A Guide To Names In Thai - Common Thai Names

February 26, 2020

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 quite a unique and interesting history. Beyond that, the idea of nicknames also offer a different perspective into Thai culture. For the purposes of learning Thai, having some idea of how names in Thai work can be helpful in understand how communication works and how to address people correctly. We have talked previously of 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

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 are 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 or 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 are 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.

Thai Nicknames

Due to the nature and length of Thai names, it is not uncommon for people to have their own nicknames. These are shorter names that people are given to them and used frequently. They can sometimes be 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 and may not necessarily relate to their real name in any way, instead relating to their physical features, behavior, or desirable things. Sometimes, they can be completely random choices but have a particular symbolism like welath or knowledge. You may find people with interesting nicknames that are not traditionally used as names for this reason. 

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 words or are Thai words that are short enough and easy to pronounce.

Honorifics For Thai Names

Honorifics refer to the titles placed before the name of a person 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 persons 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.

There are also some other titles that are placed before the first name/nickname of a person when you talk to them. These include things like teacher, known as ‘kruu’ (ครู), or doctor, known as ‘mah’ (หมอ). 

Common Thai Names For Males

Starting with male's names in Thai, there are a few that are quite popular.

Somchai (สมชาย) - Real Man or Man of Worth

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 popular 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.

Somsak (สมศักดิ์) - Worthy of Honor

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 if worthy of something - honor or prestige in this case.

Arthit (อาทิตย์) - Sun

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 name for the Sun in Thai is itself derived from the name of a Hindu god (and the word for Sunday).

Kittisak (กิตติศักดิ์) - Renowned, Powerful

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, which would mean they are particularly strong. I would imagine a lot of guys would like this to be their name.

Common Thai Names For Females

Just as there are many common Thai names for males, there are many common names specifically for females too.

Malee (มะลิ) - Flower/Jasmine

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.

Anong (อนงค์) - Beautiful

This is a nice name as it means beautiful. They say that children grow into their names to reflect its 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.

Pornthip (พรทิพย์) - Divine Blessing

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 signs of beauty. The pronunciation is a bit unique in that English speakers may not be able to say it correctly right away, but you will get used to it over time. 

Popular Baby Names In Thai 

Popular Baby Girl Names In Thai

1. A-gun: grape
2. Achara: pretty angel
3. Adranuch: lady
4. Ambhom: sky
5. Anchali: greeting
6. Benjakalyani: 5th girl
7. Boribun: complete
8. Bun Ma: to have luck
9. Buppha: flower
10. Busaba: floral
11. Bussaba: flower
12. Chaem Choi: gracefulness
13. Chai Charoen: triumphant
14. Chailai: pretty
15. Chaisee: innocent
16. Dao: star
17. Dara: evening star
18. Daw: stars
19. Dok Mai: flower of a plant
20. Dok Phi Sua: carnation
21. Dok Rak: flower of love
22. Dok-Ban-Yen: petunia like flower
23. Dusadi: compliments
24. Fa Ying: celestial princess
25. Han: audacious
26. Hansa: supreme happiness
27. Hanuman: monkey god; dance
28. Hom: fragrant
29. Kaew: gem
30. Kalaya: good lady
31. Kamala: of the heart
32. Kanchana: gold
33. Kannika: a flower
34. Kanok: design
35. Kanya: girl
36. Karawek: bird
37. Karnchana: beautiful girl
38. Kohsoom: lotus
39. Lamai: soft
40. Lawan: beautiful
41. Madee: good beginning
42. Mae Noi: little mother
43. Malee: flower
44. Ngam-Chit: good heart
45. Nin: sapphire
46. Nong Yao: young lady
47. On Choi: gracefulness
48. Pakpao: fighter-kite
49. Pen-Chan: full moon
50. Pensri: beauty of the moon
51. Phaibun: to prosper
52. Phailin: sapphire
53. Phairoh: pleasant sounding
54. Phawta: pleasing to the eye
55. Prisana: question
56. Pundit: the learned
57. Ratana: crystal
58. Saengdao: starlight
59. Samorn: beautiful and beloved
60. Sanan Nam: famous for name
61. Sanoh: pleasant sounding
62. Sanouk: enjoyable; festival
63. Sarakit: every mentionable deed
64. Sawatdi: greeting
65. Si: color
66. Si Fah: blue
67. Som: orange (the fruit)
68. Som Chai: living up to heart's desire
69. Som Kid: living up to intention
70. Suda: daughter or girl
71. Sukhon: lovely fragrance
72. Sunee: good thing
73. Sunstra: beautiful eyes
74. Sup: treasure
75. Taeng: melon
76. Tansanee: beautiful view
77. Tha Kai Bok: willow
78. Thai: free freedom

Popular Baby Boy Names In Thai

1. A-wut: weapon
2. Aat: daring
3. Aawut: weapon
4. Anada: prosperous
5. Ananada: prosperous
6. Anuman: small patience
7. Atid: the sun
8. Boon-Mee: lucky
9. Boon-Nam: good fortune
10. Chai Son: mischievous boy
11. Chaisai: victory
12. Chaiya: victory
13. Kasem: happiness
14. Kasemchai: victorious celebration
15. Kittichai: famous victory
16. Kittichat: famous clan
17. Kla: brave
18. Kla Han: very brave
19. Klaew Kla: daring and brave
20. Klahan: brave
21. Kob Chai: full of thanks
22. Kob Khun: full of thanks
23. Kob Sinn: full of treasure
24. Kob Sook: full of happiness
25. Lamon: gentle
26. Lek: small person
27. Ngoen: silver
28. Niran: eternal
29. Paitoon: moonstone
30. Phanumas: sun
31. Phassakorn: sun
32. Phet: diamond
33. Phichai: triumphant
34. Pu Yai Bahn: big man about town
35. Puenthai: gun
36. Rama: king
37. Rom Ran: to fight in battle
38. Ruang Rit: mighty
39. Ruang Sak: mighty; powerful
40. Runrot: prosperous
41. Sajja: truth
42. Sakda: power
43. San'ya: promise; pledge
44. Sataheep: a town
45. Satra: weapon
46. Seni: military
47. Sunti: peace
48. Thahan: soldier

Thai Naming Conventions

So, while this seems like a pretty boring topic, it does end up being quite useful and ultimately important for learning Thai. There are several things to be mindful of when speaking and addressing other people, such as the honorifics. All together, it makes for an interesting glimpse into the culture of Thailand, it’s history and how people communicate. It is better to start learning Thai naming conventions now so you are ready when it comes to talking with others.

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