Upper Thomson, Boon Keng, and More: Cool Meanings Behind 15 Popular MRT Stations in Singapore (2024)

Upper Thomson, Boon Keng, and More: Cool Meanings Behind 15 Popular MRT Stations in Singapore (2024)
Upper Thomson, Boon Keng, and More: Cool Meanings Behind 15 Popular MRT Stations in Singapore (2024)

Bukit Timah, Upper Thomson, Balestier, Boon Keng, Serangoon, Sembawang: these are the names of some well-known MRT stations and/or neighbourhoods in Singapore. Have you ever wondered what the meanings behind these MRT station names are?

Well, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll uncover the meanings behind 15 popular MRT stations (i.e. the meanings behind the neighbourhoods surrounding these MRT stations).

We’ll also share some properties you should check out if you want to stay near these MRT stations.

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Why I Should Consider Staying Near an MRT Station

In Singapore, convenience is king. And that includes making our commute easier by staying near major transport nodes such as an MRT station. By the way, many major MRT stations are also connected to a shopping mall and are a hub for various other amenities, such as a bus interchange, food centres, and more.

So you’ve been successfully convinced (wink, wink) to consider staying near an MRT station. How can you go about checking out viable options?

PropertyGuru MRT Filter

Source: <a href="https://www.propertyguru.com.sg/mrt/singapore-property-listings-for-sale" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:PropertyGuru;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">PropertyGuru</a>
Source: PropertyGuru

Did you know that it’s easy to find properties near MRT stations? Simply use our PropertyGuru MRT filters.

It’s pretty intuitive: when searching PropertyGuru listings, type in your query or click on it to call up an interactive MRT map. Tip: The map allows you to select multiple stations or the entire MRT/LRT line.

Then, you can apply other filters such as type of property, number of rooms, and ascending/descending price. Happy searching!

Singapore Properties Near MRT Stations

MRT station/neighbourhood

Cheapest 3-bedroom condo nearby (based on PropertyGuru listings, accurate as of 19 April 2024)

Bukit Timah area (Beauty World, Sixth Avenue, King Albert Park, and Tan Kah Kee)

Eng Kong Green, from $1,288,888 to $1,780,000

Upper Thomson

183 Longhaus, from $1,680,000 to $2,280,000

Balestier area (Toa Payoh and Novena)

Ascent @ 456, from $1,130,000 to $1,160,000

Boon Keng

Eight Riversuites, from $1,590,000 to $3,250,000


Cambio Suites, from $1,480,000


Canberra Residences, from $1,080,000 to $2,099,999

Farrer Park

Studios @ Marne, from $1,000,000

Potong Pasir

Leicester Suites, from $1,296,000


Castle Green, from $1,550,000 to $1,900,000


Park Green, from $1,350,000 to $1,700,000


The Hillier, from $1,420,000


Evergreen Park, from $1,100,000 to $1,388,000

Bukit Timah ( Beauty World, Sixth Avenue, King Albert Park, and Tan Kah Kee)

Bukit Timah Road, named after Singapore’s highest hill in the area, literally mean ‘hill of tin’ in Malay. However, there’s another plausible origin of the name – since tin wasn’t found on the hill – that it is a mispronunciation of ‘Temak’, a type of tree that grows in the area.

Contrary to the paved and manicured Bukit Timah Hill we know today, this was a dense jungle overrun with tigers. It was only in 1827 that work started to clear the wilderness, and a road was finally completed in 1843.

Today, Bukit Timah Road is one of the longest in Singapore, stretching 25km. It’s not surprising that a few MRT stations serve the Bukit Timah area, which are all conveniently located along the Downtown Line (DTL).

Beauty World

Beauty World gets its name from the iconic Beauty World Market, a refurbished open-air market and amusement park from 1947 to 1984.

Before being called Beauty World, it was Da Dong Ya (‘Greater East Asia’ in English), an entertainment centre built during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore. Da Dong Ya featured stage shows, a cinema, a gambling hall, food stalls, coffee parlours and more. Gambling was the most popular activity, though, and both locals and Japanese soldiers came, paying 20 ‘banana cents’ per entry.

Sixth Avenue

Sixth Avenue was named after a road of the same name, which followed the numbering convention of new streets at that time. Today, this naming practice is restricted to only HDB estates and Jurong Town Corporation estates (industrial).

King Albert Park

King Albert Park MRT station references a road and estate in the area named after King Albert I of Belgium, who visited Singapore in 1976. It is also close to a mall of the same name, fondly referred to as K.A.P., and once housed an iconic two-storey McDonald’s where life-sized mascots sat outside.

