Bruneian Nicknames by Hajah Yati

Today is a historic occassion, the first ever guest blog. We had read the very effervescent Hajah Yati writing a very long comment on the topic of Brunei's Time Line, I thought I will give her the opportunity to write her own blog. Here it is, presenting Hajah Yati's first ever blog and the first ever guest blog on this blogsite. Enjoy. (And I look forward to receiving more from readers out there - just remember one simple rule - the writings must be about Brunei.)

When I said that I have so much to share about the nicknames in my family, I never imagined that I would actually be writing about that topic in here, as offered by The Daily Brunei Resources. Momentarily, I was lost for words. I am but just one of his many hundreds of daily readers. All I ever did was post my comments here. I don’t own a blog. Unthinkable I can hear you say.

With that said, *grins*, let me try put to words what I have jumbled up here in my head. The following are the nicknames of my siblings and my cousins, and their origins. Most of these names were given by my late step grandpa. Some are really unique, I think.


My eldest cousin, Dai was born when the Australians came to Brunei. Dai is derived from the greeting “Good Day” or “G’ day”, as the Australians say it (day pronounced as dye).


Hehe. My sister, the famous Tomas. As a child, my sister was prone to having damam panas or high fever. My grandpa associated panas or hot with the thermos flask. So thermos after being “bruneianised” or “melayu-ed” became Tomas.


Some babies are born with significant features. My cousin T* a.k.a. Bakul had bulging eyes not dissimilar to ikan bakul-bakul or mudskippers.


Waktu pemberuntakan, my grandpa and grandma fled to the forest for safety, bringing with them the entire family. My poor Uwa Bini had to give birth in the forest. And for that, the baby boy was nicknamed Utan. Yes, you’re absolutely right. Utan comes from the word hutan or forest.


Dayang Senandong, one of the many classic P.Ramlee films, is about a malay girl who was cursed with really dark skin. In a black-and-white film, she looked really, well, black. I think the colour of Dayang Senandong’s skin was exaggerated. Later in the story, the spell was broken, and her skin colour became fair and radiant. I am told that my cousin was born really dark, thus earning her name Nandong. Interestingly, just like in the story, Nandong’s skin had naturally, gradually became fairer.


It was the buah tampoi season. A round as a buah tampoi baby girl was born, Presto! Baby named Tampoi.


I thought this had to do with S.Jibeng, one of the neighboring country’s famous pop ye ye stars. I was wrong. J* was a tomboy. That’s all the explanation I got. I don’t see the connection.


At first, I thought this was her “title” in the family. Wrong again. When my cousin N* was born, she had to be put in a special bed, and she was totally telanjang or naked. That’s how she got the name Anjang, from the word telanjang.

The following names were given by their own parents, and not our grandpa.

No, he didn’t look like buah pinang or anything. His mum loved to chew on buah pinang when she was pregnant with him.

This is too easy. Alus got her name for she was such a tiny baby at birth, very halus. In case you’re wondering, to this day, Alus’s figure stays true to her name. Lucky her.


Can you guess? She was born on the first day of Syawal, the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

I’m sure some of you may have stories of your own about nicknames, even actual names. My firend A*, who is a Dusun, told me her grandfather too gave nicknames to her and other members of her family. Theirs were names of birds and animals, in the Dusun dialect of course. Don’t worry. This is the last paragraph. Promise. Tata~.

Hajah Yati HMA


Anonymous said…
that was fun to read.. :)
my two older cousins are named from old malaysian movies too.. one's badul and one's param.. i guess badul was funny while param had dark skin as youngsters..
Anonymous said…
Great article... But not trying to be a spoil sport or ruin your day but I was watching 'Rampai Pagi' a few months ago about nicknames in Brunei for the 'Ceramah' program early in da morning while enjoying my breakfast.

The Ustaz pointed out that Bruneian love to give their children wonderful, meaningful arabic names. But from their births, Bruneians tend to give them nicknames other than their given names.

He said if this happens it is useless in the first place for us to give the arabic names if we did not call them by it.

Arabic names have wonderful meanings for example, Mohammad means the name of our prophet. But is was decided that they called him 'Boy' from birth. Might as well write 'Boy' and not Mohammad. because everytime a person calls out his name 'Mohammad' the 'pahala' is given to him with the name and the person saying his name.

I too call my siblings nicknames 'Ating' short for lating and 'Ah Si' because he grew up watching Meteor Garden wit her sisters and the main character's name is Ah Si. But after watching the 'ceramah' I call them by their given names. Even my cousins with their family nicknames I've started to call them by their real names.

Hope I did not offend anyone. I'm not an ustaz but I'm just relaying what I saw. I'm not preaching just sharing my ideas. Have a nice day
Anonymous said…
congratz to hajah yati. great blog for a first timer.

it is true that sometime we spoiled the good names which has real meaning in arabic by shortening it and not calling them by that name. at same time, some of the modern names atu are too long and payah kan kitani pakai for day to day. so it becomes a term of endearment to call them by their short names. to me as long as the short names atu does not have contradictory meaning, should be okay jua.

judging by the description, the one yang di describe arah blog ani mostly orang mature and i don't know kalau original namenya atu ada meaning kah inda, so the nicknames are interesting, very seldom we find these names.
Anonymous said…
I think it's really great that we have had another great insight into our Brunei 'customs'...I have always wondered why I have a Babu 'alus'...must remember to ask if it's the same reason as yours Hjh Yati. Thanks for the guest blog!
Anonymous said…
One of my cousin was born on the day when Yaohan was opened in Brunei. He was then called by his family Si Yaohan till now. My dad called him Han for short and my grandma called him Si Yo for short...hehehe funny!!
Anonymous said…
I agree with Anon about the Arabic names and I also would like to add two significant names to our Prophet Mohammad SAW, namely Siti Aminah and Siti Khadijah. We often heard these names are sometimes referred or nicknamed respectively as "Amy" and "Kathy or Kate". Don't know whether these sounded more glamourous and westernised or may be these nicknames are given by friends at school. I also remembered nama2 Allah like Ibrahim becomes "Mike", Abdullah becomes"Alex", Rahman becomes 'Remy'. I also remembered a person is more wellknown through his nickname as 'picnic' simply because he loves to eat chocolate by the name of picnic and also he loves to go for a picnic!. I noticed that those wellknown for their nicknames even write the word a.k.a at the end of their given names... in case people doesn't know his/her given names. As Anon said, we better start now calling their proper given names.

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