Discover the Fascinating Stories Behind 10 Unusual Street Names in Singapore

September 21, 2023

1. Dhoby Ghaut


Why it's unusual: While not technically a road, Dhoby Ghaut is now a modern lifestyle destination and transport hub, with a name derived from Hindi words meaning "washerman's steps along the bank of a river."

The story: In the 1830s, Bengali and Madrasi dhobies used to wash clothes in the Stamford Canal and dry them on the empty plot of land opposite Cathay cinema. The area was a hub of laundry activities, with Queen Street also known as 'vannan theruvu,' or the street of dhobies in Tamil.

1°17'55.3"N 103°50'46.0"E

Dhoby Ghaut, Singapore 238826

2. Cheow Keng Road


Why it's unusual: Named after Wee Cheow Keng, this road stands out for its association with the phrase 'chao keng,' meaning to feign illness or injury to avoid responsibilities.

The story: Wee Cheow Keng was a prominent leader in the Hainanese community and even served as the director of Sze Hai Tong Bank, a subsidiary of OCBC Bank.

Cheow Keng Rd

3. Jalan Hajijah


Why it's unusual: A rare street in Singapore named after a woman, reflecting the limited number of roads named after women compared to men.

The story: Located near Upper East Coast Road, Jalan Hajijah was once a Malay kampung named after its founder, Madam Hajijah, who built the original Kampung Siglap Mosque. Unfortunately, the kampung was lost to history in the 1980s.

Jln Hajijah

4. Jalan Wat Siam

Photo: Google Street View

Why it's unusual: The road's name combines three languages - Malay, Thai, and former English terminology - reflecting Singapore's multicultural heritage.

The story: Jalan Wat Siam, located on Pulau Ubin, was named after a Thai temple that once stood at its end. It was later cleared in the 2000s to make way for the reopening of Kekek Quarry and is now known as Cemetery Road.

Jln Wat Siam

5. Kay Poh Road


Why it's unusual: The term 'kaypoh,' meaning a busybody, isn't typically a flattering description. Nearby, you'll also find the Kay Poh Road Baptist Church.

The story: The road is named after Wee Kay Poh, a former apprentice at A.L. Johnston & Company, a prominent business that traded in opium, pepper, gambier, and spices in the 19th century. Wee Kay Poh later became known for his opium and liquor business.

Kay Poh Rd

6. Keris Estate Roads


Why it's unusual: These roads are named after classic Malay films, adding a unique cultural touch.

The story: Cathay-Kris Studio, once located at 532D East Coast Road, produced many black-and-white Malay films in the 1950s and 1960s, including the 1957 hit "Pontianak." Competition from television led to its closure in 1973, marking the end of Malay film production in Singapore.

Keris Estate

7. Lorong Lew Lian

Photo: Google Street View

Why it's unusual: The street's name is a blend of Malay and Hokkien, translating to "Durian Lane."

The story: Lorong Lew Lian likely got its name from nearby durian plantations, making it less appealing to durian haters. Nearby, Lorong Ong Lye (Pineapple Lane) was named for the pineapple plantations in the area.

Lor Lew Lian

8. Makepeace Road


Why it's unusual: This road is named after Walter Makepeace, a journalist and editor of the Singapore Free Press, who played a significant role in Singapore's history.

The story: Walter Makepeace was not only a journalist but also one of the founders of the Singapore Swimming Club and a general editor of "One Hundred Years of Singapore," a valuable historical resource created for Singapore's centenary celebration in 1919.

Makepeace Rd

9. Rotan Lane

Photo: Google Street View

Why it's unusual: For those with memories of disciplinary rattan or rotan canes, this road's name may bring back some uncomfortable flashbacks.

The story: Adjacent to Rotan Lane, there used to be a rattan factory on Chander Street. While the factory is gone, the legacy lives on in a few remaining rattan handicraft stores in Little India.

Rotan Lane

10. Waterloo Street

Photo: Google Street View

Why it's unusual: Originally named to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo, Chinese Singaporeans often refer to it as 'si beh lo,' meaning 'the fourth road.'

The story: Waterloo Street was named in honor of the Duke of Wellington's victory over the French at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. However, the name proved challenging for the predominantly Chinese-speaking population, leading to the parallel roads being known as 'toa beh lo,' 'tzee beh lo,' 'sa beh lo,' and 'si beh lo,' signifying the first, second, third, and fourth roads in sequence.

Waterloo Street


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