I vaguely know that Cantonese is quite widely spoken in Kuala Lumpur and the peninsular area of Malaysia.

Is this the reasons why many Malaysian colleagues have surnames that are common in Hong Kong? (i.e Khoo Boo Leung)

Fong is also a surname used in Malaysia (Fung would be the Cantonese variant).

  • Mandarin, Hokkien, and Hakka are more widely spoken than Cantonese in Malaysia. Cantonese is a minority; there is a large variety of Chinese languages/dialects spoken in Malaysia: Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Cantonese, Teochew, Hainanese, Foochow, Henghua, etc. The situation differs by location: while Kuala Lumpur may prefer Cantonese, Penang prefers Hokkien.
    – Flux
    Commented Jun 1, 2019 at 0:18

2 Answers 2


Historically, there were waves of emigrants from Southern China to Southeast Asia since 明 dynasty (1368-1644). So, their descendants shared the same Cantonese, Hokkien surnames with people in Southern China.

Then, the British empire acquired Hong Kong & Malaysia in the 18th century. Both governments used the same / similar romanisation scheme to register people's names in English. That's why Malaysians with Chinese origin would have a Cantonese / hokkien surname, as those in Hong Kong.

As far as I know, there are subtle differences:

陳 - Chan (hk), Tan (my)

黃 - Wong (hk), Ong (my)

Edited, adding info:

Several books, in literary Chinese, had info about Southeast Asia & China:





Read between the lines, you'll grasp the ideas :)

  • Tan is Hokkien for 陳. Likewise Ong is one of the Hokkien version for 王, 汪, 黃. The other common version being Ooi/Oey. I've met Wongs and Chans in KL.
    – dda
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 13:18

The potatoes cultivation cause China population increases rapidly. The population pressures are especially Southern China hilly area unable to sustain the population growth.

These are few affected district in Southern China: GuangDong, GuangXi, Hainan.

Since Hong Kong culture are pretty close to GuangDong, the people here mostly speak Cantonese.

So Malaysia Chinese English phonetic surname pronuouce as their ancestor origins dialect, it just happens Cantonese is part of the origin traits.

That why you heard surname for 黄 phonetic dialect as follow:

  • Cantonese:Wong (Wounk)
  • Teochew : Ng, Ong (O-nk)
  • Hakka : Wong (Waung)
  • Hong Kong is considered part of Guang Dong. The cultural difference between Hong Kong and the rest of Guang Dong is most a byproduct of the British colonization.
    – ckpwong
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 17:25

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