Numerous differing accounts describe the origin of the name Bukit Batok. Bukit means “hill” in Malay, thus the name of the town gives the impression of it being hilly. Batok, however, has several interpretations.
One version has it that, according to a Javanese village chief in the tiny village of Gassing, coconut trees grew on the hills in the area. Hence the name batok, the Javanese term for coconuts.
The Chinese interpretation is that the hills were formed from solid granite, which is called batu in Malay, and this was corrupted to bato and finally batok. Another story has it that the hill resembles a skull top and batok could also be construed to mean “skull top”.
Others believe that batok, the Malay word for cough, is linked to the place either because of its cool air (causing coughs and colds), or due to the sound of explosives historically used at its granite quarry, Little Guilin.