The Malays originated in Yunnan, China. They Proto-Malays were also known as Jakun.
They were seafaring people. Probably because of their seafaring way of life or trading, they were believed to have lived in coastal Borneo. They then expanded into Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. A Portuguese historian, Godinho de Eredia, referred to the Malays as Saletes (Orang Selat, or People of the Straits).
The Malays played a major part in the Making of great Malay empires of Malacca and Johor. Present day Malays of the Peninsula and the coasts of the Malay Archipelago are described anthropologically as deutero-Malays. They are descendants of the tribal proto-Malays mixed with modern Indian, Thai, Arab and Chinese blood.