15 Singapore HDB Estates And What Their Names REALLY Mean
STORY: Pearlyn Tham
05 October 2020
1. Ang Mo Kio
The Hokkien term for “red haired man’s bridge” but don’t ask us what the #inspo for it was.
Named roughly after a Chinese cemetery known as Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng which was located where the HDB estate is now. What’s spookier: the record-breaking prices that the flats here can fetch in more recent times.
3. Bukit Panjang
Quite a poetic explanation behind this one: it means “long stretches of hills” in Malay.
One of the few HDB estates without a local-sounding name, it is named after Sir Cecil Clementi Smith, who was the Governor of the Straits Settlement from 1887 to 1893.
There’s a geographical reason behind its moniker. Hougang apparently comes from the Hokkien and Teochew words for “au kang”, which means “river end”. You can’t imagine or fathom it now but Hougang is supposedly located upstream.
We smell a story here. This area was once notorious for – of all things – bad smells from the nightsoil (that’s human poop in modern-day language) used as fertiliser in vegetable gardens. The residents sure had a sense of humour. They named the hood after a sweet-smelling plant.
7. Marine Parade
This estate used to be a beach front, hence its name. You don’t get much sea or sand here anymore but the HDB flats in this area still reel in good prices for those who want a very watered down form of beachside living in Singapore.
8. Pasir Ris
Another sea-inspired name here. This one means white sand in Malay.
Things get really murky with the explanation for Punggol. It apparently stands for “hurl sticks at the branches of fruit trees to bring fruit down to the ground” in Malay. Really? You can condense a 15-word sentence into just one word? Wonder what the folks behind Punggol Nasi Lemak think about this.
Once an enclave of fishing villages and rubber and pepper plantations, Sengkang means prosperous harbour in Chinese. Huat a meaningful history.
Nobody really knows how its name came about. Some say it sounds like the Malay name for a bird that was found in the nearby swamps decades ago. Others believe the name was derived from a Malay phrase that translates to “surround with gongs”, a reference to how cymbals were used to scare away animals from the forested areas here.
Named after the Tempinis tree which grew here. Warning: it could have been spelt in a very, very bad way.
13. Toa Payoh
This started out as one big swamp and that’s what its name really means in Hokkien.
Another “call it like it is” case study here: it was heavily wooded, so it was christened Woodlands.
An actual person inspired the name of this estate which had lots of pepper and pineapple plantations – Lim Nee Soon, also known as the pineapple king.