A-Ma Temple was probably already standing when the Portuguese arrived, although the present structure may date from the 16th century. It was here that fisherfolk once came to replenish supplies and pray for fair weather. A-Ma (aka Tin Hau and Mazu) is a sea goddess from whom the name Macau is derived. It's believed that when the Portuguese asked the locals the name of the place, they were told ‘A-Ma Gau’ (A-Ma Bay).

In modern Cantonese, ‘Macau’ (pronounced 'Ou Mun') means ‘gateway of the bay’.