SINGAPORE, SINCAPORE, n.p. This name was adopted by Sir Stamford Raffles in favour of the city which he founded, February 23, 1819, on the island which had always retained the name since the Middle Ages. This it derived from Sinhapura, Skt. ‘Lioncity,’ the name of a town founded by Malay or Javanese settlers from Sumatra, probably in the 14th century, and to which Barros ascribes great commercial importance. The Indian origin of the name, as of many other names and phrases which survive from the old Indian civilisation of the Archipelago, had been forgotten, and the origin which Barros was taught to ascribe to it is on a par with his etymology of Singalese quoted in the preceding article. The words on which his etymology is founded are no doubt Malay: singah, ‘to tarry, halt, or lodge,’ and pora-pora, ‘to pretend’; and these were probably supposed to refer to the temporary occupation of Sinhapura, before the chiefs who founded it passed on to Malacca. [It may be noted that Dennys (Desc. Dict. s.v.) derives the word from singha, ‘a place of call,’ and pura, ‘a city.’ In Dalboquerque’s Comm. Hak. Soc. iii. 73, we are told: “Singapura, whence the city takes its name, is a channel through which all the shipping of those parts passes, and signifies in his Malay language, ‘treacherous delay’ ” See quotation from Barros below.]

The settlement of Hinduized people on the site, if not the name, is probably as old as the 4th century, A.D., for inscriptions have been found there in a very old character. One of these, on a rock at the mouth of the little river on which the town stands, was destroyed some 40 or 50 years ago for the accommodation of some wretched bungalow.

The modern Singapore and its prosperity form a monument to the patriotism, sagacity, and fervid spirit of the founder. According to an article in the Geogr. Magazine (i. 107) derived from Mr. Archibald Ritchie, who was present with the expedition which founded the colony, Raffles, after consultation with Lord Hastings, was about to establish a settlement for the protection and encouragement of our Eastern trade, in the Nicobar Islands, when his attention was drawn to the superior advantages of Singapore by Captains Ross and Crawford of the Bombay Marine, who had been engaged in the survey of those seas. Its great adaptation for a mercantile settlement had been discerned by the shrewd, if somewhat vulgar, Scot, Alexander Hamilton, 120 years earlier. It seems hardly possible, we must however observe, to reconcile the details in the article cited, with the letters and facts contained in the Life of Raffles; though probably the latter had, at some time or other, received information from the officers named by Mr. Ritchie.

1512.—“And as the enterprise was one to make good booty, everybody was delighted to go on it, so that they were more than 1200 men, the soundest and best armed of the garrison, and so they were ready incontinently, and started for the Strait of Cincapura, where they were to wait for the junks.”—Correa, ii. 284–5.

1551.—“Sed hactenus Deus nobis adsit omnibus. Amen. Anno post Christum natum, MDLI. Ex Freto Syncapurano.”—Scti. Franc. Xaverii Epistt: Pragae, 1667, Lib. III. viii.

1553.—“Anciently the most celebrated settlement in this region of Malaca was one called Cingapura, a name which in their tongue means ‘pretended halt’ (falsa dimora); and this stood upon a point of that country which is the most southerly of all Asia, and lies, according to our graduation, in half a degree of North Latitude … before the foundation of Malaca, at this same Cingapura … flocked together all the navigators of the Seas of India from West and East. …”—Barros, II. vi. 1. [The same derivation is given in the Comm. of Dalboquerque, Hak. Soc. iii. 73.]


“Mas na ponta da terra Cingapura
Verás, onde o caminho as naos se estreita;
Daqui, tornando a costa á Cynosura,
Se incurva, e para a Aurora se endireita.”

Camões, x. 125.

By Burton:

“But on her Lands-end throned see Cingapúr,
where the wide sea-road shrinks to narrow way:
Thence curves the coast to face the Cynosure,
and lastly trends Aurora-wards its lay.”

1598.—“… by water the coast stretcheth to the Cape of Singapura, and from thence it runneth upwards [inwards] againe. …—”Linschoten, 30; [Hak. Soc. i. 101].

1599.—“In this voyage nothing occurred worth relating, except that, after passing the Strait of Sincapura, situated in one degree and a half, between the main land and a variety of islands … with so narrow a channel that from the ship you could jump ashore, or touch the branches of the trees on either side, our vessel struck on a shoal.”—Viaggi di Carletti, ii. 208–9.

1606.—“The 5th May came there 2 Prows from the King of Johore, with the Shahbander (Shabundér)

  By PanEris using Melati.

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