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Malaysian names

Personal names in Malaysia are extremely useful in tracing a person's cultural and ethnic background as Malaysia comprises many ethnicities and cultures in which, each has its own distinct system of names. Personal names are to a certain degree, regulated by the national registration department, especially since the introduction of the National Registration Identity Card. The Malaysian Chinese are the only major ethnic group in Malaysia to use family names. Most other groups, including the ethnic Malays. Orang Asli and the Bumiputera of Sabah and Sarawak, share a naming custom that includes the use of a personal name followed by a patronym name.

Malay names

Malay names are often drawn from Arabic and follow some Arabic naming customs. However, a significant portion of Malay names may also have origins from the other languages or even a combination of two or more elements from these languages:

  • Malay. for example Kiambang, Orked and Mawar.
  • Persian. for example Jehan, Mirza and Shah.
  • Javanese. for example Ratnasari, Mustika and Kesuma.
  • Sanskrit or Pali. for example Wira, Darma and Wati.
  • Greek or Latin. for example Maria, Marina and Johana.
  • Khmer. Siamese or Cham. for example Tam, Som and Lai.

As Muslims, Malays have long favoured Arabic names as marks of their religion. However, Malay names of Arab -Hebrew origins are also common, for example, Adam. Yaacob, Ishak, Bunyamin and Daniel (all of which are common names for Malay males) and Sarah (common name for Malay females). Also, names of Arab-Hebrew origins that are seldom used by the Muslim Arabs are also widespread, such as the female names of Meriam or Miriam (the Arabs commonly transliterate it to Maryam), Saloma and Rohana .

A Malay's name consists of a personal name, which is used to address him or her in all circumstances, followed by a patronym. Most Malays do not use family names or surnames. In this respect, Malay names are similar to Icelandic naming conventions. For men, the patronym consists of the word bin (from Arabic بن. meaning 'son of') followed by his father's personal name. Thus, if Osman has a son called Musa, Musa will be known as Musa bin Osman. For women, the patronym consists of the word binti (from Arabic بنت. meaning 'daughter of') followed by her father's name. Thus, 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.

It is not uncommon for a Malay to have more than one personal names.

The patronym is employed by almost all Malays in accordance with local customs as well as adopted ones from the Arabs, Hebrews and others. Sometimes the first part of the patronym, bin or binti. is reduced to B. for men, or to Bt.. Bte. or Bint. for women. This sometimes leads to it being taken as a middle initial in Western cultures. In general practice, however, most Malays omit the word bin or bint from their names in non-official or non-formal situations. Thus, the two examples from the paragraph above would be known as Musa Osman and Aisyah Musa. When presented in this way, the second part of the name is often mistaken for a family name .

However, when someone is referred to using only one name, the first name is always used, never the second (because one would be calling someone by the father's name). Thus, Musa Osman is Mr Musa (or Encik Musa in Malay), and Aisyah Musa is Mrs/Ms/Miss Aisyah (or Puan/Cik Aisyah in Malay). An exception is the case of second personal names when a male has the first name as the prophet name Mohammed or the word Abdul. Hence, the second name is usually used if the third name is the patronym. For example, Mohammed Hisyam bin Ariffin would be referred by the name Mr Hisyam or Abdul Rahman bin Rasyid would be referred to as Mr Rahman.

However, it is argued that the Mr or Mrs form of address is not compatible with the Malay naming system, probably due to the lack of family or surnames. As such, it is customary to address Malays using the Malay forms of address.

A few Malay families do use surnames, such as Merican, which are passed down patrilineally, and usually indicate an Indian Muslim ancestry (Merican is Indian Muslim in origin). Hence, if Musa's full name is Musa Merican, his daughter would be Aisyah Merican or Aisyah Musa Merican.

Second personal names or double names

Another feature in Malay names, which is very common, is the existence of second personal names or double names. This seems to have been developed in response to the use of very popular Muslim names, like Muhammad and Ahmad for men, and Nur and Siti for women. Bearers of these names, and their variants, often add a more distinctive second name, like Mohammed Osman or Nor Mawar. The patronym is then added after these.

The popular first elements in double Malay male names are:

  • Muhammad /Mohammad/Mohammed (often abbreviated to Mohd. Muhd. Md. or simply M.)
  • Mat — the Malay variant of Muhammad. Mat is also the casual spoken form of names ending with -mad or -mat such as Ahmad, Rahmat, Samad, etc.
  • Mamat - another variety of Muhammad
  • Ahmad

The most common first elements in double Malay female names are:

A special case of double names for men is the use of Abdul. Following Arabic naming practices, Abdul simply means 'servant of' and must be followed by one of the names of God in the Qur'an ; for example Abdul Haqq means 'servant of the Truth'.

