Every so often, you will need to pick up a ruler and take some measurements. Nowadays, we take our modern systems for granted, but have you ever thought about how other countries handled measurements in the past? Well, in Thailand, until the early last century, they had their very own traditional measurement system in place. In fact, you will still see some of it in use today in some places alongside the modern system.
For the curious among you, we will be looking into the old Thai system and how to say centimeter, meter, and kilometer measurements in Thai.
As with most other countries, Thailand used the Metric system for measurements, not the Imperial system. As a refresher, the Metric system is made up of evenly split measurements, such as centimeters, meters, kilometers, and so on. Meanwhile, the Imperial system of measurements is much less structured. Examples include inches, feet, and miles.
Here’s a fun fact: only three countries still make use of the Imperial system. They are the USA, Liberia and, Thailand’s neighbor, Myanmar. Some countries like the UK may sometimes use a mixture of the measurement systems, but officially they support the Metric variety.
Since 1923 (or 2466 in the Thai calendar), Thailand has been using the Metric system. That means road signs are in kilometers and the temperature is measured in degrees Celsius. This does beg the question, however: what system did Thailand use before then for weighing and measuring mass, area, distances, and length? This is where things do get a bit more completed.
They never used the Imperial system like some other countries, instead of using their own Thai system of measurement. It is not the easiest to understand, but if you have spent some time to learn Thai and are already familiar with numbers in the language, then you are ready to use them. Don't worry about remembering them all, but it would be great if you could at least be familiar with them.
Did you know that the currency of Thailand, the Baht, was originally (and still is, I guess) used as a way to weigh gold when trading? There are lots of interesting callbacks to this traditional system seen in the modern-day.
I don’t think it is too common for a country to seemingly has its own measurement system in place. However, that seems to be the case in Thailand. They had a pretty elaborate system in place before reforming it.
As mentioned before, most of these have fallen out of use, though some are still used quite widely. In particular, the area is commonly measured using the old system. Here are the names of traditional measurements in Thai which you can use as a reference.
Before the arrival of the Metric system, it seems that Thailand had a pretty interesting way of measuring lengths and distances. Some of them use the body, such as a quarter of a finger to get an idea of how long something is. Of course, these were standardized at some point, so even people with smaller hands would be able to measure properly.
|krabiat||กระเบียด||0.52 cm||0.2 in|
|nio||นิ้ว||4 krabiat||2.08 cm||0.82 in|
|khuep||คืบ||12 nio||25 cm||9.84 in|
|sok||ศอก||2 khuep||50 cm||1.31 ft|
|wah||วา||4 sok||2 m||6.56 ft|
|sen||เส้น||20 wa||40 m||43.74 yd|
|yot||โยชน์||400 sen||16 km||9.94 miles|
You will see many signs in Thailand advertising land to rent that often include the area measured in Rai. So how much is a Rai worth and what other ways of measuring area are there in Thailand?
|tarang wah||ตารางวา||A square wa||4 m²||43.05 ft²|
|ngan||งาน||100 tarang wa||400 m²||4,305.56 ft²|
|rai||ไร่||4 ngan||1,600 m²||1,913.58 yd²|
Weight is another common thing to measure. There were a couple of different units used to measure weight in Thai.
|salueng||สลึง||3.75 g||0.13 oz|
|baht||บาท||4 salueng||15 g||0.53 oz|
|tamlueng||ตำลึง||4 baht||60 g||2.12 oz|
|chang||ชั่ง||20 tamlueng||1.2 kg||2.65 lb|
|hap||หาบ||50 chang||60 kg||132.28 lb|
Here you will also find some interesting origins. Cartloads, coconut shells, and pinches all played a part in how volume was traditionally measured.
|yip mue||หยิบมือ||7.81 ml||0.26 fl oz|
|kam mue||กำมือ||4 yip mue||31.25 ml||1.06 fl oz|
|fai mue||ฟายมือ||4 kam mue||125 ml||4.23 fl oz|
|thanan||ทะนาน||8 fai mue||1 l||33.81 fl oz|
|thang||ถัง||20 thanan||20 l||21.13 qt|
|sat||สัด||25 thanan||25 l||26.42 qt|
|kwian||เกวียน||100 thang||2 m³||528.34 gal|
Now that we have covered the traditional measurement system of Thailand, we can look at Metric measurements in Thai. Just as the whole system was made to be standardized, it seems the names are as well. It mostly involves taking the English word and saying it using a Thai accent. Do note that the 'er' sound at the end of these words is silent when said in Thai.
|Millimeter (mm)||mil lee met||มิลลิเมตร|
|Centimeter (cm)||cen dti met||เซนติเมตร|
|Kilometer (km)||gi loo met||กิโลเมตร|
|Milligram (mg)||mil lee gram||มิลลิกรัม|
|Kilogram (kg)||gi loo gram||กิโลกรัม|
|Milliliter (ml)||mil lee lit||มิลลิลิตร|
Looks like we covered quite a lot today. Now we should all know more about the traditional measurements in Thai, and how they still exist today alongside the Metric system. Thankfully, the Thai words for measurements are very close to what they are in English. Hopefully next time you reach for the ruler, you can read out the measurements in your head using Thai. Any practice is good practice, after all.
If you want to continue learning topics such as this, give the Ling app a try. It may just become your language learning app of choice.