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Total population
c. 27.8 million
Regions with significant populations
Majority populations
Malaysia14,749,378 (2010 estimate)[1]
Brunei261,902 (2010 estimate)[2]
Indonesia8,789,585 (2010 estimate)[3][4]
Thailand3,354,475 (2010 estimate)[5][6]
653,449 (2010 estimate)[7][8]
Malay, Indonesian, Yawi, Thai, English
Sunni Islam, small groups of Christians and Buddhists

The Malays (Malay: Melayu, Jawi: Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Language/data/iana scripts' not found.) are an Austronesian ethnic group in Southeast Asia. They mainly live in the Malay Peninsula and many parts of the Malay Archipelago, including Brunei, Singapore, Borneo and eastern Sumatra. The Malay language is one of the major languages of the world. Their religion was animist and a mix of other Chinese religions at first but now they are mostly Muslims. They use wood for most of their traditional villages which are called "kampongs".

Malays make up a majority of Malaysia and Brunei's populations. They make a significant populations in Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia.


Most ethnic Malays speak one or more of the many dialects (versions) of the Malay language, a language of the Austronesian family of languages. In Indonesia, the standardized form of Malay is Indonesian (Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Language/data/iana scripts' not found.). In Malaysia, the standard form is called Malaysian (Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Language/data/iana scripts' not found.. About 80% of their words mean the same thing in either dialect. These naming policies were created to form national unities in the two countries instead of making the Malays a ruling influence or the ruling class, something that it is in Brunei. In Brunei, Thailand and Singapore it is known as Bahasa Melayu.

Today, the language is usually written a version of the Roman alphabet, called Rumi. Malay written using the Arabic alphabet is called Jawi, which is mostly used in official and religious contexts. Jawi is more common than Rumi in very conservative Muslim areas like Kelantan in Malaysia and Pattani in Thailand.


  1. EPU – Population by sex, ethnic group and age, Malaysia,2010
  2. CIA – The World Factbook – Brunei
  3. "Hasil Sensus Penduduk 2010 Data Agregat per Provinsi" (PDF) (in Indonesia). Badan Pusat Statistika. Retrieved 2010-08-27.CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
  4. Figure obtained based on the percentage of Malays in 2000 census and the total Indonesian population in 2010 census
  5. CIA – World Factbook – Thailand
  6. World Directory of Minorities – Malays
  7. CIA – World Factbook – Singapore
  8. Singapore: Population Size and Growth