Thus, Osman may have another son called Abdul Haqq, who is known as Abdul Haqq bin Osman, or Abdul Haqq Osman. Then he, in turn, may have a daughter called Nor Mawar, who is known as Nor Mawar binti Abdul Haqq, or Nor Mawar Abdul Haqq. It is often common to drop the first element in these double names, even if it is Abdul, and so the examples could be known as Haqq Osman and Mawar Haqq.

Malay titles Hereditary titles

In different parts of Malaysia, traditionally inherited (patrilineally) Malay titles and sometimes matrilineally, are used and often incorporated into the naming system as the first part of double names. Most of those with these titles are descended from royalty or nobility.

The examples of inherited titles are:

by Patrilineal Royal descent (Malay)

by Patrilineal Royal descent (Malay - Mon-Khmer)

by Patrilineal Royal descent (Acheh - Malay)

by Matrilineal Royal descent (Malay)

by Patrilineal and/or Matrilineal, Royal and/or Noble descent

  • Syed/Sharifah (for male and female, respectively) — indicating direct patrilineal descent from the family of the Prophet Muhammad.
  • Mior (for male only) — indicating direct matrilineal descent from the family of the Prophet Muhammad.
  • Awang, Abang/Dayang (popular in Sarawak. for male and female, respectively.
  • Tuan (used more generally as a respectful term of address for men, like 'sir')
  • Awang, Abang/Dayang or Dayangku(used in Sarawak. for male and female, respectively)

by Patrilineal Noble descent

All hereditary titles are controlled and regulated as well as registered by the Malaysian National Registration Department and must appear in the National Registration Identity Cards (NRIC), passports as well as all official documents. A person may not in any circumstances be denied or stripped of his or her hereditary titles and persons with no evidence of inheritance are not allowed to carry these titles in accordance to local customs as well as the national registration naming regulations.

Non-hereditary titles

The titles above should not be confused with those given by special award which are non-hereditary, like 'Datuk', 'Tan Sri' and 'Tun'.

These titles are usually awarded by the Sultans of the recipients' respective states as well as the Yang Dipertuan Agong and the state Yang Dipertua as recognition for their contributions and services to the nation and the respective states. For example, the title 'Datuk' is given to Malaysians of all races as an honorary title. An example is Datuk Lee Chong Wei. a famous badminton player who was awarded the title as recognition to his achievement in becoming the first ever Malaysian to win a silver Olympic medal 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. If the recipient is a man, his wife is automatically bestowed with the title 'Datin' but not in reverse.

The title 'Tun' is reserved for nationally important persons, like the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Mahathir bin Mohamad. He was given the title after his resignation at 2003.

For example of a complex name, the current Prime Minister of Malaysia has the full name Dato' Seri Mohd Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak. where 'Dato' Seri' is a Malay title of honour, 'Mohd Najib' is his personal name (often further abbreviated to 'Najib'), 'bin' introduces his father's titles and names, 'Tun' is a higher honour, 'Haji' denotes his father as a pilgrim to Mecca. and 'Abdul Razak' is his father's personal name (often abbreviated to 'Razak'). The entire name has various shorter forms, like 'Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak', 'Najib Tun Razak' and 'Najib Razak').

Haji or Hajjah

If someone has been on the Hajj. the pilgrimage to Mecca. they may be called Haji or Hajjah for women. Thus, if Musa bin Osman went on the Hajj, he could be called Haji Musa bin Osman, and his daughter Aisyah might be called Aisyah binti Haji Musa. If Aisyah herself have gone for the hajj, her name would be Hajjah Aisyah binti Haji Musa. The titles can also be shortened in writing to 'Hj.'.

Chinese names

Traditional Chinese names are used among Malaysian Chinese. These names are usually represented as three words, for example Foo Li Leen or Tan Ai Lin. The first name is the Chinese family name, which is passed down from a father to all his children. The two other parts of the name form an indivisible Chinese given name. which may contain a generation name. In Western settings, the family name is sometimes shifted to the end of the name (for example, Li Leen Foo ).

