The origin of the name Sabah is uncertain, and there are many theories that have arisen. One theory is that during the time it was part of the Bruneian Sultanate, it was referred to as Saba because of the presence of pisang saba, a type of banana, found on the coasts of the region.
Due to the location of Sabah in relation to Brunei, it has been suggested that Sabah was a Bruneian Malay word meaning upstream or the northern side of the river. Another theory suggests that it came from the Malay word sabak which means a place where palm sugar is extracted. Sabah is also an Arabic word which means sunrise. The presence of multiple theories makes it difficult to pinpoint the true origin of the name.
It has been said that Sabah was once referred to as Seludang in a 1365 Javanese text known as Nagarakretagama written by Mpu Prapanca.