Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
Related to Malays: Austronesian



(1) Formerly, the name given to the peoples of Southeast Asia who speak languages of the Indonesian group of the Malayo-Polynesian language family.

(2) A group of peoples of Southeast Asia linked by common descent, a common language, and many cultural features. The Malays are divided into the Malays proper (more than 5 million, 1970 estimate), who live primarily in Malaysia and Singapore, and various Malay-speaking peoples (7.5 million), who live primarily in Indonesia. The Malay language comprises several dialects. The dialect of the Riau (Riouw) and Lingga archipelagoes forms the basis of literary Malay, now the official language of Malaysia. Since the late 15th century the official religion of most Malays has been Islam, which they combine with survivals of ancient animist beliefs and elements of Buddhism and Hinduism.

Anthropologically, the Malays belong to various groups of southern Mongoloids mixed with Indo-Oceanic (Australoid) equatorial races. The Malays’ self-designation, Orang Melayu (literally, Malayan people), derives from the ancient name of a tribal group inhabiting the Padang Plateau on Sumatra. Early in the first millennium A.D. the ancestors of the Malays began to migrate northeastward from the Padang Plateau, settling the Malay Peninsula and later the eastern coast of Sumatra, the Riau (Riouw) and Lingga archipelagoes, Kalimantan, and other islands of Indonesia.

The majority of Malays are engaged in agriculture, chiefly rice cultivation. Many Malays work on plantations owned by foreign (mainly British) and local capitalists that grow hevea and other rubber trees, coconut palms, sugarcane, coffee, cinchona, and pineapples. Marine and fresh-water fishing is important, as well as shipping on praus, the distinctive Malayan decked sailing boats. Some Malays work in industry, chiefly tin mines, oil fields, and textile, food, and other, mostly small, enterprises. Traditional handicrafts include the making of bamboo implements, wickerwork, pottery, wood carving, and artistic metalwork and textile weaving. Various forms of applied and decorative art, oral poetry, music, dance, and theater are highly developed. There is a rich artistic, scientific, and political literature in the Malay language, written in the Latin alphabet.


Narody Iugo- Vostochnoi Azii. Moscow, 1966.
Demin, L. M. Malaiziia ekzoticheskaia i budnichnaia. Moscow, 1971.


References in classic literature ?
Here it was that the Ithaca came to anchor in a little harbor, while her crew under von Horn, and the Malay first mate, Bududreen, accompanied Professor Maxon in search of a suitable location for a permanent camp.
At the rate of fifty a minute, a stream of projectiles tore into the bow of the prahu when suddenly a richly garbed Malay in the stern rose to his feet waving a white cloth upon the point of his kris.
She saw the tall Malay issue a few commands, the oarsmen bent to their work, the prahu came about, making off toward the harbor's entrance.
The Bumiputeras are Malays and other indigenous people who constitute 67.
Majority Malays and minority Chinese are divided socially, economically, and politically, but especially by language.
As a Chinese, his grandparents warned him against having contact with Malays, Muslims and Indians.
Noteworthy is the attention given to the traditions and customs of the Malays.
He was a half-hearted democrat because only a tightly controlled democracy, in his view, could save the Malays, in their relative backwardness, from economic and political eclipse in their own land.
then the native Malays (1445-1511), next the Portuguese (1511-1647), and then the Dutch (1647-1824); all the while, the Chinese kept political and economic relationships with each new ruler (Winstedt, 1981).
He angered many Malays, however, by his accommodating attitude toward the Chinese, and the 1969 race riots resulted.
Among the modestly successful are small business owners who serve other Malays at hawker stands or at small retail shops.
Doctor Tim Bunnell from Singapore university presented a lecture on Malays in Liverpool, which he has been researching formany years, showing thatmany Malays had fought for Britain and yet these people are the only ethnic group who have been overlooked by our City of Culture.