Why Was Singapore Called The Lion City?

The nation of Singapore consists of one large island and a few smaller islets at the end of the Malay Peninsula.

merlion lion city singapore

The large island is connected to the mainland of Malaysia by a causeway almost a mile long. The name of the nation, its largest city, and the island it lies on, Singapore, comes from an expression that means “city of the lions” in the Malay language.

But there are no lions in Singapore, or anywhere nearby. The nearest lions living in the wilds today are in India, more than 2,500 miles away.

Then how did Singapore come to be known as the “city of the lions”? No one knows for sure.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

0 thoughts on “Why Was Singapore Called The Lion City?”

  1. Lion City comes from the Malay ‘Singapura’ , not sanskrit. there is a legend where a guy called sung nila utama came to singapore(then called temasek, i think) and the 1st thing he saw was a lion. thats how the name came about.

  2. In Sanskrit:
    Singh: Lion
    Pur: city (ex: nagpur; Nag meaning snakes and Pur meaning city making it city of snakes)

    Singapore does not have lions but the original people were fierce and like lions making them Singhs or Singha

  3. Sang Nila Utama wasn’t just any guy. He was a prince and he was looking for a suitable place for a new city. From another of the near-by islands, while on a hunting trip, he spotted Singapore, then called Temasek, and decided to visit the island.
    When he landed on shore, he went inland to hunt wild animals and spotted an animal with a red body, black head and a white breast that was very agile.
    He asked one of his officials what animal it was and was told it was probably a lion.
    He found this encounter and believed it to be a good-omen and thus decided to build his new city in Temask.
    He named the city Singapura, “Singa” meaning lion and “pura” meaning city(Lion City not City of the Lions).
    On 29 January 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles landed in Singapura, seeking to build a new British base/port in the region. He recognised Singapura as a good choice due to it’s location, deep waters and supplies of fresh water and lumber.
    Singapura was renamed Singapore when it was colonised by Sir Stamford Raffles.

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