National coat of arms (State crest)
The national coat of arms, also known as the state crest, symbolises Singapore as a self-governing and independent state. Like the national flag, the state crest was designed by a committee headed by then Deputy Prime Minister Toh Chin Chye.1 Singapore’s state crest consists of a red shield bearing a white crescent moon and five white stars, supported by a lion and a tiger. Below the shield is a banner inscribed with “Majulah Singapura” (Malay for “Onward Singapore”).2 The state crest was launched on 3 December 1959 at the installation of Yusof bin Ishak as the Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Head of State).3
The state crest consists of a shield emblazoned with a white crescent moon and five white stars on a red background. Below the shield is a banner with the words “Majulah Singapura”. Supporting the shield are a lion on the left and a tiger on the right.4
The colour red symbolises universal brotherhood and equality of man, while white signifies pervading and everlasting purity and virtue. The crescent moon signifies a country eternally young, and the five stars represent the ideals of Singapore – democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality. The lion represents Singapore, while the tiger symbolises the close economic and political ties between Singapore and the then Federation of Malaya.5
Immediately after Singapore gained self-government in 1959, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew assigned the task of designing the state flag and state crest to a committee headed by Toh.6
Toh wanted the national symbols to portray the unique identity of Singapore – the unity of a multiracial and multicultural country. With this foremost in his mind, Toh and his committee completed the design of the state flag and state crest in two months.7
The bill for the state crest, national flag and national anthem was moved by then Minister for Culture S. Rajaratnam and approved by the State Assembly in November 1959.8 The national symbols were unveiled on 3 December 1959 during the installation of Yusof bin Ishak as the Yang di-Pertuan Negara of Singapore at the City Hall Chambers.9
Guidelines on the use of the state crest
The National Heritage Board oversees the guidelines for usage of the symbol.
The guidelines are as follows:10
1. The use of the state crest for advertisements or any other commercial purpose is prohibited by law. Only government bodies may display the state crest within their premises. Approval must be sought for any other use of the state crest.
2. The state crest must be treated with respect and be displayed in a dignified manner.
1. “No Conflict, Clear-Cut Symbol of Unity,” Straits Times, 9 August 1981, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Singapore. Legislative Assembly, State Arms and Flag and National Anthem of the State of Singapore, Singapore. Legislative Assembly new series no. 2 (Singapore: [s.n.], 1959). (Call no. RSING 929.8 SIN)
3. “Singapore Rejoices,” Straits Times, 4 December 1959, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Singapore. Legislative Assembly, State Arms and Flag.
5. Singapore. Legislative Assembly, Singapore State Arms and Flag and National Anthem Bill, vol. 11 of Debates: Official Report, 11 November 1959, cols. 740–741 (Call no. RSING 328.5957 SIN); Singapore. Legislative Assembly, State Arms and Flag.
6. “No Conflict, Clear-Cut Symbol of Unity.”
7. “No Conflict, Clear-Cut Symbol of Unity,”
8. Singapore Legislative Assembly, Singapore State Arms and Flag, col. 739.
9. “Singapore Rejoices.”
10. “National Coat of Arms,” National Heritage Board, last updated 5 August 2021.
The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.
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