How to say cold in Thai | Difference between หนาว and เย็น

by | Dec 11, 2020 | Thai, Vocabulary

There are 2 words that mean cold in Thai. In this lesson, we will take a look at the uses of หนาว (năao) and เย็น (yen). Also, we will take a look at some examples together. Let’s get started.

Cold in Thai

When talking about the weather and temperature

When it comes to weather, เย็น (yen) is considered cool. ‘cool’ as in refreshing rather than cold. When someone says หนาว (năao) it means that it’s becoming very cold like unbearable and not likable.

Below is an explanation of the degrees of extremely hot to extremely cold. This is according to Thai’s general definition. If you are from a cold country our อากาศเย็น (aa-gàat yen) will most likely be turned in to your อากาศร้อน (aa-gàat rón) 😛

  1. Extremely hot is considered 40°C (104°F) and higher: อากาศร้อนจัด (aa-gàat rón jàt)
  2. Hot is considered 35-40°C (95-104°F): อากาศร้อน (aa-gàat rón)
  3. Cool is considered 16-23°C (60.8-73.4°F): อากาศเย็น (aa-gàat yen)
  4. Cold is considered 8-16°C (46.4-60.8°F: อากาศหนาว (aa-gàat năao)
  5. Extremely cold is considered lower than 8 °C (46.4°F): อากาศหนาวจัด (aa-gàat năao jàt)


  • During December, in the evening, the weather is quite cool, but not as cold as in Mongolia.
    ช่วงเดือนธันวาคม ตอนเย็นๆ อากาศค่อนข้างเย็นแต่ไม่หนาวเหมือนประเทศมองโกเลีย
    chûang deuan tan-waa kom · dton-yen yen · aa-gàat kôn kâang yen dtàe mâi năao mĕuan bprà-tâyt mong-goh-lia

💡 Please note: Another definition of เย็น (yen) is to say “evening”.

When talking about food and other objects

หนาว (năao) is solely used when talking about the weather! All other cases use เย็น (yen) when referring to cold. Let’s take a look together.

  • Eat quickly, when the food gets cold it’s not delicious
    รีบกินเร็วๆ อาหารเย็นแล้วไม่อร่อยนะ
    rêep gin reo reo · aa-hăan yen láew mâi à-ròi ná

  • Why is your hands this cold?
    tam-mai meu yen yàang née

  • I like to drink cold water
    chôp dèum náam yen

* Note that ใจเย็น jai yen (ใจ = heart) doesn’t mean cold-hearted. It’s actually means to be patient and calm. For more ใจ words please visit our article.

I hope you now know how to say cold in the Thai language and how to use เย็น (yen) and หนาว (năao) correctly.

To summarize, หนาว (năao) is used only to talk about cold weather. All the other meanings of cold (such as a cold object) uses เย็น (yen).

Please take care and I will see you in the next article.

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