Thai Language Thai Culture: Thai Money Vocabulary

Thai Language

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Thai Money Vocabulary…

One thing that might make living in a foreign country a bit easier is to know lots of words on the subject of money. It seems I can’t go more than an hour or so before I have to either use, or talk about money. So, I thought some Thai vocabulary about this stuff we’re constantly concerned with might be helpful. Money subjects below are broken down into topics we all need to deal with.


The general Thai word for “money” is เงิน /ngern/. It may or may not be historically significant (linguistically, that is) but เงิน /ngern/ is also the same Thai word for “silver”.

kăo mee ngern yúh
He has lots of money.

chăn mâi mee ngern loie
I don’t have any money.

The Thai unit of currency is บาท /​bàat/ or เงินบาท /ngern-​bàat/. Originally the baht was a unit of measurement (about 15 grams). Today this unit of weight is used almost exclusively in the measurement of gold.


kâao pàt raa-kaa săam sìp bàat
Fried rice is 30 baht.

เขามีสร้อยทองคำ น้ำหนัก 2 บาท
kăo mee sôi tong kam nám nàk 2 bàat
He has a gold necklace weighing 2 baht.

Another word that is used to mean “money” is ตังค์ /dtang/. It is the short form of สตางค์ /sà~​dtaang/ which originally was a small coin, 100th of a baht.

pŏm mâi mee dtang
I have no money (I don’t have a penny).

พ่อ ขอตังค์หน่อย
pôr kŏr dtang nòi
Dad, can I have some money?

Personal Finances…

The word for “income” or “salary” is เงินเดือน /ngern-​deuan/. It uses the Thai word for “money” เงิน /ngern/ along with the word for “month” เดือน /deuan/. This comes from the fact that in Thailand most paydays come on the last day of the month, so your salary is defined as your “monthly income”.

chăn dâai ngern deuan láew
I got paid.

kăo dâai ngern deuan kêun
He got a raise (in salary).

On the 29th or so of each month, with their salary almost gone (sound familiar?), most people will be “broke” ถังแตก /tǎng-​dtàek/. This is an idiom, made from the Thai words for “bucket” or “container” ถัง /tǎng/ and the word for “broken” แตก /​dtàek/. So if you say that “your bucket is broken” then you are clean out of cash. Another idiom used to say you are broke is หมดตัว /mòt-​dtua/ which is made up of the words หมด /mòt/ “to run out of” and ตัว /​dtua/ “body” or “one self”.

ฉันไม่สามารถซื้ออะไร ฉันถังแตก (ฉันหมดตัว)
chăn mâi săa-mâat séu a-rai chăn tăng dtàek (chăn mòt dtua)
I can’t buy anything. I’m broke.


The dreaded Thai word for “tax” is ภาษี /paa-​sěe/. To “pay tax” is เสียภาษี /sǐa paa-​sěe/. It is probably just a coincidence that the word เสีย /sǐa/ not only means “to pay” as in taxes, but it also means “out of order”, “broken”, “spoiled”, “to lose”, “to waste”, and interestingly enough “to die” (as Ben Franklyn told us, the only other thing in life besides taxes that we can be sure of).

paa-sĕe tai nói gwàa paa-sĕe a-may-rí-gan
Thai taxes are lower than American taxes.

It is hard to find anything funny about taxes but there is an amusing idiom using ภาษี /paa-​sěe/. It is ภาษีสังคม /paa-​sěe-​sǎng-​kom/ which uses the word for “tax” along with the Thai word for “community” or “society”, สังคม /​sǎng-​kom/. This idiom is used when we have to make obligatory donations or gifts to friends and family, as in wedding presents or donations at funerals. These are taxes we have to pay if we want to be part of a community or family.

ถ้าเราไปงานศพ เราต้องเสียภาษีสังคม
tâa rao bpai ngaan sòp rao dtông sĭa paa-sĕe săng-kom
If we go to a funeral we need to make a donation.


For various reasons some foreigners think investing ลงทุน /long-​tun/ in Thailand is a good idea. For those, I hope that they will make a profit กำไร /gam-​rai/ and not lose their money เสียเงิน /sǐa ngern/, and go “broke” ถังแตก /tǎng-​dtàek/.


Going to a “bank” ธนาคาร /tá~​naa-​kaan/ in Thailand and “opening” /เปิด/ an “account” /บัญชี/ is fairly simple. But it is difficult to get a good “rate” อัตรา /àt-dtraa/ of “interest” ดอกเบี้ย /dòk-​bîa/. You can “change” แลกเปลี่ยน /lâek-​bplìan/ money there and hopefully you will get a good “exchange rate” อัตราแลกเปลี่ยน /àt-​dtraa-​lâek-​bplìan/.

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about banking and money in Thailand you can check out my blog post: Banking and Money in Thailand.

Another Faux Pas…

On vacation with Thai friends, sitting in a long-tail canoe on a beautiful lake waiting to take off, I asked if Noi was going with us. Our friends on the shore yelled out เธอไม่ชอบเคลื่อนไหว /ter mâi chôp klêuan wăi/. Now, that sounded very much like “Noi doesn’t like waves” (คลื่น /klêun/ “wave”). I mean context – I’m sitting in a boat in the water, aren’t I? And water has waves, doesn’t it? So I yelled out, วันนี้ไม่มีคลื่น /wan née mâi mee klêun/ “There are no waves today.” น้ำนิ่ง /nám nîng/. “The water is calm.”

And of course I knew I made a faux pas right away because everybody on the shore burst out laughing. “She not like MOVE” they called out in unison, stressing the last word. You see, เธอไม่ชอบ /ter mâi chôp/, “she doesn’t like”, was followed by เคลื่อนไหว /klêuan-​wǎi/, the Thai word for “to move” – not “wave” คลื่น /klêun/.

They were playing a little joke on Noi by saying she doesn’t like to move around, a humorous way to say that she is “lazy”. I got the words เคลื่อน(ไหว) klêuan(​wǎi) “to move” and คลื่น /klêun/ “wave” mixed up. Both words have vowels that don’t appear anywhere in English, so no wonder I got them mixed up. But my Thai friends, besides having some fun with Noi, had another belly laugh at my expense. And that’s what faux pas are for, aren’t they?

BTW: If you would like to hear yours truly speaking Thai (you might just be curious) I was recently interviewed by the lovely bloggers Khun Mia and Lani for their Thai Girl Talk podcast. I hope I didn’t embarrass myself too much.

May all our readers have a good, happy, and healthy 2013. And hopefully there will be a lot more vocabulary words in your Thai language war chest.

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
Retire 2 Thailand: Blog
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