Before the prince Sang Nila Utama arrived in Singapore, however, the main settlement on Singapore was called Temasek, which means Sea Town in Old Javanese. The name Temasek is a part of Singapore’s national identity, with many large organisations and even national honours bearing the name. Around the same time, the Yuan Dynasty in Singapore referred to the island as Longyamen, which means Dragon’s Teeth Gate.
An even earlier written record of Singapore dates back to the second century, with references in Greek astronomical texts by Claudius to a place he called Sabana, where Singapore is situated. This suggests Singapore has long been an important trading post, and was part of the ancient marine Silk Road.
Perhaps one of Singapore’s lesser-known names is Pulau Ujong, which refers to the main Singapore Island in Malay. Pulau is the Malay word for island, and ujong means end. This refers to the fact that Singapore is at the end of the Malay Peninsula – the end island, right after the mainland of the Asian continent ends.
One of the more poetic names given to Singapore was bestowed during a dark period in the island’s history. While the Empire of Japan occupied Singapore from 1942 to 1945 during the Second World War, the island was called Syonan-to. The name means Light of the South, and reveals the importance that the Japanese placed on Singapore. The name fell out of use once the Japanese forces left Singapore.