Different Names Of Ho Chi Minh City

Different Names Of Ho Chi Minh City - Student Exchange Vietnam

Did you know that before it was named after one of the most talented and respected revolutionary leaders in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City used to have different names? How many other names of Ho Chi Minh City do you know? Let’s go back to the past with us and discover all about the history of this city’s titles over time.

As you might know, the most dynamic metropolitan area of Vietnam has gone by several different names during its history. These changes in names reflect settlement by different ethnic, cultural, and political groups. Feeling curious to know what these names are? We have you. Here are some of the many names that people used to call the city of Ho Chi Minh in the past:

Prey Nôkôr

This might be the most historic and unfamiliar title that Ho Chi Minh City has. During the Khmer Empire, the city was a part of the Khmer Empire and was originally known as Prey Nôkôr.

The area where present-day Ho Chi Minh City is located was likely to have been inhabited long since prehistory. The empire of Funan and later Chenla maintained a presence in the Mekong Delta for centuries. The city was known as Prey Nôkôr to the Khmer Empire, which likely maintained a settlement centuries before its rise in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Prey Nokor - Student Exchange Vietnam

So, what does it mean? We can find the most popular interpretation of the name, supported by former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk. The word “prey” means forest or jungle. “Nôkôr,” which is a Khmer word of Sanskrit origin, means city or kingdom. Therefore, it suggests that the name means “forest city” or “forest kingdom.”

Currently, in the Khmer language, the name “Krŭng Prey Nôkôr” is used to refer to Ho Chi Minh City.

Gia Định

The name Prey Nôkôr, along with Cambodia’s rule over the area, remained until the 1690s. Later, the Nguyen rulers of Hue Imperial City sent Nguyen Huu Canh, a Vietnamese noble, to establish Vietnam’s administrative structures in the Mekong Delta and its surroundings. This act formally detached the area from Cambodia, which found itself too weak to intervene due to its ongoing conflict with Thailand.

After that, the region was placed firmly under Vietnamese administrative control. Thereby, the Prey Nôkôr became “Gia Định,” Ho Chi Minh City’s official name, until the 19th century.

Gia Dinh - Student Exchange Vietnam

Sài Gòn

Later on, French control over the city in 1859 discarded the name “Gia Định” and replaced it with the name “Sài Gòn,” or Saigon, as you might feel more familiar.

Saigon is the most popular among the other names of Ho Chi Minh City. Nowadays, the majority of Vietnamese people are still using it. Therefore, it might cause a rather confusing affair for foreigners arriving in South Vietnam. Even the airport code itself is SGN (Saigon). Yet, the signs on the way into the city center proudly welcome you to Ho Chi Minh City.

Now, when you are finally in the hood, you’ll hear half of the population calling it ‘Ho Chi Minh City’ while the other half refers to it as ‘Saigon’. So, why is that?

From the 1620s, Vietnamese refugees fleeing the Trịnh-Nguyễn War gradually settled in Prey Nôkôr. In 1623, Khmer King Chey Chettha II allowed the Vietnamese to settle in the area, which they colloquially referred to as Sài Gòn, and to set up a custom house at Prey Nôkôr. Unfortunately, the increasing waves of Vietnamese settlers overwhelmed the Khmer Kingdom. Moreover, it had already weakened due to the war with Thailand. As a result, it slowly turned into a Vietnamese area.

Upon capturing the city during the Cochinchina Campaign in 1859, the French officially westernized the city’s traditional name into “Saigon” (French: Saïgon). Since the time of the original Vietnamese settlement, the informal name of Sài Gòn has remained in daily speech. Apart from official matters, it is still the most common way to refer to the city inside Vietnam, despite an official name change after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

Saigon - Student Exchange Vietnam

Sài Gòn is still used to refer to the central district, District 1. Furthermore, Sai Gon Railway Station in District 3, the main railway station serving the city, retains the name. The name is also found in company names, book titles, and even on airport departure boards: the IATA code for Tan Son Nhat International Airport is SGN.

Ho Chi Minh City

At the end of the Vietnam War, to celebrate the reunification of North and South, the city had its name changed from Saigon to “Hồ Chí Minh.” As you might realize, this is the name of the communist revolutionary leader who made the greatest contribution to uniting the country.

Different Names Of Ho Chi Minh City - Student Exchange Vietnam

Since then, Ho Chi Minh City (often shortened to HCMC, HCM, or HCMc in writing) is the new official name of the city. However, many Vietnamese, particularly in the south, still use the term “Saigon” to refer to this city. Despite official mandates, the label “Saigon” maintains its popularity in daily speech. Why? Many say it’s much shorter to use Saigon. Meanwhile, many say the name Saigon reminds them of the East’s charming pearl that the city once was.

If you want to visit Ho Chi Minh City and learn more about its intriguing history stories, we recommend joining tours by locals, such as Saigon Locals Travel, Culture Pham Travel, etc.

Different Names Of Ho Chi Minh City - Student Exchange Vietnam

So which former name of Ho Chi Minh City do you prefer? Or is its current official name perfect for this biggest city in Vietnam? Throughout Vietnamese history, Ho Chi Minh City has undergone many changes, including its names. Prey Nokor, Gia Dinh, Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City reflect different times and events occurring there. We hope that our explanation of Ho Chi Minh City’s names satisfies your queries. Thanks for reading.

Student Exchange Vietnam