Thai Vocabulary For Family: Your #1 Easy Guide

In Thailand, it is not unusual for extended families to all live together in one house. They say that, if you marry a Thai, you also marry their whole family. While this might seem strange for some, it actually works out quite well. When parents need to go to work, they can leave their child with their grandparents, so there is no need for a babysitter. There is always someone on hand to take care of chores, make the food, and everything like that. No one would get lonely, that is for sure.

I thought that today we could look at some vocabulary relating to family or ‘khrawp krua’ (ครอบครัว) as it is known in Thai. Think of it as an extension of introducing yourself – family values are strong in Thailand so people are likely to ask about them. Prepare yourself with this Thai vocabulary for family. 

Thai Vocabulary For Family

How To Say Mother And Father In Thai

Let’s start off with talking about parents. They are the head of the household and their children are expected to take care of them as they get old. It is not uncommon for those who move out of their village to the cities to send money to their parents every month. The point is, that there is a lot of respect for parents in Thai culture.

When addressing parents, you can use the word ‘mae’ (แม่) for mother/mom, and the word ‘phaw’ (พ่อ) for father/dad. Then, you should also know the words for addressing the in-laws too, especially as you will be spending a lot of time with them. There are different names given based on whether they are the parents of the husband or the wife.

  • Mother – mae (แม่)
  • Father – phaw (พ่อ)

Father-in-law on the wife’s side is referred to as ‘phaw pan ra yaa’ (พ่อภรรยา). Mother-in-law on the wife’s side would be ‘mae pan ra yaa’ (แม่ภรรยา). Then on the husband’s side of the family, there is the father-in-law ‘phaw saa mii’ (พ่อสามี) and the mother-in-law ‘mae saa mii’ (แม่สามี).

  • Father-in-law (father of wife) – phaw pan ra yaa (พ่อภรรยา)
  • Mother-in-law (mother of wife) – mae pan ra yaa (แม่ภรรยา)
  • Father-in-law (father of husband) – phaw saa mii (พ่อสามี)
  • Mother-in-law (mother of husband) – mae saa mii (แม่สามี)

For those interested, these would literally translate as ‘father wife’ and ‘mother wife’ etc. where ‘saa mii’ (สามี) means husband and ‘pan ra yaa’ (ภรรยา) means wife. That works out well, as there are fewer words to learn overall.

Thai Words For Grandparents

The grandparents, as elders, should also be spoken to with respect in the culture of the country. They are ultimately your parents’ parents after all. Again, we have different words depending on whether the grandparents are paternal (on the father’s side) or maternal (on the mother’s side). 

Starting with the father’s side, we have the Thai word for grandma, which is ‘yaa’ (ย่า). Grandpa in Thai is ‘bpuu’ (ปู่). On the mother’s side, you would use ‘yaai’ (ยาย) and ‘dtaa’ (ตา) for grandma and grandpa respectively.

What To Call Your Siblings

Now is the time to take a look at brothers and sisters. In this case, the Thai language differentiates between younger and older siblings, unfortunately meaning more words to learn. As a way to denote the age of siblings, the terms ‘pii’ (พี่) meaning elder and ‘noong’ (น้อง) meaning younger are used.

So older brother in Thai is ‘pii chaai’ (พี่ชาย) and younger brother is ‘noong chaai’ (น้องชาย). Older sister is ‘pii saao’ (พี่สาว) and younger sister is ‘noong saao’ (น้องสาว). 

  • Oolder brother – pii chaai (พี่ชาย)
  • Younger brother – noong chaai (น้องชาย)
  • Older sister – pii saao (พี่สาว)
  • Younger sister – noong saao (น้องสาว)

The terms for son and daughter also use similar words. For example, son is ‘luuk chaai’ (ลูกชาย) and daughter is ‘luuk saao’. For grandson or granddaughter, just put ‘laan’ (หลาน) before the word for son and daughter.

Speaking Thai To Family

thai vocabulary for family

Hopefully, now you know how to address your mother, father, grandparents, and siblings in Thai. You can use this knowledge when talking with them or talking about them with others which are perfect for making new friends or, in the case of a relationship, talking to your partner’s family. Whatever the reason, it is always a good idea to expand your vocabulary with new words and phrases and keep testing yourself with the Thai language.

Another great way you can test your language skills is with the Ling Thai app. Boost your ability to read, write and speak by using the app for just a few minutes every day.

4 Responses

  1. I watched F4 Thailand and i noticed Glakao called Gorya not Phii but “Che” ( I don’t know if i write it correctly). Why is that so?

    1. Hi Katya!

      It must be “เจ้ (jê) or เจ๊ (jé),” which is used to mention an older sister in Thai-Chinese families. So it’s a Chinese borrowed word. Chinese Mandarin is 姐姐 (jiějiě), while most Thais pronounce it more closely to Chinese Teochew, which is “zê.”

      By the way, Thai people also use this word to casually call women older than them if they’re close to each other; it’s unnecessary to be in a Chinese environment.

  2. I’ve heard in some dramas of other ways they call their brothers or sisters. I just don’t know if I heard it right, like Hiya? Hya? Something like that. The subtitles didn’t really translate correctly so I am not sure.

    1. Hello Jinji!

      If the word เฮีย (hia) is used to call someone in the family, it means “older brother.” It’s a borrowed Chinese word from “兄 (xiōng), Chinese-Taochew language. There are so many Thai-Chinese families in Thailand, so it’s common to hear people call their family members a Chinese word.

      Plus, Thais sometimes use the word เฮีย (hia) with male friends at school or the workplace if they’re older than you; with unnecessary to be in a Chinese environment.

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