Tan Kah Kee

Then there’s Tan Kah Kee, named after the founder of Hwa Chong Institution, Chinese businessman Mr Tan Kah Kee. His Chinese name is Chen Jiageng, which you’ll hear in the Mandarin version of the MRT station announcements. Fun fact: Tan Kah Khee MRT station is directly underneath the Hwa Chong Institution campus.

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Upper Thomson

Did you know that Upper Thomson Road, where Upper Thomson MRT station is now, was named after the Government Surveyor and Chief Engineer of the Straits Settlements, John Turnbull Thomson? He held this post from 1841 to 1853.

However, what’s a bit confusing is that Upper Thomson Road didn’t get its name until 1959. The stretch of road started life as Thomson Road but was later renamed Seletar Road, as it connected Singapore’s city centre to both the Seletar airport and naval base. To better distinguish between the airport and the naval base, known as Seletar, the road was sectioned in 1939, with each part having a different name.

Thomson Road ran till the Yio Chu Kang junction, after which it became Upper Thomson Road until the Mandai Road Junction. From there onwards, it was named Sembawang Road. There was no more Seletar Road. Again, in 1959, the stretch of road from the junction of Braddell and Thomson Roads to the junction of Mandai and Sembawang Roads was renamed Upper Thomson Road.

Here’s another fun fact: Thomson Road was also previously used in the OG Singapore Grand Prix, named the Thomson Road Grand Prix circuit, from 1961 to 1973.

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Balestier (Toa Payoh and Novena)

Balestier Road was named after the first American Consul to Singapore in 1837, Joseph Balestier. He came with his wife, Maria Revere Balestier, daughter of American patriot and hero of the American Revolution, Paul Revere. She brought along the Revere Bell as a gift, used to sound the curfew from the Church of St Andrew. Today, the bell is on display at the National Museum of Singapore.

Back to Mr Balestier. He converted swampland into a large sugar plantation called Balestier Plain. Labourers settled there, and one group was the Hokkiens, who founded a local temple in 1847. Therefore, you might hear some people refer to Balestier Road as ‘Go Cho Tua Pek Kong’, after the temple, where ‘go cho’ is Rochor in the Hokkien dialect. Others might also refer to it as ‘thannir kampam’, which means ‘water kampung’ in Tamil, as the water was drawn from the Balestier / Rochor River for sale.

There’s also a large Burmese influence in Balestier. You’ll notice that most road names on the odd-numbered side of Balestier Road have Burmese names, while the even-numbered side has Malay names.

While there is no direct MRT station serving Balestier and none in the works yet, the closest MRT stations are Toa Payoh and Novena MRT stations, both on the North-South Line (NSL).

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Boon Keng

The quiet neighbourhood surrounding Boon Keng MRT station along the North East Line (NEL) was named after Chinese physician Lim Boon Keng, who was at the forefront of health and educational reforms in Singapore. That’s why the Mandarin version of the station’s name is his name in Chinese, ‘Wenqing’.

Born in Singapore, Lim Boon Keng graduated from Raffles Institution and became the first Singaporean to receive a Queen’s Scholarship, with which he achieved first-class honours in medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Upon his return, he was the champion for those living in poverty, published a magazine and a newspaper, co-founded the Singapore Chinese Girls’ School to encourage education for women, and fought to get opium banned.

Lim Boon Keng also co-founded Singapore’s first locally owned insurance company alongside Lim Nee Soon, and was asked by Sun Yat-sen to serve as the second president of Xiamen University, founded by his friend, Tan Kah Kee (refer to our above section on Bukit Timah). He also co-founded OCBC Bank.

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Also along the NEL is Serangoon MRT station, which also serves as an interchange to the Circle Line (CCL) in its namesake estate. There are two stories about how Serangoon got its name.

One says the name comes from ‘Ranggong’, the Malay name for a type of bird, a stork species known as the adjutant bird or small marsh bird found around the Serangoon River. Others say the name was derived from ‘di-serang dengan gong’, which means ‘to attack or surround with gongs or drums’ in Malay, to scare away animals that wandered close to villages from the formerly forested area that became fertile arable land.

Alternatively, check out all Serangoon MRT station property listings.

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Located in the north of Singapore, the Sembawang area and its eponymous MRT station are known for their shipyard, but they boast Singapore’s only natural hot spring.

Sembawang is said to have been named after ‘pokok sembawang’, the old Malay name for a tall tree that grows next to flowing rivers in forests or streams. Today, this tree can be seen at Sembawang Park (find it in the middle of carpark C1, close to the Sembawang Bus terminal). From white flowers, it bears round fleshy fruits that are encased in a leather-like skin.

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Farrer Park

Farrer Park was home to Singapore’s first horse racing turf club from 1843. That’s why there is also a Race Course Road in this area. The race course moved to Bukit Timah in 1933, so two years later, the area was renamed Farrer Park after the former President of the Municipal Commissioners, John Farrer, who served from 1919 to 1931.

