Are you familiar with the song ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’? I remember singing that a lot when I was younger. It was a lot of fun doing the dance too, and it does help learning the different parts of the body. So, why don’t we try learn the words to that song in Thai? I think it is a great way to remember the words for the body in Thai while also having some fun. If anything, it is good to learn some new vocabulary that you can use at your next doctors appointment.
Perhaps the best place to start is to look at what the word for body is in Thai. It is known as ‘raang gaai’ (ร่างกาย).
The arms and legs are important parts of the body. Arms are called ‘ken’ (แขน), while legs are called ‘kaa’ (ขา). Muay Thai is known as the sport of eight limbs, due to its use of both knees and elbows for fighting. Knees are referred to as ‘huaa khao’ (หัวเข่า) and elbows are referred to as ‘khaaw saawk’ (ข้อศอก). Shoulders are called ‘baa‘ (บ่า).
What if you were at a concert and the DJ tells you to put you hands up in the air? You should listen out for the word ‘muu’ (มือ) which means hands in Thai. Then, at the end of your hand you have 5 fingers. These are known as ‘niu’ (นิ้ว) while the thumb is ‘niu huaa maae meu‘ (นิ้วหัวแม่มือ).
When referring to your face in Thai, you can use the word ‘naa’ (หน้า). Beyond the literal face, however, there is also the concept of the metaphorical face that is used in Thai and some other Asian cultures. The idea of face in this sense is related to social standing and how people are viewed by others. It is linked to the idea of dignity and power, making people avoid confrontation or arguments in some situations.
This is where saving face or ‘guu naa’ (กู้หน้า) and losing face or ‘siia naa’ (เสียหน้า) come in. There is some social etiquette to consider before doing anything that would make another person lose face, which is seen as a big problem.
So how about we move onto the features of a face?
Let’s go with the eyes first, which are called ‘dtaa’ (ตา). If you want to say the color of the eyes, the name of the color goes after the word for eye. For example, green eyes would be ‘dtaa sii kiao’ (ตาสีเขียว).
The nose makes up a major part of the face. In fact, did you know that you can actually see your nose all the time? Your brain is able to essentially hide it so you don’t see it unless you pay attention to it.
The word for nose in Thai is ‘ja muuk’ (จมูก). This is also the word used to refer to the snout of an animal, interestingly enough.
The ears are known as ‘huu’ (หู) in Thai. If you want to talk about earrings, then you would use ‘dtaang huu’ (ต่างหู). You should bear in mind that Thai culture can be quite conservative, and so some types of ear piercings are not common and would be seen as unprofessional in a work environment.
In Thai, the mouth is called ‘bpaak’ (ปาก). What I found quite funny is that the word for opening your mouth is ‘aa bpaak’ (อ้าปาก), which sounds like the sound you make when you have to open your mouth at the dentist.
So this was an introduction into the parts of the body in Thai. This is another one of those topics that is usually learned from a young age, and I hope it is not too difficult to remember. Maybe the song will help with that, but otherwise it is a skill you should learn for when seeing a doctor. You never know when you will need that.
Keep up to date with your Thai skills with the Ling Thai app. Test yourself and see which areas you need to improve so you can devote more time to practice. Practice does make perfect, after all.