Some Chinese also take a Western personal name (for example, Denise Foo ), and some use this in preference to a Chinese given name and most of these are used by Chinese Malaysian Christians. On official documents, this name is either written in the order Western name - Surname - Chinese given name (e.g. Denise Foo Li Leen), or Surname - Chinese name - Western name (e.g. Foo Li Leen Denise), or Western name - Chinese name - Surname (e.g. Denise Li Leen Foo). In general practice, only either the Western name or the Chinese name will be used. For the Chinese Malaysian Muslims, they even use Arabic given names while some use Arabic-derived Chinese names.

As no formal system of romanisation is imposed on Chinese names in Malaysia at the time of birth registration, names are often romanised according to the judgement of the registration clerk or according to the preference of the proposer. Hence, romanisation errors are not uncommon resulting in unusual names. Since the 80's, Pinyin names are becoming more common, although one would not say popular. Bearing in mind that Pinyin form is based on Mandarin or Putonghua, most existing romanised surnames are based on dialects. For example, a Tan (Fujian dialect) is Chen in Pinyin form. For a Foozhou, the existing romanised form is Ding. As parents prefer their offsprings to have the same romanised surname as the father, names such as Tan Jia Ling where Tan is in Hokkien and Jia Ling in Mandarin are becoming common.

Indian names

Officially, Malaysian Indians use a patronymic naming system combining their traditional Indian names with some Malay words, while others use Tamil. Malayalam. Telugu or Sanskrit names. A man's name would consist of his personal name followed by the Malay phrase anak lelaki. meaning 'son of', and then his father's name. A woman's name would consist of her personal name followed by the Malay phrase anak perempuan. meaning 'daughter of', and then her father's name. The Malay patronymic phrase is often abbreviated to a/l ('son of') or a/p ('daughter of') and then their father's name. In many circumstances, the intervening Malay is omitted, and the father's name follows immediately after a person's given name. Following traditional practice from South India, the father's name is sometimes abbreviated to an initial and placed before the personal name. Thus, a man called Anbuselvan whose father is called Ramanan may be called Anbuselvan anak lelaki Ramanan (formal), Anbuselvan a/l Ramanan (as on his government identification card), Anbuselvan Ramanan or R. Anbuselvan. Whereas, his daughter Mathuram would be called Mathuram anak perempuan Anbuselvan (formal), Mathuram a/p Anbuselvan (as on her government identification card), Mathuram Anbuselvan or A. Mathuram. Although not recorded officially, an Indian woman may use her husband's personal name instead of her father's name after marriage.

For the Indian Malaysian Muslims, like ethnic Malays, they use Arabic names or names of their own languages, while Arabic-derived Christian names for the Indian Malaysian Christians

Indonesian names

Although Indonesian (especially Javanese) immigrants in Malaysia may carry Indonesian names such as Sukanto, their Malaysian-born children tend to have Arabic names.

Names of members of other groups

Peninsular Orang Asli and Sarawakian Bumiputra use the Malay word anak ('child of') to form their patronymics regardless of an individual's sex, for example, Aziz anak Ramlan .

Some Sabah Bumiputra have patronymics in the same fashion as Malays, using bin or binti. while others have patrilineal surnames which are handed down unchanged from generation to generation.

Kristang people usually have Portuguese, or, at least, more European-sounding names, including inherited family names. In fact, Arabs and Portuguese have common denominator in influence in names: Fatima, Omar, and Soraya. These names are common in Portugal given by Arab influence.

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Chapter 3 - Malaysian Culture

Chapter 3 - Malaysian Culture

Definition of Malaysian culture involving three main ethnic :- Malay, Chinese and Indian.

