As a central commercial hub in Petaling Jaya and one of the most densely populated areas in Malaysia, Damansara is undoubtedly a name that is familiar to most Malaysians
However, it wasn't until the late 19th century that Damansara was known as such. In fact, the name is likely to have originated from a place previously known as "Damar Sara".
This interesting piece of history was brought to public attention by Facebook user Redza Ibrahim. He also cited a passage from a SkyscraperCity forum thread that said Damar Sara used to house an ancient stone jetty and landing area (pengkalan batu) that were utilised as a tin mining post.
Here's where it gets even more interesting - the area defining Damar Sara is quite different from that of current day Damansara. In fact, a map of Selangor from 1882 placed Damar Sara in the vicinity of modern-day Seksyen 23, Shah Alam.
It is said that Damar Sara became "Damansara" sometime in the 1890s when a land registrar mistook the letter "r" as "n", and wrongly merged the original two-word name
The spelling error probably occurred when Sir William Maxwell (then British Resident of Selangor) implemented the Torrens system of land registration pursuant to the Selangor Registration of Titles Regulations of 1891, hence why maps of the state prior to 1891 contained the name Damar Sara.
This also explains why the name "Damansara" does not have any meaning; it is, after all, a spelling mistake. However, the original name has a specific meaning in old Malay and Sanskrit - "damar" is a type of resin obtained from a tropical tree, while "sara" means precious or important in Sanskrit.
A river north of Damar Sara was subsequently named after the wrongly-spelled "Damansara" (Sungai Damansara), which then became the origin of the Damansara commune (mukim) we know today
The area defined as Damansara has also changed over time. Before 1974, the mukim of Damansara was part of Klang and covered areas like Shah Alam, Subang Jaya, Bandar Sunway, Kelana Jaya, Kota Kemuning, and parts of Putra Heights.
Since then, the areas that make up Damansara have moved to the northern part of Petaling Jaya's municipal area, bordered by Kelana Jaya in the South, Kepong/Sungai Buloh in the north, and Segambut in the east. Today, Damansara houses bustling townships around Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur such as Damansara Utama, Mutiara Damansara, TTDI, Bukit Damansara, and more.
The "Damansara" name is not just well-known in Malaysia, it has also inspired a band name from France. FRANCE, you guys: