Common Thai Language Metaphors in Everyday Life

Written By: Hugh Leong

The Thai language is as rich in metaphor as any language is. The kinds of metaphors that you will come into contact with will all depend on what level of society you hang out with. It is a good idea to keep the drinking buddies’ metaphors separate from the HiSo matron metaphors.

One group of metaphors goes over well with just about any crowd. They are the ones that use animals. They are also pretty easy to understand and therefore remember.

ปากหมา /bpàak măa/
Literal meaning: Dog mouth
Metaphorical meaning: Dirty talk; crude talk; to use vulgar speech

ภาษาหมา ๆ /paa-săa măa măa/
Literal meaning: Dog language
Metaphorical meaning: To talk trash; to act silly

โรคหมาบ้า /rôhk măa bâa/
Literal meaning: Mad dog disease
Metaphorical meaning: Hydrophobia; rabies

หมาขี้เรื้อน /măa kêe réuan/
Literal meaning: Mangy dog (leprous dog)
Metaphorical meaning: Pariah

หมาเน่า /măa nâo/
Literal meaning: Rotten dog
Metaphorical meaning: A foul person

ควาย /kwaai/
Literal meaning: Water buffalo
Metaphorical meaning: Buffoon, ignoramus

แมงดา /maeng-daa/
Literal meaning: Giant water bug (male rides on female’s back)
Metaphorical meaning: Pimp, procurer, gigolo


เสือผู้หญิง /sĕua pôo yĭng/
Literal meaning: Girl tiger
Metaphorical meaning: Womanizer, lecher

เหี้ย /hîa/
Literal meaning: Monitor lizard (water monitor)
Metaphorical meaning: A despicable or bad person, a worthless character

เสือสิงห์กระทิงแรด /sĕua sĭng grà-ting râet/
Literal meaning: Tiger, lion bull, rhinoceros
Metaphorical meaning: Experienced con men

หาเหาใส่หัว /hăa hăo sài hŭa/
Literal meaning: Look for lice to put on your head
Metaphorical meaning: Looking for trouble, cause your own problems

หนีเสือปะจระเข้ /nĕe sĕua bpà jor-rá-kây/
Literal meaning: Run away from the tiger and meet the crocodile
Metaphorical meaning: “Out of the frying-pan and into the fire.”

แพะรับบาป /páe ráp bàap/
Literal meaning: The goat that takes the sin
Metaphorical meaning: Scapegoat; fall guy

ไก่ /gài/
Literal meaning: Chicken
Metaphorical meaning: Woman

ผีเสื้อราตรี /pĕe-sêua-raa-dtree/
Literal meaning: Night butterfly (moth)
Metaphorical meaning: “Lady of the night”, prostitute

ยิงกระต่าย /ying grà-dtàai/
Literal meaning: Shoot the rabbit
Metaphorical meaning: Male urination, often done at the side of the road

เฒ่าหัวงู /tâo hŭa ngoo/
Literal meaning: Old man snake head
Metaphorical meaning: Old man who runs after young girls, dirty old man

งูงูปลาปลา /ngoo ngoo bplaa bplaa/
Literal meaning: Snake snake fish fish
Metaphorical meaning: Mediocre, not very good

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