Peranakan Tionghoa / Peranakan Chinese and Baba-Nyonya are terms used for the descendants of the 15th through 17th-century Chinese immigrants to the Indonesian archipelago and British Malaya (now Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore).
Members of this community in Malacca, Malaysia address themselves as "Nyonya Baba". Nyonya is the term for the women and Baba for the men. It applies especially to the ethnic Chinese populations of the British Straits Settlements of Malaya and the Dutch-controlled island of Java and other locations, who have adopted Nusantara customs â€” partially or in full â€” to be somewhat assimilated into the local communities.
Many were the elites of Singapore, more loyal to the British than to China. Most have lived for generations along the straits of Malacca and most have a lineage where intermarriage with the local Indonesians and Malays have taken place. They were usually traders, the middleman of the British and the Chinese, or the Chinese and Malays, or vice versa because they were mostly English educated.
Because of this, they almost always had the ability to speak two or more languages. In later generations, some lost the ability to speak Chinese as they became assimilated to the Malay Peninsula's culture and started to speak Malay fluently as a first or second language.
While the term Peranakan is most commonly used among the ethnic Chinese for those of Chinese descent also known as Straits Chinese (named after the Straits Settlements; Tionghoa-Selat or Tionghoa Peranakan in Indonesian; Phuket Baba among Thais in Phuket, Thailand), there are also other, comparatively small Peranakan communities, such as Indian Hindu Peranakans (Chitty), Indian Muslim Peranakans (Jawi Pekan) (Jawi being the Javanised Arabic script, Pekan a colloquial contraction of Peranakan) and Eurasian Peranakans (Kristang) (Kristang = Christians of Portuguese and Asian ancestry).
The group has parallels to the Cambodian Hokkien, who are descendants of Hoklo Chinese, and the Pashu of Myanmar, a Burmese word for the Peranakan or Straits Chinese who have settled in Myanmar. They maintained their culture partially despite their native language gradually disappearing a few generations after settlement.