The Kedayan (also known as Kadayan, Kadaian or Kadyan) are an ethnic group residing in Brunei, Federal Territory of Labuan, southwest of Sabah, and north of Sarawak on the island of Borneo.[1][2] According to the Language and Literature Bureau of Brunei, the Kedayan language (ISO 639-3: kxd) is spoken by about 30,000 people in Brunei,[3] and it has been claimed that there are a further 46,500 speakers in Sabah and 37,000 in Sarawak.[4][5][6] In Sabah the Kedayan mainly live in the cities of Sipitang, Beaufort, Kuala Penyu and Papar.[4][7] In Sarawak the Kedayans mostly reside in Lawas, Limbang, Miri and the Subis area.[4] The Kedayan people are also regarded as a sub-ethnic group of the Klemantan Dayak people.[8]

Kedayan people
Kadayan / Kadaian / Kadyan
Kadayan women, 1908. Note the light tunic with rows of buttons.
Total population
Est. 240,000 in Borneo
Regions with significant populations
 Malaysia (Sabah, Sarawak & Federal Territory of Labuan)
Kedayan and Standard Malay
Shafi'i Sunni Muslim
Related ethnic groups
Bruneian Malay, Banjarese, Javanese, Lun Bawang/Lundayeh


A Kedayan man, standing underneath a rice barn.

The origins of the Kedayans are uncertain. Some of them believe their people were originally from Ponorogo, Java,[1] which they left during the reign of Sultan Bolkiah. Because of his fame as a sea captain and voyager, the Sultan was well-known to the people of Java, Sumatra and the Philippines.[1] It is believed that when the Sultan arrived to the island of Java, he became interested in the local agricultural techniques.[1] He brought some of the Javanese farmers back to his country to spread their techniques. The farmers inter-married with the local Bruneian Malay people, giving birth to the Kedayan ethnicity.[1] Most Kedayans have adopted Islam since the Islamic era of the Sultanate of Brunei. They have also adopted Malay culture.[6] The Kedayans are recognized as one of the indigenous people of Borneo.[9] They are experts in making traditional medicines. The Kedayans are well known for their cultivation of medicinal plants, which they grow to treat a wide range of ailments and to make tonics.[4]

The language of one of the indigenous tribes, the Banjar people in Kutai, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, is said to share more than 90% of the vocabulary with the Kedayan language, despite the fact that the Banjarese do not refer to themselves as Kedayans. Both the Kedayans and the Banjarese are related, to a certain extent, because of the similarities in their languages.[10]


The Kedayan language is similar to Brunei Malay, and it has been claimed that as many as 94% of the words in the two languages are cognate.[11]

The main differences in pronunciation are that Kedayan has initial /h/ while Brunei Malay does not, so Kedayan hutan (forest) is utan in Brunei Malay;[12] and Kedayan does not have /r/, so Malay rumah (house) is umah in Kedayan.[13]

Notable people

  • Sapawi Ahmad – Malaysia representative for Sipitang constituency
  • Ahmad Lai Bujang – Malaysia representative for Sibuti constituency
  • Dr. Yusof Yacob - Former Sabah State Minister.
  • Matbali Musah - Malaysia representative for Sipitang constituency.
  • Pengiran Ahmad Raffae – The second of The head of State of Sabah


  1. Ahmad Ibrahim; Sharon Siddique; Yasmin Hussain (1985). Readings on Islam in Southeast Asia. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. pp. 312–. ISBN 978-9971-988-08-1.
  2. James Alexander (2006). Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. New Holland Publishers. pp. 367–. ISBN 978-1-86011-309-3.
  3. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Brunei (2006). Kamus Kedayan-Melayu Melayu-Kedayan. Berakas: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Brunei, p. xi.
  4. Shiv Shanker Tiwary & P.S. Choudhary (1 January 2009). Encyclopedia Of Southeast Asia And Its Tribes (Set Of 3 Vols.). Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd. ISBN 978-81-261-3837-1.
  5. Michael Zanko; Matt Ngui (1 January 2003). The Handbook of Human Resource Management Policies and Practices in Asia-Pacific Economies. Edward Elgar Pub. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-1-84064-751-8.
  6. A. Suresh Canagarajah (15 January 2005). Reclaiming the Local in Language Policy and Practice. Routledge. pp. 227–. ISBN 978-1-135-62351-7.
  7. Julie K. King; John Wayne King (1984). Languages of Sabah: Survey Report. Department of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University. ISBN 978-0-85883-297-8.
  8. John Alexander Hammerton; Dr. Charles Hose (1922). Peoples of All Nations. Concept Publishing Company. ISBN 81-7268-156-9.
  9. Carl Skutsch (7 November 2013). Encyclopedia of the World's Minorities. Routledge. pp. 781–. ISBN 978-1-135-19388-1.
  10. Shiv Shanker Tiwary & Rajeev Kumar (2009). Encyclopaedia of Southeast Asia and Its Tribes, Volume 1. Anmol Publications. p. 216. ISBN 978-81-261-3837-1.
  11. Nothofer, B. (1991). The languages of Brunei Darussalam. In H. Steinhuaer (Ed.), Papers in Austronesian Linguistics (pp. 151–176). Canberra: Australian National University.
  12. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Brunei (2011). Daftar Leksikal 7 Dialek. Berakas: Dewan dan Pustaka Brunei.
  13. Faahirah, R., & Deterding, D. (2019). The pronunciation of Kedayan, South East Asia: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 19, 78–85. On-line Version
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