However, Farrer Park’s sporting history did not end there. From the 1950s to the 1980s, new sports facilities were built in the area. These included a stadium, swimming complex, sports festivals, and a sports association hub. Famous Singapore athletes also trained in Farrer Park’s facilities.

Although it ceased to be a sports hub in the 1990s, the remnants of its sporting past can be seen in the MRT station’s artwork and conserved facilities such as the Farrer Park Swimming Pool. Farrer Park is not confused with Farrer Road, named after John Farrer.

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Potong Pasir

Potong Pasir got its name from the many old sand quarries in the early 1900s, where ‘potong pasir’ literally means ‘cut sand’ in Malay.

The mining of the sand created four ponds that connect to the Kallang River. These were the lifelines for the local villagers in the area, who had been cultivating the land since the 1830s. Potong Pasir was also one of the most important vegetable-growing areas in Singapore in the 1950s, where families grew watercress and coconut palms for a living. During floods, which were common in the area, villagers took refuge at the nearby St Andrew’s School, which had moved to Woodsville Hill in 1940.

Potong Pasir was later acquired by the government for major redevelopment, giving birth to Potong Pasir Estate in the 1980s, where flats were built with iconic sloping roofs.

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Lentor may seem like it came from an English surname. However, it is the anglicised spelling of ‘lentur’, which means ‘flexible or graceful’ in Malay. The origin is still unclear, but ‘lentur’ may have referred to a meandering stream in the area known as Aliran Lentur in Malay.

The name Lentor for the MRT station was likely chosen out of function, as there is a cluster of roads named Lentor in the area. This is a private residential area. As part of the Government Land Sales (GLS) Programme, parcels of land have been released for development here, and many new launches are being launched.

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Buangkok means ‘ten thousand countries’ in Teochew, after the Chinese name ‘Multi Nations’ of a local rubber plantation with operations based there. Buangkok used to be much bigger. In the late 1990s, Lorong Buangkok had a large section removed to develop Sengkang town.

It’s also interesting to note that once overcrowded by kampungs (traditional villages), those were cleared between 2005 and 2009. Today, the last kampung (traditional village) in Singapore, Kampung Lorong Buangkok, remains in the area. Still, it is unknown whether it will be redeveloped “several decades later” or preserved for its historical significance.

Although the North East Line was completed in 2003, Buangkok only opened three years later due to low ridership numbers.

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Located in Upper Bukit Timah, which we discussed above, Hillview is where one can admire the famous hill, hence its name, Hillview. Like its name, it’s not just the view you can enjoy. Soak up the verdant feels of the area, as residents living in Hillview are surrounded by greenery: From Bukit Gombak Woodlands to Bukit Batok Nature Park, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Dairy Farm Nature Park (yes, there was a dairy farm here), and more.

However, Hillview wasn’t just a vantage point. It previously served as an industrial area from the early 1940s to the late 1980s. Factories such as Old Ford Motor Factory, Cycle & Carriage Daimler-Benz car assembly plant, and Hume Pipe Company operated there. Today, only the Old Ford Motor Factory remains.

Hillview was also where the KTM Malayan Railway ran. You’ll find the railway truss bridges there, now iconic photo-taking spots on your Rail Corridor walk. Unfortunately, Hillview also had tactical importance in the Second World War due to its elevation. It was there that the formal surrender by the British was held.

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Once a forested area with pig farms, Hougang means ‘river end’ or ‘au kang’ in the Hokkien and Teochew dialects. This is a nod to its location at the back of the Serangoon River. Its majority population is Chinese Teochew inhabitants.

You might also hear some older folks referring to Hougang as ‘Tua Jia Ka’, literally ‘foot of the big well’ in Teochew. This refers to an important well in the area. You might also see references to it, such as Somapah Serangoon, on weather apps, named after an Indian landowner, Hunmah Somapah. There are also references to Kangkar, which was after a fish market that used to be in the area. This means ‘foot of the river’ in Teochew.

Fun fact: Hougang is spelt this way due to the government’s Speak Mandarin Campaign at that time. Otherwise, it would have been named Hou Kang. Today, Hougang is Singapore’s largest public housing estate based on land area.

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How to Finance a Singapore Property in 2024

Congrats on making it to the end of this article! Hopefully, you enjoyed learning about the backstories of some popular MRT stations in Singapore.

When you find a property you’d like to buy, feel free (literally) to reach out to our PropertyGuru Finance Mortgage Experts, who can help you navigate your new home journey by matching you with a home loan that meets all your financial needs. Over time, you can also work with them to find ways to save money on your mortgage!

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