What Does น้ำ (Nam) Mean In Thai And Why Is It Used So Much?

April 8, 2020

I am always interested in words that you hear often in a language. It makes me wonder whether they are all connected in some way. The word may even have some sort of important symbolic meaning too which gives some insight into the culture. The word ‘sabai’ (สบาย) comes to mind as an example. 

So when I started seeing the word ‘nam’ (น้ำ) appear often as I was learning Thai, it started to look into what that means too. After doing some research, I found this great source about the word. I thought I would share that with you in case it inspires anyone else like it does me.

What Does Nam Mean In Thai

The Thai word ‘nam’ (น้ำ) means water or something related to it like liquid or fluid (in case the image didn’t ruin the surprise). You can imagine that the word for water appears often in the Thai language. It is a necessary resource for living and we use it for many different things.

Water in Thai culture is also very important. Some of the biggest holidays in the country, including Songkran and Loi Krathong, use water as a big part of the celebrations. Of course, Thailand is very hot so the water is very refreshing. The beautiful beaches also play a part. But it runs a bit deeper than that. 

Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is filled with many ‘khlongs’ (คลอง) or canals that have a long history. Rivers like the Chao Phraya River are also very important to the history of the kingdom. Floating markets are not uncommon around the country. 

Then there is the monsoon season, which sees massive amounts of rainfall and makes up a significant part of the year. A large number of farms around the country are also very thankful for this. Otherwise, there are a few religious ceremonies that use water too.

I hope this gives you a good idea of why water is so important in Thailand and possibly why the word is used so often in the language. This is just my assumption, however, but I think it makes sense.

Thai Words That Start With Nam

If you remember to a previous article when we looked at rooms of the house, the name for bathroom in Thai is ‘hong nam’ (ห้องน้ำ). You may also remember that swimming in Thai is called ‘wai nam’ (ว่ายน้ำ).

These are just a couple of examples where the word for water is used in the name of something, where in English it isn’t. However, there is also a lot of words that start with the word ‘nam’ too. Here are just a few, some of which are quite interesting.

WordDefinition
น้ำ [nám] + ใจ [jai] = น้ำใจwater + heart = kindness, spirit
น้ำ [nám] + แข็ง [khɛ̌ɛŋ] = น้ำแข็งwater + hard, frozen, solid = ice
น้ำ [nám] + ตก [dtòk] = น้ำตกwater + fall = waterfall
น้ำ [nám] + มัน [man] = น้ำมันwater + grease = oil, gasoline
น้ำ [nám] + ผึ้ง [phʉ̂ŋ] = น้ำผึ้งwater + bee = honey
น้ำ [nám] + พริก [phrík] = น้ำพริกwater + chili = chili paste
น้ำ [nám] + ปลา [bplaa] = น้ำปลาwater + fish = fish sauce
น้ำ [nám] + เกลือ [glʉa] = น้ำเกลือwater + salt = saline solution
น้ำ [nám] + เงิน [ŋən] = น้ำเงินwater + silver, money = navy blue (colour)
น้ำ [nám] + เน่า [nâo] = น้ำเน่าwater + rotten = corny, cheesy, over-the-top (overly dramatic)
น้ำ [nám] + ตา [dtaa] = น้ำตาwater + eye = tear
น้ำมูก [nám mûuk]snot
น้ำลาย [nám laai]saliva
น้ำเปล่า [nám bplào]plain water

Expanding Your Thai Vocabulary

I think it is important to explore things like these that interest you to help get through those slower and more difficult times when learning a language. Any sort of motivation is good to keep you going and I hope you found this to be an interesting topic too. 

Seeing all these words that contain or start with ‘nam’ is interesting because, while they make a lot of sense, we don’t see it as often in English. From now, whenever I see ice, I will think of it as hard water or ‘nam kheng’ (น้ำแข็ง) because that makes a lot more sense to me.

I want to say thank you to StudyThai for inspiring me to write this and continue the journey of learning Thai. Also, thanks for helping with the content. They are another great resource for learning Thai

You can use it alongside the Ling Thai app to learn more and put your skills to the test.

What Does Nam Mean In Thai?

The Thai word ‘nam’ (น้ำ) means water or something related to it like liquid or fluid.

Why is water in Thai culture so important?

Some of the biggest holidays in the country, including Songkran and Loi Krathong, use water as a big part of the celebrations.

What are Thai Words that start with Nam?

There is also a lot of words that start with the word ‘nam’: Swimming: ‘wai nam’ (ว่ายน้ำ), bathroom: ‘hong nam’ (ห้องน้ำ), and many more.

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