7 Most common Animal idioms in Thai | Part 2

by | Aug 28, 2020 | idioms, Thai

Thai people love to use animal proverbs. Here I list down another 7 animal idioms / proverbs that I learned since I was a child and which I am absolutely certain that every Thai person knows.

I also wrote a part 1 article of 7 animal proverbs. Please check it out.

ขี่ช้างจับตั๊กแตน kèe cháang jàp dták-gà-dtaen

Literal meaning: Ride an elephant to catch grasshoppers.

Actual meaning: You are investing a lot to get a small return.


If you want to catch a grasshopper you can do it easily without riding an elephant. Riding an elephant is obviously too much effort, too much time spent, and the least efficient way possible to get such a small return (grasshopper).


  • Investing a hundred million but only get back a bit. It’s like “Ride an elephant to catch grasshoppers”
    ลงทุนไปตั้งเป็นร้อยล้านแต่ได้กลับมานิดเดียวเอง เหมือนกับขี่ช้างจับตั๊กแตน
    long tun bpai dtâng bpen rói-láan dtàe dâai glàp maa nít dieow ayng · mĕuan gàp kèe cháang jàp dták-gà-dtaen

ใจดีสู้เสือ jai dee sôo sĕua

Literal meaning: Be kind to fight against a tiger

Actual meaning: To act or try to be brave when facing something frightening


A tiger is a scary animal. It can attack you, it can hurt you, it can kill you. It frightens you but against all odds, you can be brave against the danger.


  • Mike Tyson is very scary boxer. Another fighter has to “stay brave and pretend not to be afraid” although he is trembling.
    ไมค์ไทสันเป็นนักมวยที่น่ากลัวมาก นักมวยอีกฝ่ายหนึ่งต้องทำใจดีสู้เสือแม้ว่าจะกลัวจนตัวสั่น
    mai tai săn bpen nák muay têe nâa glua mâak · nák muay èek fàai nèung dtông tam jai dee sôo sĕua máe wâa jà glua jon dtua sàn

ไม่ดูตาม้าตาเรือ mâi doo dtaa máa dtaa reua

Literal meaning: Not looking at the horse’s square and the boat’s square (related to Chinese Chess)

Actual meaning: Reckless, and not careful

If you have seen or play Chinese chess you will know that two of the most important pieces are the horse which can move in L shape and the boat which can move horizontally throughout the checkerboard. They are very strategic, so if you do not look carefully at the square that the enemy’s horse or the boat can get to, you can easily be prone to checkmate.


  • Walking without “being careful” like this, you will get crashed by a car.
    dern mâi doo dtaa máa dtaa reua bàep née dĭeow gôr rót chon ròk

ดูช้างให้ดูหาง ดูนางให้ดูแม่ doo cháang-hâi doo hăang · doo naang hâi doo mâe

Literal meaning: When looking at an elephant, look at its tail. When looking at a woman, look at her mother.

Actual meaning: This proverb is used when a man is trying to find a good wife. It is best to look at her mother. How she is and her behavior has a big influence on her daughter.


Just like the term “like father, like son”. Children are very much like their parents in many ways from behavior, habits, the way they speak, or what they are really like deep inside.


  • Before marrying, meet her family first. The Thai proverb says “When looking at an elephant, look at its tail. When looking at a woman, look at her mother”.
    ก่อนจะแต่งงานกันก็ไปรู้จักครอบครัวเขาก่อนนะ สุภาษิตไทยบอกไว้ว่าดูช้างให้ดูหาง ดูนางให้ดูแม่
    gòn jà dtàeng ngaan gan gôr bpai róo jàk krôp krua kăo gòn ná · sù-paa-sìt-tai bòk wái wâa doo cháang-hâi doo hăang · doo naang hâi doo mâe

ช้างตายทั้งตัวเอาใบบัวปิดไม่มิด cháang-dtaai táng dtua ao bai bua-bpìt mâi mít 

Literal meaning: A dead elephant can’t be completely covered by a lotus leaf.

Actual meaning: A big wrongdoing or severe evil deed that happened can’t be a secret forever. Even if you try to cover it, someone will know about it sooner or later.


Elephants are the biggest land animal. You can not hide them or cover them up to destroy the evidence because they are too big to be covered up.


  • A severe wrongdoing like this cannot be hidden. It’s like trying to “cover an elephant with a lotus leaf”.
    ความผิดร้ายแรงแบบนี้ซ่อนไม่ได้หรอกนะ ช้างตายทั้งตัวเอาใบบัวปิดไม่มิดหรอก
    kwaam-pìt-ráai-raeng bàep née sôn mâi dâai ròk ná · cháang-dtaai táng dtua ao bai bua-bpìt mâi mít ròk

นกน้อยทำรังแต่พอตัว nok nói tam rang dtàe por dtua

Literal meaning: Little bird build the nest just enough for himself.

Actual meaning: This proverb is usually used when talking about using money. If you are not rich then you shouldn’t buy a big house. You judge your ability and decide what you should and shouldn’t do appropriately.


Birds always make a nest just enough for them to live comfortably. Bigger birds build bigger nests, smaller birds build smaller nests. We as humans should look at birds and learn from them.


  • My dad taught me we should live sufficiently. It’s like how a “Little bird builds the nest just enough for himself”. That way we don’t become indebted.
    พ่อสอนฉันว่าเราควรอยู่อย่างพอเพียง เหมือนนกน้อยทำรังแต่พอตัว จะได้ไม่เป็นหนี้คนอื่น
    pôr sŏn chăn wâa rao kuan yòo yàang por piang · mĕuan noknói tam rang dtàe por dtua · jà dâai mâi bpen nêe kon èun

ปลาตายน้ำตื้น bplăa-dtaai nám-dtêun

Literal meaning: Fish dies on shallow water

Actual meaning: A person that made a small mistake which leads to a tragic event such as losing a job, money, death, etc.


Fishes swim so well in deep water. They live so freely with little chance of dying. But if the fish is not careful and it comes to shallow water, it can be vulnerable to hunters or fishermen. This means that you can’t be reckless if you don’t want to be dead like the fish in shallow water.

Let’s take one example from a real story. Imagine a Thai pop star who is on his way to success but then someone posted a clip of him smashing a car with a bat from anger. Society criticized him and didn’t give him a second chance to become famous. After that, he receives no more job offer.


  • Whatever you do, don’t be careless. Or you will be like a “fish that dies in shallow water”.
    ทำอะไรต้องระวัง อย่าประมาท เดี๋ยวจะเป็นปลาตายน้ำตื้น
    tam à-rai dtông rá-wang · yàa bprà-màat · dĭeow jà bpen bplăa-dtaai nám-dtêun

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