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While reading on the etymology of the turkey, I found that the Malays and Indonesians called the animal ayam belanda (Dutch chicken). I was then reminded of the proboscis monkey, which is called monyet belanda (Dutch monkey) due to its nose and abdomen.

However, the term "belanda" doesn't match phonetically to any known pronunciation of "Dutch", "Holland", "Netherlands", or any other term for the country that I can think of.

What is the etymology for the word belanda?

8 Answers 8

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It is difficult to pin-point the exact source because there don't seem to be any etymological dictionaries of Malay just yet.

This is purely speculative, but the word for 'Dutch' in Portuguese is 'holanda', whose pronunciation is nearly the same as 'Belanda'. The Malays could've borrowed the word from the Portuguese during the struggle between Malacca, the Portuguese and the Dutch in the mid-17th century.

Another speculation is that the proboscis monkey could've been likened to the Dutch who conquered Malacca (perhaps their hair colour, their pot bellies and their big noses). The proboscis monkey is found in Borneo, which makes it unlikely that the Malays in Malacca came up with the term. Maybe the term was coined when there was interaction between the Dutch and the people of Borneo.

One last speculation is that, since the turkey is not a species native to the region, 'ayam Belanda' could've just been brought to Malacca by the Dutch, hence [ayam belanda = Dutch chicken/chicken of the Dutch].

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    Wikipedia surely agrees that Belanda is from Holanda through Portuguese: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Jun 2, 2016 at 20:24
  • @LubošMotl Excellent! One reference. Jun 3, 2016 at 11:09
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    This does not really explain why Portuguese Holanda should become Belanda in Malay/Indonesian, especially since the "h" is silent in Portuguese.
    – fdb
    Jun 3, 2016 at 22:02
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    @fdb Yes, this is the problem that doesn't seem to have been solved. I have seen it claimed on languagelog that the proboscis monkey connection is the other way around, ie the proboscis monkey was already known as 'orang belanda' and this name was applied to the Dutch when they arrived (supported by the similarity to 'Hollander'?) Jun 4, 2016 at 1:34
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    I just saw this unsourced claim on the Paradox forums giving 3 separate theories on "Belanda". Worth a read.
    – March Ho
    Jul 9, 2016 at 12:07
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In “An Unabridged Malay-English Dictionary” by R.O. Winstedt, the entry for Belanda has Hollander, Dutch; European.

The addition of European might suggest a more general description of white people than just the Dutch.

The entry gives two examples of usage that reinforces the possibility that Belanda is closer to white/pale/bland than Hollander:

Batu Belanda - artificial or paste diamonds

beras Belanda - pearl barley (that has been processed to remove its fibrous outer hull and polished to remove some or all of the bran layer).

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Having been brought up in Borneo(Indonesian side called Kalimantan) and having been called "anak Belanda"(Dutch child) many times because of our white skin as Canadians, I am intrigued by the comments above. Growing up in the jungles and learning some of the tribal languages around us, I was reminded today that the tribal peoples In Borneo/Kalimantan identified their different tribes by the dialect that they spoke. There was the Benana dialect in our area, Benyadu, Belangin, Bekoa, etc. Could it be that the Dutch were identified as Belanda as those people that came from the area that spoke "holanda" or how the folks there understood/heard in their ears the word by which the Dutch identified themselves as being from? Blond is also a Dutch word referring to those who are blond, so that could be also how it got started, Be lond, those that came from the land of the blonds and became Belanda.

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    You're naming a lot of languages that start with "be-". Is that a typical for languages and ethnic groups in that area? Is "be-" or "b-" a prefix that comes up a lot, maybe marking language, ethnic group, adjective, or noun? If so, I wouldn't be surprised if that's why "holanda" evolved into "belanda".
    – Jetpack
    Jan 18, 2023 at 20:40
  • A follow up to my last comment. I can't find any etymology, but just looking at Wikipedia titles, I can see that the Benyadu' language is also called the Nyadu'. Based on on the Wikipedia pages titled "Bidayuh" and "Dayak" it also seems that the Bidayuh are closely related to (or maybe the same as) the Dayuh.
    – Jetpack
    Jan 18, 2023 at 21:00
  • Nyadu or Nana, etc is the word for "no" in that particular dialect. They identify themselves as the tribal group that says "no" with that word. Dayak is the group name used for all of the indigenous tribes in West Kalimantan/Borneo collectively. Incidentally, they were known as head-hunters(not the employment researching offices today) and I have personally seen the skulls in their villages from past forays.
    – Jemi
    Jan 19, 2023 at 23:31
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Belanda originally Blanda is a contraction of three words. (Blond - lang - Holland). This etymology has been given to me by a very old Dutch family from the East Indies that was living in java.

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Orang Hitam simply means Black People. Orang Utam was a less evolved Black that looked like Orangutans. Orang Blenda or Orang Belanda means Black Europeans and it also stands for Wolanders "Forest people". That's how Holland got its name Holland and Wolander are the same words in two different languages and they are Orang Belanda.

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The indonesians called the dutch "belanda" because when they heard people say "hollandia" they thought it was b-e-l-a-n-d-a

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  • I'm afraid this does not answer the question. Mar 1, 2019 at 13:57
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“Blanda” is the term for non-indigenous white people in the Language of the Yolngu aboriginal people of the Northern Territory of Australia. Whether they got it from the Dutch the Portuguese or from the aboriginal people of Borneo and the Malay Archipelago is anyone’s guess

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    We're not after guesses here, but answers with evidence.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 5, 2019 at 22:19
  • There is no other evidence other than the linguistic and the diaspora of people You will be waiting a long time for “evidence “ 😂 Aug 5, 2019 at 23:39
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    "Balanda" is well-known as the Yolngu word for white people, and its origin is also clear, and that it was borrowed from the regular visitors to northern Australia who came from the Malay archipelago Feb 13, 2020 at 1:53
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This is because of the blunderbuss the Dutch were armed which they used in their armed conflicts here. Blunderbuss - shortened to blunder, and than became Belanda in Malay. *Disclaimer: This is totally speculative on my part. ;-)

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