11 Beautiful Malay Names and What They Mean

A Malay couple holding hands
A Malay couple holding hands | © Raais Mohd Azhar / Shutterstock
Michelle Leong

Spoken by 290 million people across Southeast Asia, the Malay language is heavily influenced by Sanskrit, Arabic and English. This influence extends to popular Malay names today.

Malay is part of the Austronesian language family and it’s primarily spoken in Southeast Asian nations like Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei. Thanks to linguistic influences by Arabic, Sanskrit and English, Malay is a highly-evolved language that also uses the Latin script. Personal names, in particular, celebrate the sophistication of this language while hinting at an individual’s ethnic and cultural lineage.

Popular girl names in Malaysia

Aisha

This popular female name can attribute its popularity to the prophet Muhammad’s third wife, Ā’ishah bint Abī Bakr, who is also known as ‘Mother of the Believers.’ She is widely believed to be Muhammad’s favorite wife. ‘A’isha’ also means ‘alive’ in Arabic. In Malay, the name is also spelled ‘Aishah’ and ‘Aisyah.’

Amina

Another popular female name, ‘Amina’ means ‘truthful and trustworthy.’ It is sometimes shortened to ‘Minah,’ and is also spelled as ‘Aminah’ or ‘Ameena.’ Aminah bint Wahb was also the mother of the prophet Muhammad.

Nur

Although recognized as a unisex name, this name is usually reserved for females in Malaysia. It originates from Arabic and means ‘light.’ It is also spelled ‘Noor.’ Famous women named ‘Noor’ include Queen Noor (former Queen of Jordan) and Princess Noor Pahlavi (a princess of Iran).

Putri

This female name hails from Sanskrit, meaning ‘daughter’ or ‘princess.’ The lead female character of Malaysia’s hit TV series Gol & Gincu is named Putri Farhana Aliya (played by actress Nur Fazura).

Farah

Another popular female name, this one has its roots in Arabic. It means ‘joy’ and ‘gladness.’ Malaysia’s award-winning gymnast is named Farah Ann Abdul Hadi.

Sofia

This name can be attributed to Greek, in which it means ‘wisdom,’ or to Urdu, in which it means ‘beautiful.’ Famous people named Sofia include Sofía Vergara and Sofia Coppola.

Popular boy names in Malaysia

Ahmad

Popularly given to males, this name means ‘much praised’ and was one of the many names of the prophet Muhammad. It is also spelled ‘Ahmed.’

Ashraf

This male name has its origins in Arabic, meaning ‘most honorable one.’ The most famous Malaysian celebrity with this name is Ashraf Sinclair, who starred in the well-loved Gol & Gincu series.

Irfan

Originally an Arabic name, Irfan is a male name meaning ‘knowledge,’ ‘wisdom’ or ‘learning.’ Notable people with this name include national discus thrower Mohd Irfan Shamsuddin and musical prodigy Tengku Ahmad Irfan.

Hilmi

This masculine Arabic name is usually associated with kindness, politeness and the appropriate attitude. Malaysia’s deputy health minister is Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya.

Mikhail

Derived from Hebrew, this male name refers to ‘the one who is like God.’ It is the name of one of the main angels of Allah, and is also spelled ‘Mikail.’

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