Dato vs Datuk
If you are not a Malaysian or do not understand Malay language, it might be hard for you to understand the difference between Dato and Datuk. Malay language has many honorific titles that are hard to understand, especially to a stranger or one who is not accustomed to their customs and traditions. Malaysia and Brunei are two countries where one finds heavy use of titles. In fact, one can find many people with such titles in countries like Indonesia and Singapore too. In this article, we shall confine ourselves to differentiating between Dato and Datuk, the two titles popular in Malaysia.
Malaysia has a system of granting titles to people where the wife of the title holder can use the same title in a feminine version. However, if a woman is the title holder, her husband is not entitled to use the title for himself. Let us now focus on finding more about Dato and Datuk.
What is Datuk?
Datuk is an honorary title given to people who have done great service to the country. Datuk is a title that is granted at the federal level, and it is being given for the last 50 years now. Generally, people who have been conferred PJN or PSD are referred to as Datuk, and it is normal to find up to 200 PJN or PSD living at any given time in the country.
If one looks at the ranks of federal awards, PJN and PSD rank 9th and 10th among such awards given at thefederal level. If a man is called Datuk, his wife is referred to as Datin. That means the feminine version of Datuk is Datin. The title is also given to females and then it becomes Datin Paduka. The husband of the Datin Paduka cannot use the title in a male version likea wife of a Datuk does.
Datuk is a non-hereditary title. It means once the title holder dies, his heir cannot use the title taking the father’s place.
What is Dato?
Dato is another honorific title conferred by the rulers of the state as against Datuk, which is awarded at the federal level. This is a title reserved for people who have contributed significantly for the society, but is not a federal title but granted at the state level. Dato is given by a state leader who is not chosen by the state legislature. This leader is a hereditary leader, a Sultan. The wife of a person awarded Dato is also known as Datin. That means the female version of Dato is also Datin. Then, if a female is awarded with Dato because of the great service she has done, then the title changes to Datin Paduka.
Normally, this title Dato is also not hereditary. That means once the person who was awarded the title dies, his heir cannot use the title as his father did. However, in the state of Negeri Sembilan, hereditary Datos exist. There once the title holder dies, his heir gets to use that title. However, this is not a title awarded by the state ruler. Rather this title passes from one to the other according to customary native laws.
What is the difference between Dato and Datuk?
• Kind of Titles:
• Dato is an honorary title.
• Datuk is also an honorary title.
• Feminine form:
• Wife of a Dato is Datin.
• Wife of a Datuk is also Datin.
• Females who have received Dato or Datuk are known as Datin Paduka.
• Dato is not a hereditary title. In some states, there exists a hereditary Dato title.
• Datuk is also not a hereditary title.
• To whom they are offered:
• Dato is offered to common people of Malaysia who have done great service to the society in any form.
• Datuk is also given to people in Malaysia who have done great service to the society in any form.
• Both titles can be awarded to foreigners too.
• Who grants them:
• Dato can be granted by a hereditary Royal ruler of one of the nine states.
• Datuk is conferred at the federal level by Agong or a state ruler without a Sultan.
As you can see, both Dato and Datuk are honorary titles given to ordinary people for the service they have done. Dato is awarded at the state level while Datuk is awarded at the federal level.
- Datuk Anifah bin Haji Aman by via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
- Dato Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak by Andrew c (CC BY-SA 3.0)