Origin of Place Names in Brunei

Sometimes the origin of place names in Brunei is a mystery. Some we can only guess - Kota Batu must have some stone fort built there somewhere in the past. Muara is fairly natural. Muara is the mouth of the river and of course that's basically where the big mouth of the river entering Brunei is - so Muara became the name.

Gadong most probably comes from the word 'gedung' which means 'warehouse' rather than the colour green which in Brunei Malay is called gadong. In Gadong, there must have been in the past some warehouses and the name became associated with the are Gadong. Some names are beyond imagination on how they came about.

One which I came across recently is Berakas. The Berakas mukim is probably among the most populated in the district of Brunei-Muara. The authorities have actually divided Berakas into Berakas A and Berakas B to distinguish between the two halves of the mukim. In the olden days, say, the late 1940s, Berakas was mostly forest land. The only people who lived here are the kedayans and it was a while before other people started to live here. They first began settling here around the 1950s then when under the first resettlement program, lands were allocated in the Anggerek Desa and the Burung Pingai area. There was only main road, the Jalan Berakas which links the area to the BSB area.

However before there was resettlement, people used to come from the Kampung Air area to gather firewood from the forest in the Berakas area. Imagine it at that time, no houses, no roads, no nothing - just forest. When they collected the woods, they bundled them together. The process of bundling the woods in Brunei Malay is called 'berkas'. So gradually, when people start talking about gathering firewood, they talked about 'memberakas kayu' and et voila! Berakas was born as the place where people come to memberakas kayu or to gather firewood.

Another interesting name is Serasa which is a village in Muara for those who are geographically challenged. Serasa is believed to be named by a group of migrants who arrived at one of the rivers in that village. When they rested to partake their prepared meals of pais-paisan, they took some of the pucuk gajus and pucuk pawas as ulam. When they ate the pucuk-pucuk, they found that the taste to be 'serasa' (serasi/sesuai or in English, suited to their palates). They named the river Serasa and they stayed there. For a while the village was known as Kampung Sebatik as these people actually came from Sebatik Island in Indonesia.

More origins of Brunei place names in future blogs.


Anonymous said…
where does the names sengkurong or mulaut come from?
still working on that. i live in the area too.
Anonymous said…
This is an interesting topic to blog about. The name of our places in Brunei is quite interesting. It usuall y relates to a person, things that happened or things that associate with a place. They are many extinct place in Brunei as well. The one that I remember really well is Kampung Masjid Lama. This is of course in Muara and now taken over by the port. I would assume the name is originated from a mosque built in that area. Most of the people who used to live there is being relocated somewhere else and mostly in the Serasa Housing Scheme. I was wondering if such changes are being kept track, recorded by any of the Government department. Its part of history. If its left unrecorded, people will just forget and the memory of such place will fade slowly through time.
Anonymous said…
Kudos to you on starting this blog. I really enjoyed your writing especially this one. I once suggested a friend who has a production house to do a TV programme for this. One drawback was the lack of researchers who are willing to do this. This might be a start.
Intaniz said…
I agree, name of some places in Brunei are actually common sense. Though, there are just some that does not fit the bill- take Rimba and Tungku for example. While Kg Rimba is understandably called so because it used to be a forested area, does it mean that Tungku used to be a huge bonfire for campers or a Bruneian derivation of Tengku (prince?). :D

The possibilities are endless...

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