Penghulu (Jawi: ڤڠهولو; also Pěnghulu) is the headman or chief of a region in traditional Indonesian and Malay society. The term is currently used in Brunei and Malaysia as the community leader of the smaller country subdivision or settlement.
Traditionally, the Minangkabau who at the end of the 17th century settled at Negeri Sembilan, in present-day Malaysia, chose from among themselves a penghulu. Several of these penghulus, notably that of Sungai Ujong, Jelebu, Johol and Rembau, became powerful enough to dominate other penghulus. By the early part of the 18th century, the leaders of these four districts started calling themselves Undang.
Between 1821 and 1838 (the Padri War), many Penghulus had allied themselves with Dutch interests in fighting off Wahabite-inspired, Islamic extremism in the area.
In Brunei, penghulu is an administrative post and is the community leader of a mukim or subdistrict, the second-level administrative division below district which consists of several towns or locally known as kampong (village) (Malay: daerah).