Here is a bit of an interesting topic: how do names work in Thai? As odd as this may seem, Thai naming conventions actually have a pretty unique and interesting history. Beyond that, the idea of nicknames also offers a different perspective on Thai culture. To learn Thai, having some idea of how names in Thai work can help understand how communication works and how to address people correctly. We have talked previously about how to be polite in Thai, and this topic can play a part in that. So, for today, let’s have a glimpse at names in Thai.
- A Quick History Of Names In Thai
- What Are The Thai Nicknames?
- Honorifics For Thai Names
- What Are The Common Thai Names For Males?
- What Are The Most Common Thai Names For Females?
- Popular Baby Names In Thai
- Learn More Thai With Ling
What Is The History Of Names In Thai
As you would expect, people have been given names pretty much since we have been able to talk. The same is true in Thailand, as people have had names for most, if not all, of its history. However, the idea of surnames or family names in Thai is relatively new in the kingdom. Only since the 20th century have Thai people used surnames for themselves.
Previously, Thai people were referred to by their first name, given name, or possibly some information such as where they are from. Middle names were not and are still not used. It wasn’t until around 1913 that the King declared that surnames be given and recorded across the kingdom for the purposes of a new registration system. Interestingly, this followed the Western name convention, where the first name is written before the surname. This differs from some neighboring countries like China, where the surname comes first.
The introduction of these naming conventions led to some interesting situations. As people were not supposed to share a surname if they were not related, people had to go to great lengths (literally) to make sure their surname was unique. This meant that surnames were made to be longer and more complex, closer to phrases than words. Ultimately, this ensured that no two names were the same. This is how nicknames became common for referring to people, as it is much easier.
About Thai Nicknames
Due to the nature and length of Thai names, it is not uncommon for people to have their own nicknames. Thai nicknames are shorter names for people used more often than their real names. You may even find that people don’t know their friends’ or coworkers’ ‘real’ names.
Nicknames are given at birth by the parents. They may not necessarily relate to their real name in any way, instead of relating to their physical features, behavior, or desirable things. Sometimes, they can be completely random choices but have a particular symbolism, like wealth or knowledge. For this reason, you may find people with interesting nicknames that are not traditionally used as names.
Also, when speaking with foreigners, Thai people may choose an alternative English name to save the difficulty of pronunciation with their Thai name. However, Thai nicknames are often English or Thai words that are short enough and easy to pronounce.
What Are The Honorifics For Thai Names
Honorifics refer to the titles placed before a person’s name and generally denote the relationship with the person. In English, we use mister (Mr) and miss (Ms), for example. These also exist in Thai, though they behave slightly differently. An equivalent for mister or miss would be ‘khun’ (คุณ). This is often used for official purposes and for politeness.
Thai honorifics can be quite complex, especially when it comes to pronouns. These are affected by things such as age, gender, relationship, politeness, and more. This, of course, makes choosing the right word difficult. However, kinship terms are slightly easier to understand.
Kinship terms are words used to show your relationship with another person. They go before the person’s name. These include words like older brother/sister, known as ‘pii’ (พี่) in Thai. It doesn’t necessarily have to be used in a literal sense, as people also use these words for people they are close with.
Some other titles are placed before a person’s first name/nickname when you talk to them. These include things like a teacher, known as ‘kruu’ (ครู), or doctor, known as ‘mor’ (หมอ).
What Are The Most Common Thai Names For Males?
Starting with male names in Thai, a few are pretty popular.
If you look up any list of common Thai names for males, you will come across this one. That is because this is by far one of the most famous names for males in Thailand. You can see the prefix ‘som’ (สม) that we mentioned earlier here – in this case, together with the word ‘chai’ (ชาย) meaning male.
The name Somsak is another of the more popular Thai names for males. As you can probably see, it is very similar to the name above. It once again reflects that the bearer of the name is worthy of something – honor or prestige.
Those of you who are familiar with the names of the planets in Thai will know that Arthit means Sun (yes, I realize that the Sun is not a planet). While that would be a deep enough meaning alone, the Sun’s name in Thai is derived from the name of a Hindu god (and the word for Sunday).
As with most Thai names, this one shows that you have high hopes for your child. The two parts of the name together mean something like renowned power, meaning they are particularly strong. I imagine many guys would like this to be their name.
What Are The Most Common Thai Names For Females?
Just as there are many common Thai names for males, there are many common names specifically for females too.
Flowers and beauty are concepts often associated with femininity, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the word for flower is a common Thai name for girls. Specifically, it refers to Jasmine, grown throughout Thailand for tea and rice.
This is a nice name as it means beautiful. They say that children grow into their names to reflect their meaning and the supposed traits it conveys, so choosing a name with this meaning should be easy to understand. It is used as a female name due to some connotations for the meaning.
If it wasn’t obvious yet, the meaning of this common Thai name should make it so. Thai names often have really intense meanings. This one is even a bit religious. But yes, this is where the porn prefix comes into play. Together with the word ‘thip’ (ทิพย์), which means divine or divinity, you get a really beautiful name.
Praew (แพรว) – Shining
The name Praew is another that is meant to convey beauty. It can be understood as shining or gleaming, which I believe to be a sign of beauty. The pronunciation is a bit unique in that English speakers may not be able to say it correctly immediately, but you will get used to it over time.
What Are The Most Popular Baby Names In Thai?
Popular Thai Names For Baby Girls With Meanings
Popular Baby Boy Names In Thai + Their Meanings
Learn More Thai With Ling
So, while this seems like a pretty long topic, it is useful and ultimately important for learning Thai. There are several things to be mindful of when speaking and addressing other people, such as honorifics. Altogether, it makes for an interesting glimpse into the culture of Thailand, its history, and how people communicate. It is better to start learning Thai now, so you are ready to talk with others.
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