Bedok is one of the early native place names in existence around the time of Sir Stamford Raffles. In the first comprehensive map of Singapore Island completed by Frankin and Jackson and reproduced in John Crawfurd’s 1828 book, the place name appears on the south east coast of the island as a river, Badok S. (Sungei Bedok), around the “small red cliff”, a part of present Tanah Merah.
The Malay word bedoh refers to a very large drum, used for calling people to a mosque for prayers or to sound the alarm in the days before loudspeakers. There was a prominent mosque in the 1950s at Jalan Bilal that still used the drum about five times a day. The “h” in the word bedoh was replaced with a “k”, and, as with most Malay words that end with a “k”, it is pronounced with an inaudible glottal stop.
A less popular theory for its etymology often refers to the Malay term of biduk, a small fishing boat like the sampan, or more likely, a dugout canoe, as the east coast was dotted with many fishing villages.