"Malaysia" used as a label for the Malay Archipelago
on a 1914 map from a United States atlas
The name "Malaysia" is a combination of the word "Malay" and the Latin-Greek suffix "-sia"/-σία. The word "melayu" in Malay may derive from the Tamil words "malai" and "ur" meaning "mountain" and "city, land", respectively. "Malayadvipa" was the word used by ancient Indian traders when referring to the Malay Peninsula. Whether or not it originated from these roots, the word "melayu" or "mlayu" may have been used in early Malay/Javanese to mean to steadily accelerate or run. This term was applied to describe the strong current of the river Melayu in Sumatra. The name was later adopted by the Melayu Kingdom that existed in the seventh century on Sumatra.
Before the onset of European colonisation, the Malay Peninsula was known natively as "Tanah Melayu" ("Malay Land"). Under a racial classification created by a German scholar Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, the natives of maritime Southeast Asia were grouped into a single category, the Malay race. Following the expedition of French navigator Jules Dumont d'Urville to Oceania in 1826, he later proposed the terms of "Malaysia", "Micronesia" and "Melanesia" to the Société de Géographie in 1831, distinguishing these Pacific cultures and island groups from the existing term "Polynesia". Dumont d'Urville described Malaysia as "an area commonly known as the East Indies". In 1850, the English ethnologist George Samuel Windsor Earl, writing in the Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, proposed naming the islands of Southeast Asia as "Melayunesia" or "Indunesia", favouring the former. In modern terminology, "Malay" remains the name of an ethnoreligious group of Austronesian people predominantly inhabiting the Malay Peninsula and portions of the adjacent islands of Southeast Asia, including the east coast of Sumatra, the coast of Borneo, and smaller islands that lie between these areas.
The state that gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1957 took the name the "Federation of Malaya", chosen in preference to other potential names such as "Langkasuka", after the historic kingdom located at the upper section of the Malay Peninsula in the first millennium CE. The name "Malaysia" was adopted in 1963 when the existing states of the Federation of Malaya, plus Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak formed a new federation. One theory posits the name was chosen so that "si" represented the inclusion of Singapore, North Borneo, and Sarawak to Malaya in 1963. Politicians in the Philippines contemplated renaming their state "Malaysia" before the modern country took the name.