CHAPTER 3. MALAYSIAN CULTURE CHAPTER 3. MALAYSIAN CULTURE 1 Malaysia - Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette Facts and Statistics Location: Southeastern Asia. Shares borders with Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei. Capital: Kuala Lumpur Climate: tropical; annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons Population: 24,821,286 (July 2007 est.) Ethnic Make-up: (Malay 50.4%), (Chinese 23.7%), (Indigenous 11%), (Indian 7.1%), (others 7.8%) Religions: (Muslim 60.4%), (Buddhist 19.2%), (Christian 9.1%), (Hindu 6.3%), (Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions 2.6%), (other or unknown 1.5%), (none 0.8%) Government:  constitutional monarchy 1) Language in Malaysia · The Malay language is an Austronesian language spoken not only by Malaysians but all Malay people who reside in the Malay Peninsula, southern Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, central eastern Sumatra, the Riau islands, parts of the coast of Borneo, Cocos and Christmas Islands in Australia. · It is also very similar to Indonesian, known locally as Bahasa Indonesia.In Malaysia, the language is officially known as Bahasa Malaysia, which translates as the "Malaysian language". · The term, which was introduced by the National Language Act 1967, was predominant until the 1990s, when most academics and government officials reverted to "Bahasa Melayu," which is used in the Malay version of the Federal Constitution. 2) Malaysian Culture and Society i) A Multi-Cultural Society · Malaysia is a multi-cultural society. The main ethnic groups are the native Malays as well as large populations of Chinese, and Indians. · When visiting the country it is clear that the ethnicities retain their religions, customs and way of life. · The most important festivals of each group are public holidays. · Although growing up, children are educated in the same schools and will eventually work in the same offices, few marry outside their own ethnicity. · Families tend to socialise within their own ethnic group – all part of retaining their individual traditions and lifestyles. · Despite the ethnic differences there are commonalities culturally speaking. ii) Group Orientation · The family is considered the centre of the social structure. · As a result there is a great emphasis on unity, loyalty and respect for the elderly. · The family is the place where the individual can be guaranteed both emotional and financial support. · When one member of the family suffers a financial setback, the rest of the family will contribute what they can to help out. · Families tend to be extended, although in the larger cities this will naturally differ. iii) The Concept of Face · Malays, Chinese and Indians all strive to maintain face and avoid shame both in public and private. · Face is a personal concept that embraces qualities such as a good name, good character, and being held in esteem by one's peers. · Face is considered a commodity that can be given, lost, taken away, or earned. On top of this face also extends to the family, school, company, and even the nation itself. · The desire to maintain face makes Malaysians strive for harmonious relationships. · Face can be lost by openly criticizing, insulting, or putting someone on the spot; doing something that brings shame to the group; challenging someone in authority, especially if this is done in public; showing anger at another person; refusing a request; not keeping a promise; or disagreeing with someone publicly. · Conversely, face can be saved by remaining calm and courteous; discussing errors or transgressions in private; speaking about problems without blaming anyone; using non-verbal communication to say "no"; and allowing the other person to get out of the situation with their pride intact. 3) Etiquette and Customs in Malaysia i) Meeting and Greeting: · Greetings in a social context will depend upon the ethnicity of the person you are meeting. In general, most Malays are aware of Western ways so the handshake is normal. There may be slight differences though and a few things to bear in mind include: · Malay women may not shake hands with men. Women can of course shake hands with women. · Men may also not shake hands with women and may bow instead while placing their hand on their heart. · The Chinese handshake is light and may be rather prolonged. Men and women may shake hands, although the woman must extend her hand first. · Many older Chinese lower their eyes during the greeting as a sign of respect. · Indians shake hands with members of the same sex. When being introduced to someone of the opposite sex, nodding the head and smiling is usually sufficient. · Among all cultures, there is a general tendency to introduce: • the most important person to the lower ranking person. • the older person to the younger person • women to men. ii) Names: · The way names are used also varies between ethnicities: a) Chinese • The Chinese traditionally have 3 names. The surname (family name) is first and is followed by two personal names. • Many Chinese adopt more Western names and may ask you to use that instead. b) Malays • Many Malays do not have surnames. Instead, men add their father's name to their own name with the term "bin" (meaning ‘son of’). · So Rosli bin Suleiman, would be Rosli the son of Suleiman. Women use the term "binti", so Aysha bint Suleiman is Aysha the daughter of Suleiman. c) Indians • Many Indians do not use surnames. · Instead, they place the initial of their father's name in front of their own name. · The man's formal name is their name "s/o" (son of) and the father's name. ·  Women use "d/o" to refer to themselves as the daughter of their father. iii) Gift Giving Etiquette · Here are some general gift giving etiquette guidelines:  i) Gift giving to Malays: • If invited to someone's home for dinner, bring the hostess pastries or good quality chocolates. • Never give alcohol.