What Are Some Common Thai Nicknames?

July 1, 2020

Do you have a nickname? Nicknames, which are shorter, descriptive names people give to others, are not uncommon for children in the West. More often than not, friends are the ones who give you a nickname, which they then refer to you as. From my knowledge, they may be seen as embarrassing for some. Thai nicknames are a bit different, however. They are used much more often and have more significance too. So what is it that makes them unique? That is what we will be looking into today. 


What Are Thai Nicknames Like?

Just for the purposes of clarification, nicknames, known as ‘chuu len’ (ชื่อเล่น) in Thai, play a slightly more prominent role in Thailand. Sure, many of us have a few friends which we have given nicknames based on certain characteristics. However, in Thailand, nicknames are generally given by parents or relatives when the child is born, alongside their ‘real’ name. 

There are a number of historical and cultural reasons for the prominence of Thai nicknames. However, we won’t be covering them all today as there are a number of different theories as to why this occurred.

The nicknames are often used more frequently than their real names. Parents, teachers, friends, and more will refer to them by this name. In fact, you may be referring to many of your Thai friends by their nickname rather than their proper name. I would imagine that even in some formal situations their nicknames may be used. In fact, some people may not even know their close friends ‘real’ names.

If you remember back to where we discussed Thai names before, they tend to be quite long. As such, shorter nicknames were given as a shorthand way of referring to people. They generally are not related to the ‘real’ name in any way, instead of being an extra name. To contrast with the length given names in Thai, nicknames are often one or two syllables long, making them much quicker to say or write. 

There is the meaning behind Thai nicknames, however. Whether they relate to the personality or something desirable, they are chosen specifically for each person. Even as they grow and change, the nickname will usually stick with them for life.

Common Thai Nicknames

When it comes to Thai nicknames, there are actually quite a few examples that you will come across often. This can be a nightmare when searching for your friend's name on a social media site as hundreds of people with that exact nickname will also appear. Anyhow, let’s focus on these common Thai nicknames and the meaning behind them.

There are some common categories from which Thai nicknames are derived. In the past, the names of colors were used. These include the likes of ‘deng’ (แดง), ‘dam’ (ดำ) or ‘som’ (ส้ม), which mean red, black, and orange respectively.

Food names are a popular choice too. ‘Chompoo’ (ชมพู่), meaning rose apple, is one you will come across quite often. The same can be said for tan (ตาล) - sugar palm - and taeng mo (แตงโม), which means watermelon.

Animals, planets, and even technology are also considered when naming. It all really depends on the individual's characteristics or what the name-giver hopes for in your life. Males and females typically do not have the same nicknames, though there is some overlap. Female nicknames tend to sound more feminine or have meanings that are seen as feminine. The opposite applies to the male nicknames.

Below are some common Thai nicknames:

1. อ๊อด (ót) Tadpole
2. อ้วน (ûan) Fat
3. ใหญ่ (yài) Big
4. หมู (mŏo) Pig
5. หมี (mĕe) Bear
6. หนู (nŏo) Mouse
7. หนึ่ง (nèung) One
8. หนอน (nŏn) Worm
9. หงส์ (hŏng) Swan
10. เสือ (sĕua) Tiger
11. สอง (sŏng) Two
12. ส้ม (sôm) Orange
13. เล็ก (lék) Small
14. แมว (maew) Cat
15. มด (mót) Ant
16. เป็ด (bpèt) Duck
17. ปู (bpoo) Crab
18. ปุ้ย (bpûi) Plump
19. ปลา (bplaa) Fish
20. บุ๋ม (bŭm) Dimpled
21. นิด (nít) Small
22. น้อย (nói) Small
23. นก (nók) Bird
24. เต่า (dtào) Turtle
25. ต้อย (dtôi) Tiny
26. แดง (daeng) Red
27. ดำ (dam) Black
28. เจี๊ยบ (jíap) Baby chicken
29. ไก่ (gài) Chicken
30. กุ้ง (gûng) Shrimp
31. กบ (gòp) Frog

English Thai Nicknames

Pretty confusing title, right? These are Thai nicknames that happen to be English words. This is where things can get kind of strange for English speakers, as Thai people like to take regular nouns and verbs and use them as nicknames for their children. As weird as it sounds, it again draws from the same beliefs behind the Thai nicknames. They are said to have some sort of impact on the person and provide them with different attributes depending on the name.

Much like their Thai equivalents, the choices for nicknames in English are often meant to convey some part of a person’s personality. However, you will also come across common English names but in Thai form too. 

While they can be quite funny, it is often quite obvious the reasoning behind the choices. For example, you may come across brand names like ‘Benz’ (เบนซ์), which is likely meant to reflect wealth and status. Names like ‘Art’ (อาร์ต) are chosen to bring about artistic skills and beauty.

You may have noticed some names that sound particularly unflattering. This is actually intentional. There is a belief that the use of nicknames deters ghouls and demons from identifying children by their true names. Similarly, if they are given an unflattering name, they will be more likely to not kidnap that child when they are born. I don’t know about you, but I find this belief fascinating.

Here are the nicknames you can choose:

1. Apple
แอปเปิ้ล àep-bpêrn

2. Bank
แบงค์ báeng

3. Beer

4. Beam
บีม beem

5. Cake

6. Benz

7. Cream

8. Bomb
บอมบ์ bom

9. Ice

10. Bonus

11. Itim (from “ice cream”)

12. Fiat

13. Jam

14. Ford

15. Mint

16. Gear

17. Milk

18. Gift

19. Art

20. A / Ay

21. Ball
บอล bon

22. B / Bee
บี bee

23. Cartoon

24. J / Jay

25. Film
ฟิล์ม fim

26. M / Em

27. Game

28. O / Oh
โอ oh

29. Golf

30. Q / Kiw

31. Guitar

32. R / Ah

33. Joke
โจ๊ก jóhk

34. X / Ek

35. Ping Pong
ปิงปอง bping-bpong

36. Y / Wai

An Interesting Glimpse Into The Culture

While this topic does seem quite boring, it does allow for some perspective into the culture of Thailand. It shows what people value and, of course, how people refer to each other. During your time in Thailand, as you get to know people, you will discover many different nicknames. This is probably for the best as they will be easier to say and remember than the much longer given names.  

What nickname would you give yourself or a loved one? Use the Ling Thai app to improve your Thai abilities and find the perfect name that fits perfectly. The next time you visit Thailand, let people know your Thai nickname and you should fit right in. 

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