Most Chinese settlement of Taipa occurred during the Southern Song Dynasty, while the Portuguese occupied the island in 1851. Prior to land reclamation, Taipa consisted of two islands: Greater Taipa and Lesser Taipa.
Taipa is predominantly a growing residential area with many new apartment complexes, mostly up-scale, under construction as of 2006. As a new town of Macau, Taipa has better city planning than Macau Peninsula; however, many people choose to live in Macau Peninsula since most of the famous schools are located there (apart from the newer International School of Macao, which is the premier international school in Macau).
In Cantonese, Taipa has been known by many names over time, including 龍環 (Lung Waan, meaning "Dragon Ring"), 雞頸 (Gai Geng, "Chicken's neck"), 潭仔 (Tam Tsai, "Pool"), and 龍頭環 (Lung Tau Waan, "Dragon's-Head Ring").
The Portuguese and English name "Taipa" comes from the Chinese pronunciation of 氹仔 in Min Nan /tiap-á/ (similar to "tiamp-a") then became "Taipa". The putonghuapinyin for 氹仔 is dàngzǎi, and this is how the island is referred to in Mandarin. Both the character 氹 and the alternative form 凼 mean cesspit, but are obsolete in modern Chinese, and only used in relation to Taipa and the Macau-Taipa Bridge (澳氹大桥 àodàng dàqiáo). The character 氹, or 凼, is often missing from mobile phone and computer input systems.
Another version according to legend, comes from an exchange between early Portuguese settlers on Taipa and local Chinese settlers. The Portuguese asked the Chinese the name (nome in Portuguese) of the place. The Chinese settlers were local grocery shopkeepers and spoke no Portuguese, but took the Portuguese nome for the Chinese 糯米, "sticky rice", which is pronounced similar to nome in Cantonese. Thinking the Portuguese settlers were asking if they sold sticky rice, the Chinese responded with "大把," pronounced "daai ba" in Cantonese, meaning "a lot." The Portuguese, hearing the response, took this to be the name of the place. There is, however, no historical evidence to support this story. "Taipa" is also what the Portuguese call the clay-mud, rammed into moulds, used to build mud houses in Portugal in times gone by, in recent times referred to as Rammed Earth.
It is also worth noting that, as the great majority of the population in Taipa and Macau is Chinese, however there is a growing community of expatriates living in Taipa who work at the Casinos on the Cotai Strip. Most people refer to this island by its Cantonese name, "Tamzai", and most taxi drivers and bus drivers will not understand if asked how to go to "Taipa."