What the “Ang Mo” in Ang Mo Kio really means

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Even if you’ve lived in Singapore your entire life, or even if you live in Ang Mo Kio, you might not know the meaning behind the name of this highly populated town. You might be wondering: does the Ang Mo in Ang Mo Kio really refer to Caucasians?

Well, here’s the fact: yes, it is.

In fact, according to some online sources, the Ang Mo in Hokkien refers to just one Caucasian who is born way before you and I were born. It could either be a wealthy merchant’s wife called Lady Jennifer Windsor or a British civil engineer, Mr John Turnbull Thomson, who apparently was responsible for the development of the early infrastructure of late 19th century Singapore.

As for the “Kio”, it refers to a bridge.

So, why a Caucasian’s bridge? Well, since it could refer to two Caucasians, it depends on which version you prefer.

For the first version, it is said that Lady Windsor lost three of her children near a bridge in an area in Ang Mo Kio, with one of the kid’s bodies not found. After that, people started hearing a little girl’s cries near the bridge, so Lady Windsor stayed on the bridge forever until she died. With her presence there, the locals called it a Caucasian’s bridge, and ta-da: it became Ang Mo Kio.

The second version is, erm, a little more realistic. Mr John Turnbull Thomson, a Caucasian, built a bridge for military transport near the area, and since it’s a bridge built by a Caucasian, the locals called it Ang Mo Kio.

And just for your info, both versions of the story have the same specific location for the bridge: It’s the one near the intersection of Ang Mo Kio Ave 1 and Upper Thomson Road.

Well, looking forward now, Ang Mo Kio has become such a developed, beautiful and vibrant town that it sort of no longer matters how the name comes about. But at least, it reminds us again that long, long ago, we were a British colony!