Query No. 1

Can anyone tell me the origin or meaning of the name "Sabah"?
John Morgan


  1. All I could find on this question of Sabah was in an old (1926) edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which said (Vol 4, pg 262) "Sabah is the name applied by the natives to certain portions of the territory situated on the north-western coast of the island, and originally in no way included the remainder of the country now owned by the British North Borneo Company. It has become customary, however, for the name to be used by Europeans in Borneo to denote the whole of the company's territory, and little by little the more educated natives are insensibly adopting the practice."

    The English is not exactly politically correct, and today one would use "indigenous people" rather than "natives", and "unconsciously" rather than "insensibly".

    That might explain the origin (on the assumption that the Enc. Brit. is correct), but not the meaning: no doubt someone in Sabah will know.
    I look forward to reading the rest of the answers.
    Rev David Hubbard, London, England

  2. According to the article titled "The Catholic Church in Sabah" by Fr L M Parsons, it appeared in the 14th century, a Franciscan, John Marignolli visited Borneo which he called Sabah. It would appear that Sabah is derived from the same sounding word "Sabbath"- a rest day. So probably John Marignolli arrived here on a Sunday.

    Before North Borneo was named Sabah at independence, there was a newspaper already known as Sabah Times, set up by Chong Pak Nam and the Daily Express founder Yeh Pao Tse who engaged Donald Stephens as its editor.

    This is not the absolute correct answer. Just my 2 c.
    William Wang, Sabah, Malaysia

  3. According to www.suteraharbour.com/sabah/visitors.html, "The name 'Sabah' probably derives from the Arabic zir-e bad, meaning 'the land below the wind'. This is a fitting title as the state lies just to the south of the typhoon belt." Irfan