•  Do not give toy dogs or pigs to children. • Do not give anything made of pigskin. • Avoid white wrapping paper as it symbolizes death and mourning. • Avoid yellow wrapping paper, as it is the color of royalty. • If you give food, it must be “halal” (meaning permissible for Muslims). • Offer gifts with the right hand only or both hands if the item is large. • Gifts are generally not opened when received. ii) Gift giving to Chinese: • If invited to someone's home, bring a small gift of fruit, sweets, or cakes, saying that it is for the children. • A gift is traditionally refused before it is accepted to demonstrate that the recipient is not greedy. • Do not give scissors, knives or other cutting utensils as they indicate a desire to sever the relationship. • Flowers do not make good gifts as they are given to the sick and are used at funerals. • Do not wrap gifts in mourning colours - white, blue, or black. • Wrap the gifts in happy colours - red, pink, or yellow. • Elaborate gift - wrapping is imperative. • Never wrap a gift for a baby or decorate the gift in any way with a stork, as birds are the harbinger of death. • It is best to give gifts in even numbers since odd numbers are unlucky. • Gifts are generally not opened when received. iii) Gift giving to Indians: • If you give flowers, avoid frangipani as they are used in funeral wreaths. • Money should be given in odd numbers. • Offer gifts with the right hand only or both hands if the item is large. • Do not wrap gifts in white or black. • Wrap gifts in red, yellow or green paper or other bright colors as these bring good fortune. • Do not give leather products to a Hindu. • Do not give alcohol unless you are certain the recipient drinks. • Gifts are generally not opened when received. iv) Business Etiquette and Protocol in Malaysia a) Meeting and Greeting · Within the business context most Malaysian businesspeople are culturally-savvy and internationally exposes. Your experience may very well depend upon the ethnicity, age, sex and status of the person you are meeting. The best approach is always friendly yet formal. · A few tips include:  · • Initial greetings should be formal and denote proper respect. · • If in a team, introduce the most important person first. · • Many Malays and Indians are uncomfortable shaking hands with a member of the opposite sex. · • Foreign men should always wait for a Malaysian woman to extend her hand. Foreign women should also wait for a Malaysian man to extend his hand. · • To demonstrate respect Chinese may look downwards rather than at the person they are meeting. · • It is important that professional titles (professor, doctor, engineer) and honorific titles are used in business. Malays and Indians use titles with their first name while Chinese use titles with their surname. b) Business Card Etiquette i) Business cards are exchanged after the initial introductions. ii) If you will be meeting Chinese, have one side of your card translated into Chinese, with the Chinese characters printed in gold. iii) If you will be meeting government officials, have one side of your card translated into Bahasa Malaysia. iv) Use two hands or the right hand only to exchange business cards. v) Examine any business card you receive before putting it in your business card case. vi) The respect you show someone's business card is indicative of the respect you will show the individual in business. Act accordingly. vii) Never write on someone's card in their presence. c) Communication · As an extension to the need to maintain harmonious relations, Malaysians rely on non-verbal communication (i.e. facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc). · Such a communication style tends to be subtle, indirect and Malays may hint at a point rather than making a direct statement, since that might cause the other person to lose face. · Rather than say "no", they might say, "I will try", or "I’ll see what I can do". · This allows the person making the request and the person turning it down to save face and maintain harmony in their relationship. · If you are unsure about the affirmative response you received, you may want to continue the discussion, re-phrasing the question in several different ways so that you may compare responses. · If the response was given because the Malaysian did not know how to respond in the negative without causing offense, this may come out. · Alternatively, they may have someone else give you the bad news. · Silence is an important element of Malaysian communication. · Pausing before responding to a question indicates that they have given the question appropriate thought and considered their response carefully. · Many Malaysians do not understand the Western propensity to respond to a question hastily and can consider such behaviour thoughtless and rude. · Malaysians may laugh at what may appear to outsiders as inappropriate moments. · This device is used to conceal uneasiness. · Do not show anger in public as it makes Malaysians uncomfortable and creates a feeling of powerlessness. · There is a greater chance of achieving a good outcome if you are calm, whereas little is resolved by shouting. d) Business Meeting · It is a good idea for the most senior person on your team to enter first so that he or she is the first to greet the most senior Malaysian. · This gives face to both parties as it demonstrates respect towards the Malaysian and shows that you respect hierarchy within your company. · It is customary for leaders to sit opposite each other around the table. · Many companies will have their team seated in descending rank, although this is not always the case. · Expect the most senior Malaysian to give a brief welcoming speech. You need not reciprocate. · There will be a period of small talk, which will end when the most senior Malaysian is comfortable moving to the business discussion. · Meetings may be conducted or continue over lunch and dinner. · Meetings, especially initial ones, are generally somewhat formal. Treat all Malaysian participants with respect and be cautious not to lose your temper or appear irritated. · At the first meeting between two companies, Malaysians will generally not get into in-depth discussions. They prefer to use the first meeting as an opportunity to get to know the other side and build a rapport, which is essential in this consensus-driven culture. Â