Jai Words: Learn Thai with More Words of the Heart

Thai Heart Words

This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.

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Heart words, jai words, my words…

I am a terrible Thai student. Fairly often, my Thai teacher arrives with a lesson plan in her satchel, and hope in her heart. When she goes to leave, it is with much laughter. Why laughter? Because at the door, seeing her off, there I am. Me. Promising to be a good student. Next time.

And yet, she calls me one of her favourite students. I say that I am not a particularly good student. But she says that the way I learn is sà-nùk dee (สนุกดี). And sà-nùk (สนุก) makes the hours go down easy.

When my Thai teacher knocks on my door, she doesn’t know if we’ll be chasing down Thai bumper stickers, running after turkeys, or discussing the merits of sexy men sitting next to us on the BTS.

And my lesson for Thursday was just that: Discussing sexy men on the BTS, while using words of the head and the heart.

You might remember a year back when I wrote about Christopher G Moore’s fabulous book, Heart Talk. Tackling Chris’s book during several Thai lessons, I learned just how important heart/jai words are in the Thai language. And between you and me, heart words are my favourite Thai words.


And that is exactly what I studied during my Thai lessons today. Not my Thai teacher’s lesson plan, but mine. Jai words.

And here they are, more heart words…


Wát jai (วัดใจ) means to measure the heart/mind/spirit; seeing how generous or brave the other person is. While wát (วัด) used as a noun is temple, wát as a verb means to measure.

The story: When you are coming up to an intersection without a light, you have to wát jai (วัดใจ) measure/guess at what the other drivers will do. So as you come to a stop, you say to yourself…

ฉัน วัดใจ เขา ว่า เขา จะ ไป ก่อน หรือ จะ ให้ ฉัน ไป ก่อน

chăn · wát · jai · kăo · wâa · kăo · jà · bpai · gòn · rĕu · jà · hâi · chăn · bpai · gòn
I · measure/guess · heart · him · that · he · will · go · before · or · will · give/let · I · go · before
(Guessing)… will he go first, or will he let me go first?


You use jai rá-tuay (ใจระทวย) when you see a sexy guy or gal, and you can’t do anything about it. Rá-tuay (ระทวย) on its own means sad, weak.

The story: A sexy guy sits next to you on the MRT, and you say to yourself…

ผุ้ ชาย คน นี้ ทำ ให้ ฉัน ใจ ระทวย

pù · chaai · kon · née · tam · hâi · chăn · jai · rá-tuay
man · person · this · make · give · me · heart · weak
(Deep sigh)… This man makes my heart feel sooooooooo weak.


Jai lá-laai (ใจละลาย) is almost like jai rá-tuay (ใจระทวย). It is used when you see a sexy guy or gal, and you might be able to do something about it at some point. Lá-laai (ละลาย) means to melt.

Story: A sexy guy sits next to you on the MRT. He looks over to you, then winks. You say to yourself…

เขา ทำ ให้ ฉัน ใจ ละลาย

kăo · tam · hâi · chăn · jai · lá-laai
he · make · give · me · heart · melt
(Yummm)… He soooooooooo makes my heart melt.


Jai-bpâew (ใจแป้ว) is used when you feel disappointed about something. It is almost like ใจหาย jai hăai, but jai-hăai could also mean to frighten. Bpâew (แป้ว) implies to wither or collapse, and is not said on its own.

Story: You are on the MRT and look over to see the man of your dreams with another girl. When pouring out your heart to your best friend, you say…

พอ ฉัน เห็น แฟน เขา ฉัน ใจแป้ว

por · chăn · hĕn · faen · kăo · chăn · jai bpâew
when · I · see · girlfriend · his · I · feel · disheartened
(Dejected sigh)… When I saw his girlfriend, I lost heart.


Jai fòr (ใจฝ่อ) is to lose courage. From Mary Haas: To be frightened, to have one’s heart shrink with fear.

Story: You get off the MRT at Asoke, but your boyfriend is nowhere to be found. Glancing down at your watch, you see that you are 40 minutes late for a promised tryst. You say to yourself…

ฉัน ใจฝ่อ เมื่อ รุ้ ว่า ฉัน จะ ไม่ พบ เขา

chăn · jai fòr · mêua · rú wâa · chăn · jà · mâi · póp · kăo
I · lose · courage · when · know that · I · will · not · meet · him
(Darn)… I lose heart when I realise that I will not meet up with him.


