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?


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 '16 at 20:24
  • @LubošMotl Excellent! One reference. Jun 3 '16 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 '16 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 '16 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 '16 at 12:07

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).



  • 1
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    – bytebuster
    Mar 15 at 5:46

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


“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

  • We're not after guesses here, but answers with evidence.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 5 '19 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 '19 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 '20 at 1:53

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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