Why do all Thais have funny nicknames?

by | Aug 18, 2020 | Thai

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In this article, I will tell you about funny Thai nicknames and I will explain why parents name their kids that way.

Nicknames in Thai

If you have lived in Thailand, you must have learned how to say the animals in Thai:

  • ไก่ gài: Chicken

  • หมู mŏo: Pig

  • ปลา bplaa: Fish

  • ช้าง cháang: Elephant

But do you know that they are also nicknames? They are nicknames that parents give to kids. Yes, parents call their kids pigs and fishes. It sounds weird to non-Thais but sounds very normal among Thais. Let’s take a look at more animal names for people.

This list derives from my own experience, meaning I am writing names of people that I know here.

  • ปักเป้า bpàk bpâo: Blowfish

  • เป็ด bpèt: Duck

  • นก nók: Bird

  • เสือ  sĕua: Tiger

  • แมว maew: Cat

  • ผึ้ง pêung: Bee

  • กวาง gwaang: Deer

Nicknames don’t just have to be animal names, it can be something very random, very easy.

  • ไฟว fái (comes from the English ‘five’ because she was born on the 5th

  • เมย์ may (comes from the English word ‘may’ because she was born on the month of may)

  • ไนน์ nai (comes from the English word ‘nine’ because Rama 9 was a great king)

  • อันนา an naa (because mom likes to watch frozen)

  • รัก rák (because parents love each other)

  • โบ้ bôh (comes from English word ‘jumbo’ because he was born heavier than other kids)

  • บอล bon (because dad likes to play football)

  • บาส bàat (because dad likes to play basketball)

Usually, the nicknames are simple and only one or two syllables.

Real names

The question is why do parents give nicknames to kids? It’s because we all have a real name that is long, meaningful, and sometimes hard to pronounce or remember. That’s why all Thais also get a nickname.

For example, my brother’s real name is อภิพร (อภิ for big, พร for blessing).

Real names are so important that many families go to the temple to ask the monk to give the child his real name. Many times it’s the grandparents that get to name their grandchild, sometimes it’s the parents. Most of Thai real name has an influence from Sanskrit language.

The real name is often used in a more formal setting like in School or university. Where there are possibilities to have kids with the same nicknames. Teachers will check attendance using the real name.

Examples of real names in Thai

  • ภูริวัฒน์ poo rí wát: full of wisdom

  • วุฒิชัย wút-tí chai: victory and prosperity

  • อมิตโพธิ à mít dtà poh: has a lot of wisdom


I hope you enjoyed learning about nicknames in Thai and why all Thais have nicknames.

If you are a foreigner and your name is long, try to get a nickname. For example, if your name is Elizabeth then a good nickname could be El แอล.

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