Bplaa-siw (ปลาซิว) is a kind of fish that is very tiny. Jai bplaa-siw (ใจปลาซิว) is used to describe people who have a small heart; those who are stingy.

Story: You are standing outside Asoke station. No boyfriend to be found. He is always on time, so you know in your heart that you have inconvenienced him. You also know that when you are not on time, he becomes unhappy with you. You want to call him to explain, but you don’t dare. So you say to yourself…

เขา เป็น คน ใจ ปลาซิว เขา ไม่ ยกโทษ ให้ ฉัน

kăo · bpen · kon · jai · bplaa siw · kăo · mâi · yók tôht · hâi · chăn
he · is · person · heart · small fish · he · not · forgive · to · me
(Guilty grrrrrrr)… He is a person with a small heart. He won’t forgive me.

ใจปอน ๆ

Bpon-bpon means useless. T2E: sloppy; shabby; slovenly.

Jai bpon-bpon is the title of a famous song by Nui, Ampon Lamphun, from about 20 years ago.

Edit: The video has been taken down from YouTube.

In the song, the man sings that he does not have much to offer the woman, only his heart (which no one would consider worthwhile).

Nowhere in the song does the man say jai bpon-bpon (ใจปอน ๆ). This could be because bpon-bpon, modified from jai bpon-bpon, is now used on its own.

So if the sad man in the song were to use this jai word, he would say…

ตอน นี้ ผม ตก งาน และ ไม่ มี แฟน เลย อยู่ แบบ ปอน ๆ

dton · née · pŏm · dtòk · ngaan · láe · mâi · mee · faen · loie · yòo · bàep · bpon · bpon
period of time · this · I · drop · work · and · no · have · girlfriend · therefor · stay · type · slob · slob
(Sigh, sigh, sigh)… Now I have no job, no girlfriend, therefor I spend my life as a slob.

My heartfelt thanks for this post goes to: my sister Nong Jessie (for sharing your jai words), and my teacher Khun Phairo (for suffering through yet another class without a lesson plan).

For my next Thai lesson, my Thai teacher and I agreed that this weekend I will transcribe the Jai bpon-bpon music video, in preparation for a bit of karaoke on Monday morning. Nine am sharp. Maybe.

11 thoughts on “Jai Words: Learn Thai with More Words of the Heart”

  1. hey catheriene
    i am surprised how come i dont know about these words thou i am living here almost for 20 years..
    it was a funny heart experience..
    good work..

  2. Hugh, thank you for sharing her latest CD. I forgot just how beautiful Frisco is (do they even say that anymore?) Benjawan also has a CD on learning Thai jai words (no music, just jai after jai).

  3. Benjawan Becker, recently interviewed on these pages, has just come out with a video called the Heart Song ). It is from her just published CD/VCDs on learning Thai through music. I think this is a pretty good video and shows just how many Heart words Thai has.

  4. I have an affinity for the heart words too Cat, They can convey feelings very well for me and they are easily understood. Speaking of heart words I have a phone call to make…

  5. Martyn, you are so funny 🙂 I’m too lazy to stalk anyone. In Thailand, or elsewhere. And I rarely use either the MRT or the BTS. So unless some sexy man lands plop in my lap in my very own taxi, it’ll never happen.

    But creating that post with the help of my Thai teacher was a total hoot. I’m sure my neighbours were wondering what all that laughing was about.

  6. Catherine I’m starting to worry about you and your teacher. Eyeing up the blokes on the Bangkok Skytrain under the guise of Thai language lessons. Whatever next.

    I hope you don’t resort to stalking these cute men back to their homes and please don’t try the Fatal Attraction rabbit trick. If their pet rabbit ends up boiling on the stove the man of your dreams will have nothing to do the dusting with and his unpolished shoes will look a mess. The sight of his dirty shoes will turn your jai rá-tuay to Jai-bpâew. Back to the language basics I think and I’m not talking body language or basic instincts. Even Sharon Stone wouldn’t try that on a train.


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