character (王), so…

Wah, chim lah. Anyone’s surname is Chim? Chim is 深, right? No?

Singapore Last Names

Now you’re more knowledgeable about Singaporean last names and surnames, time to go forth and impress your friends!