Singapore is a highly-developed economy, an investor’s paradise, a very politically conscious city-state, and one of the best-loved tourist destinations of Southeast Asia. It is the perfect example of a country having evolved from its colonial legacy to embrace an economically progressive and heterogeneous social outlook. The name Singapore is believed to have been derived from the words Singa meaning Lion and Pura meaning City. Singapore is hence popularly referred to as the Lion City. In 1986, the lion head symbol was adopted as the national symbol of Singapore and now is an iconic representation of the nation.
One of the earliest mentions of Singapore can be found in the written records of Greek historian and astronomer Ptolemy who called the place Sabara or Sabana. Later records by the Chinese and Arabs used different names such as Puluozhong, Betmuah, or Long Ya Men but we are not certain if it is indeed the main island of Singapore that these references point to. The Javanese also made a reference to the island’s settlement as Tumasik (Sea Town) – probably meaning that the settlement was on an island during the Shri Vijayan Empire. The Europeans who came here (such as the Dutch and the Portuguese) too referred to Singapore by various names.
The name Singapura started to be used rather commonly from the 1500s. Legend has it that the city on the main island of Singapore was founded by the Shri Vijayan prince Sang Nila Utama in the year 1299. When the prince reached the island he spotted a Malay tiger which he mistook for a lion. Hence he used his native Malay language to name it Singapura. Malay draws heavily from Sanskrit, the Indian language. This claim is made in the Malay Annals though the text itself is open to debate considering historic inaccuracies have been found in it. With the increase of Tamil population, Singapura came to be called Chingapura – a name that is also found in ancient Dutch maps. With the island becoming part of the British Empire, the Anglicized rendition, Singapore became predominant and later the name Republic of Singapore became the city-state’s official name.