This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
A “G” Rated Look at Thai Sex Words…
Thai, like any other robust language, has lots and lots of words for “sex” and all the stuff associated with it. And in Thailand, for various reasons, discussions of this topic are quite frequently encountered.
But just like with any language, the words used in discussing this topic can run the gamut from the scientific to the vulgar. The vulgar words can be picked up just about anywhere, so I thought that a short lesson on how to discuss this most important of topics at a higher, more well-mannered level might be beneficial.
เพศ /pâyt/ – sex
If you are looking for a good resource to learn Thai online, check out Learn Thai from a White Guy. Upon entering your email, you'll get five free lessons to help you start learning to read Thai.
This is a very useful word in that it can refer to the gender of a person or animal. เพศชาย /pâyt-chaai/ is a “male” (ชาย); and เพศหญิง /pâyt yĭng/ is a “female” (หญิง). But เพศ /pâyt/ by itself can also just simply mean “sex”. It gets really interesting especially when it is used along with other words though.
อวัยวะเพศชาย /a-wai-wá pâyt chaai/ – male sex organ
อวัยวะเพศหญิง /a-wai-wá pâyt yĭng/ – female sex organ
อวัยวะ /a-wai-wá/ means “organ” (of the body). Add that along to the word for “male” and “female” and you can safely, and if you want scientifically, talk about the various sex organs of the body. I have also heard these terms used in talking about the reproductive organs of a flower. To each his own, I guess.
The Thai word สัมพันธ์ /săm-pan/ means “connected to” as in “relationship”. So a nice formal and completely polite word is มีเพศสัมพันธ์ /mee-pâyt-săm-pan/ or “to have a sexual relationship” or to be more straight forward, “to have sexual intercourse” (another meaning of the word “intercourse” is communications between individuals, interestingly similar to สัมพันธ์ /săm-pan/). But a simpler way to say the same thing is just มีเพศ – “to have sex”. Since this is a very important activity there are a multitude of words for it. Another polite word is ร่วมเพศ /rûam-pâyt/. ร่วม /rûam/ means to “share” or to “join together”.
People of the night…
We have an interesting saying in English “the oldest profession” meaning of course, “prostitution”. Thai is no slouch when it comes to euphemisms either. The term การค้าประเวณี /gaan-káa-bprà~way-nee/ is made up of the words การค้า /gaan-káa/ – “business”; and ประเวณี /bprà~way-nee/ a word that means “customary” or “traditional”. You probably won’t hear this word about a traditional way of earning a living except maybe at a university lecture. But there are lots of others to describe this particular career path.
The most straight-forward and least euphemistic of these is โสเภณี /sŏh-pay-nee/. But this topic is ripe for euphemisms, as in ผู้หญิงหากิน /pôo yĭng hăa gin/ “a girl looking to eat”; or ผู้หญิงหาเงิน /pôo yĭng hăa ngern/ “ a girl looking for money”. Of course just to be balanced here, you can substitute ผู้ชาย /pôo-chaai/ – “boy” instead. Then of course there is the easily understood loan word ผู้หญิงบาร์ /pôo yĭng baa/ – “a bar girl”.
Gay and Homosexual…
True homophobia like you find in the west is almost never encountered in Thai society, except maybe from the visiting foreign community, so a lot of the following words will not have the negative connotation that they would in other places.
A caveat: One word that you hear Farangs use often in Thailand is “Lady Boy”. It’s basically self-explanatory although a bit condescending. But it isn’t really a Thai word, and although it might be in the process, it still hasn’t been borrowed into the language. I personally have never heard a Thai use this word unless they are talking with a foreigner. My impression is that the word “lady boy” is an English word used almost exclusively by foreigners to describe a common cultural aspect of life in Thailand.
But Thai has a very rich vocabulary for this topic.
A real loan word is เกย์ /gay/. Straight forward, meaning the same in Thai as in English. A Thai word commonly understood by most foreigners living here is กะเทย /gà~toie/ – meaning “a gay man”.
But this aspect of Thai culture can sometime be confusing. For example: The other day I was passing a store selling cosmetics. Outside there were two salespeople helping women shoppers by explaining how to use each of the products. One of the sales people was quite beautiful, shapely, with long hair and a tight fitting dress. But when she spoke it was obvious that she had been born a physical male. The other sales person was a man dressed in a nice suit and colorful tie and was acting much more effeminate than his partner.
Because vocabulary arises to describe things in a culture that need describing, there are two different words for these two very different people.
The word often used for the man in the suit and styled hair, speaking with a soft voice when explaining the cosmetics is กะเทย /gà~toie/, or just เกย์ /gay/.
The other person, visually a stunning woman, is often referred to as ผู้หญิงประเภทสอง /pôo yĭng bprà-pâyt sŏng/ (not a “lady boy” as a foreigner would say). This word explains a lot about the Thai world view. The word ผู้หญิง of course means “woman”, ประเภท means “kind’ or “category”, and สอง means “two” or “second”. Translated this word means “a woman of the second category”. The guy in the suit was a man; his partner, although physically a male, was a woman (albeit of the 2nd kind).
No wonder Thailand can hold and be proud of the yearly Miss Tiffany Universe Pageant.
Here are a few more words (I told you Thai had a rich vocabulary):
คนรักร่วมเพศ /kon-rák-rûam-pâyt/; คน – “a person”; รัก – “love”; ร่วม – “to mix”, “to join together”; เพศ – “sex”. This word, although being ambiguous, is usually used for homosexuals.
ทอม /tom/ – “lesbian” – This is a loan word, probably originating from “tomboy”.
กะเทยแปลงเพศ /gà~toie-bplaeng-pâyt/ – “transsexual” (having had sex change surgery); the word แปลง /bplaeng/ – means “adapt”, “modify”, “convert”.
And just to show that I am an equal opportunity blogger…
สนใจเพศตรงข้าม /sŏn jai pâyt dtrong kâam/ – heterosexual. สนใจ /sŏn jai/ – to be interested in; เพศ /pâyt/ – sex; ตรงข้าม /dtrong-kâam/ – opposite
And although sex doesn’t always lead up to this, it is often a “side effect”. The simplest word for “pregnant” is ท้อง /tóng/ – literally “stomach”. Also used is มีท้อง /mee-tóng/ – “to have a stomach”, and then the nice really formal word which you might read but almost never hear มีครรภ์ /mee-kan/ where ครรภ์ means “womb”.
And as for the words “to give birth” we have ออกลูก /òk-lôok/ – loosely translated “to put the kid out”, and the formal ให้กำเนิด /hâi-gam-nèrt/ – “to cause to be born”. But the one that seems the best to use in most situations is คลอด(ลูก) klôt (lôok).
And for others:
งดเว้น /ngót-wén/ or ละเว้น /lá-wén/ – “to abstain from …”