The Singapore Flag

What It Means and Where It Comes From

Flag of Singapore

The Singapore flag is horizontally divided into two bars, with red over white (can't really see that here with white on white...).

In the upper left quadrant is a crescent moon in white, facing a pentagon of five white stars.

The flag was designed with meanings to each specific segment.

  • red signifies brotherhood and the equality of man
  • white signifies virtue and purity
  • the moon in crescent symbolizes the youthful nation on the rise
  • the five stars represent equality, justice, peace, progress and democracy

History of the Singapore Flag

The Singapore flag was created before actual statehood in 1959, and - like so many things in modern Singapore - it reflects a mixture of demands by various ethnic groups as well as underlying Singapore values.

Singapore had a number of flags - British Union Jacks, Japanese Rising Suns - so the government decided the young self-governing colony required a rallying symbol, along with a national crest and the national song, to cement a new identity.

The Chinese in Singapore wanted to see a red background and stars. At the time, the influence from mainland China was large. The People's Republic of China had been founded, and a wave of pro-Chinese sentiment was sweeping through the region.

The Muslims required a crescent moon in the flag to see themselves reflected as well.

Read more about the founding of Singapore and its history - including the flag's, here:

Creation of the Singapore flag.

The Flag and Independence

Interestingly enough, the flag - and its design - remained unchanged after being made 'official' in 1959, even in 1963 when Singapore joined the Malaysian Federation and then finally again after complete independence in 1965.

The Flag in Its Different Uses

The Singapore flag is used in its core form in different variations.

Singapore Flag Ensign
Singapore-registered ships use a so-called ensign where the crescent moon and stars face upwards, inside a white circle.

President of Singapore Standard

The President of Singapore has his own standard - the crescent and stars on a solely red background.

Singapore Army Service Flag The military use various forms of the crescent and star symbol, employing yellow, blue and compass flowers in their flags.

Singapore Naval Ensign

Singapore Air Force Service Flag

Here is a nice overview of the many variations.

The Coat of Arms, the National Anthem and The Lion

Coat of Arms Singapore

Along with the flag, a coat of arms and a national song were created by committee in 1959.

Here again, highly symbolic elements were included.

The coat of arms shows a shield with the crescent and stars symbol, flanked by a lion and a tiger. Below the shield, a blue banner reads the Malay phrase 'Majulah Singapura' - Onward Singapore.

The tiger connects the nation to its Malaysian roots while the lion symbolizes Singapore proper, the Lion City.

Here's more on Singapore's Coat of Arms.

Onward Singapore, of course, is the underlying theme to everything in the country: move forward, progress and develop.

Majulah Singapura is also the National Anthem and its only official version is the Malay language one. Here is more background on the National Anthem of Singapore.

The Merlion - Singapore's Semi-Official Symbol

Merlion, Singapore, fountain, Marina Bay

Next to the official flags and standards, the Merlion is probably the symbol most people remember and recognize about Singapore.

How could you not? It can be seen everywhere and most prominently at Marina Bay at almost 9 meters (about 30 feet) tall spewing water out of its mouth, and on Sentosa Island at 37 meters (110 feet) height.

The Merlion symbolizes a lion with a fishtail where the fishtail is the origin as a fishing village and the lion represents the Lion City - Singapura.

Myth has it that a prince from Sumatra saw a lion in the area in the 14th century and thus named the place Singapura. Why a lion in these parts - who knows?

A tiger would have been more appropriate. They existed on the island until well into the 19th century and occasionally swam over from Malaysia during the early 1900's as well.

Back to Singapore

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