7 Most common Animal idioms in Thai | Part 3

by | Aug 29, 2020 | idioms, Thai

Thai people love to use animal proverbs. Here I list 7 more 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 and part 2. Please check them out.

เห็นช้างขี้ขี้ตามช้าง hĕn cháang kêe kêe dtaam cháang

Literal meaning: See elephant poop and imitate the elephant

Actual meaning: The act of imitating what someone is doing though not having enough resources or money to do so. (Keeping up with the Joneses)


This proverb came from the fact that when elephant poop, the quantity of the poop is so much more than what humans can do. It’s not possible for us to imitate.


  • In our society, some people see rich people do stuff and they want to imitate. These people are “keeping up with the Joneses”.
    ในสังคมเรามีพวกที่เห็นคนรวยทำอะไร แล้วก็อยากทำตาม พวกนี้เป็นพวกเห็นช้างขี้ขี้ตามช้างทั้งนั้น
    nai săng-kom rao mee pûak têe hĕn kon ruay tam à-rai · láew gôr yàak tam dtaam · pûak-née bpen pûak hĕn cháang kêe kêe dtaam cháang táng nán

แมงเม่าบินเข้ากองไฟ maeng mâo bin kâo gong fai

Literal meaning: Moth flying into fire

Actual meaning: Loving or liking something so much and thinking that it’s good. Before you know it, you are speeding into the danger which in the end causes you harm. Like a moth always flying into the fire which kills them.


This proverb is taken from the nature of a tussock moth that likes to fly around the fire. Fire looks attractive to them and they have fun flying around it until it’s too late. They fly into the fire and get burned to death


  • If you want to invest, you should study well. If not, then you will be like a “moth flying into the fire”.
    ถ้าจะลงทุนอะไร ควรศึกษาให้ดี ถ้าไม่อย่างนั้นจะเป็นเหมือนแมงเม่าบินเข้ากองไฟ
    tâa jà long tun à-rai · kuan sèuk-săa hâi dee · tâa mâi yàang nán jà bpen mĕuan maeng mâo bin kâo gong fai

รักวัวให้ผูก รักลูกให้ตี rák wua hâi pòok rák lôok hâi dtee

Literal meaning: If you love your cow, tie it. If you love your kids, spank them

Actual meaning: When your children did something wrong, you should teach them, give them a lesson and punish them as needed. All of this is done from love, wishing that the children will turn out to be a good person.


If you don’t tie a cow, it will either get stolen or walk away and disappear. If you don’t want bad things to happen to your cow you must tie them. Just like how kids need to be disciplined. When they do something wrong, they shouldn’t go unpunished but instead get scolded or punished in some way.


  • I know you love your kids and don’t want to hit them. But they really did something wrong, remember “If you love your cow, tie it. If you love your kids, spank them”. Either way, you have to teach them.
    ฉันรู้ว่าเธอรักลูก ไม่อยากตี แต่ว่าเด็กทำผิดจริง จำไว้นะ รักวัวให้ผูกรักลูกให้ตี ยังไงก็ต้องสั่งสอน
    chăn róo wâa ter rák lôok · mâi yàak dtee · dtàe wâa dèk tam pìt jing · jam wái ná · rák wua hâi pòok rák lôok hâi dtee · yang ngai gôr dtông sàng sŏn

ราชสีห์สองตัวอยู่ด้วยกันไม่ได้ râat-chá-sĕe-sŏng-dtua yòo dûay gan mâi dâai

Literal meaning: Two lions can’t live together

Actual meaning: People that have equal power or influence can’t live or work together because they will fight.


When you look at the animal kingdom. In most cases there is only one alpha male. Sometimes there will be challenges from other equally strong ones that want to become the alpha. And in the end, after the battle, only one winner is left and becomes the Alpha. Same thing applies to humans.


  • I already know that one day these 2 people have to break up. “Two lions can’t live together”.
    ฉันรู้อยู่แล้วว่าสักวันสองคนนี้ต้องเลิกกัน ราชสีห์สองตัวอยู่ด้วยกันไม่ได้หรอก
    chăn róo yòo láew wâa sàk wan sŏng-kon dtông lêrk gan · râat-chá-sĕe-sŏng-dtua yòo dûay gan mâi dâai ròk

รู้งูๆปลาๆ róo ngoo ngoo bplaa bplaa

Literal meaning: To know snake snake fish fish

Actual meaning: To have a smattering knowledge of something. Not a deep knowledge or understanding.


In cloudy water (such as a canal or a watery rice field), for those that are not experienced, or those that don’t really know, it’s really hard to differentiate a fish from a snake. Some types of fish look so much like a snake. Therefore this proverb means to have knowledge just enough to know that it’s either fish or snake. But still can’t differentiate between the two. Meaning that person isn’t an expert yet.


  • I study Japanese. I am not good. I just “know snake snake fish fish”.
    ฉันเรียนภาษาญี่ปุ่นอยู่ ไม่เก่งหรอก รู้แค่งูๆปลาๆเท่านั้นเอง
    chăn rian paa-săa yêe-bpùn yòo · mâi gàyng ròk · róo kâe ngoo ngoo bplaa bplaa tâo nán ayng

ลิงยังตกต้นไม้ ling yang dtòk dtôn mái

Literal meaning: Even a monkey falls from a tree

Actual meaning: Everyone has a possibility of making a mistake no matter how expert or professional they are in that particular field.


Monkeys are known for their ability to move from tree to tree with ease. They have been doing that for years and years but just like how can fall from a tree accidentally, humans, no matter how professional we are, can make a mistake.


  • I know you are skilled. I know you are confident. But keep in mind “Even a monkey falls from a tree”.
    ฉันรู้ว่าเธอเก่ง รู้ว่าเธอมั่นใจ แต่ว่าจำไว้นะ ลิงยังตกต้นไม้ได้เลย
    chăn róo wâa ter gàyng · róo wâa ter mân jai · dtàe wâa jam wái ná · ling yang dtòk dtôn mái dâai loie

ฆ่าช้างเอางา kâa cháang ao ngaa

Literal meaning: Kill an elephant to get the ivory

Actual meaning. To destroy something that is precious to get something that has little value compared to what was destroyed, without even considering if it’s worthwhile or not.


Elephants are very respected animals in Thailand which bring good luck. Some people kill elephants just to get their ivory to sell it for money without thinking that the life of an elephant is worth so much more than the money from this illegal act.


  • Just because he wanted to show his anger so much he had to kill. Now he is in jail for a long time. Like the Thai saying “Kill an elephant to get the ivory”.
    เพียงเพื่อต้องการแสดงออกถึงความโกรธแค้น ถึงกับต้องฆ่ากัน ตอนนี้ติดคุกหัวโตไปแล้ว ตรงกับสำนวนไทยที่ว่าฆ่าช้างเอางา
    piang pêua dtông gaan sà-daeng òk tĕung kwaam gròht káen · tĕung gàp dtông kâa gan · dton-née dtìt kúk hŭa dtoh bpai láew · dtrong gàp săm-nuan-tai têe wâa kâa cháang ao ngaa

Sign up to my newsletter and get your free E book!


You will receive my E-book which contains useful phrases and expressions. You will also get corresponding audios so you can practice listening!

I will also keep you updated on new content and courses I make!