This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
What Thai words are beautiful to you?…
There are Thai words that I love to say just because of the singsong melody they impart. I’m not sure if others would call them beautiful, but from pure enjoyment alone, they are to me.
When I came up with sourcing the most beautiful 100 words in the Thai language I thought it would a dawdle. I wasn’t 100% wrong. At 75 words – shared below – I was mostly right.
Oh, and a MEGGA thanks from me to all who participated.
These ones I like because of the beauty of the meaning:
ปัญญา /bpan-yaa/ wisdom
สติ /sà-dtì/ consciousness
ใจ /jai/ mind/heart
สันติสุข /săn-dtì sùk/ tranquility
These are the ones for which I like the sonority/onomatopoeia:
จบ /jòp/ finish (it just sounds so final and therefore reflects its meaning very well)
บุคลิกภาพ /bùk-ká-lík pâap/ personality (I love the rhythm of this word)
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Benjawan Poomsan Becker…
ฉกาจฉกรรจ์ /chà-gàat chà-gan/ brave, fearless
สัพเพเหระ /sàp-pay-hăy-rá/ odds and ends, miscellaneous, trivial
ละมุนละม่อม /lá-mun lá-môm/ gentle, soft in manners
พิลึกกึกกือ /pí-léuk gèuk-geu/ odd, weird, abnormal
เก็บหอมรอมริบ /gèp hŏm rom ríp/ to save up
ข้าวยากหมากแพง /kâao yâak màak paeng/ shortage of food, scarcity
จองหองพองขน /jong-hŏng pong kŏn/ supercilious, haughty
เจ็บปวดรวดร้าว /jèp bpùat rûat ráao/ to anguish, to be in pain
ชายจริงหญิงแท้ /chaai jing yĭng táe/ straight person (not gay), heterosexual
วงศาคณาญาติ /wong-săa-ká-naa-yâat/ relatives, kinship
ว่านอนสอนง่าย /wâa non sŏn ngâai/ obedient, teachable
These words rhyme or have some sounds that are repetitive and make the words beautiful. The words sounds poetic or literary. You can use them when you want to sound eloquent. They are used in many Thai sayings. Learn more about them from Speak Like A Thai Volume 3: Thai Proverbs and Sayings.
Benjawan Poomsan Becker,
ราตรีสวัสดิ์ /raa-dtree-sà~wàt/ good night
– ราตรี /raa-dtree/ evening.
อรุณสวัสดิ์ /à~run-sà~wàt/ good morning
– อรุณ /à~run/ morning or dawn as in Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn.
Both of these are rarely if ever used in real conversations but heard often on TV, especially really romantic soap operas.
กรุณา /gà~rú~naa/ please (very formal)
It’s also used to describe a persons character, benevolent, merciful, kind. Similar to เมตตา /mâyt-dtaa/. มีกรุณา /mee gà-rú-naa/ and มีเมตตา /mee mâyt-dtaa/ are used to say that a person is kind and compassionate. Sometimes they are put together as in มีเมตตากรุณา /mee mâyt-dtaa gà-rú-naa/ which is “kind, merciful”.
เสน่ห์ /sà~này/ charm, มีเสน่ห์ /mee-sà~này/ charming
This can be said about a person or a place.
นุ่มนวล /nûm nuan/ gentle; delicate; graceful
Both นุ่ม /nûm/ and นวล /nuan/ alone mean “soft”. Together they take on a different meaning.
วาสนา /wâa-sà~nǎa/ Good fortune (because of past good deeds), also luck.
วาสนา /wâa-sà~nǎa/ is a very good thing to have and is usually said about people who are lucky in life. I just heard on a Thai soap opera a woman complaining about her life and saying that she ไม่มีวาสนา “I just can’t get a break in life.”
สุวรรณภูมิ /sù-wan-ná~poom/ Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, meaning “Golden Land”. One of the worst cases of transcription in a language noted for its terrible transcriptions. But when pronounced correctly it has a very nice sound. I would have spelled it “Suwana-Poom”.
เทวดา /tay-wá~daa/ an angel (male). One of the many Thai words for angel, this one being the most melodic.
The following don’t sound as tuneful but they are words I used very often when my children were small, so they are beautiful to me.
อุ้ม /ûm/ to carry in ones arms (as carrying a child, อุ้มลูก)
หม่ำ /màm/ to eat
Usually used with infant children encouraging them to eat. Most often said by the mother feeding her child as หม่ำฯ /màm màm/ and quite often are the first words a Thai child will learn how to say.
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จั้กกะแร้ /jak-gra-rae/, I think this word has such beautiful sound, and its sound is too beautiful for its meaning. There are words that have similar sounds to จั้กกระแร้ /jak-gra-rae/, for examples, จักรภพ /jak-gra-pop/ and จักรวาล /jak-gra-waan/, and their meanings are so grand, so grand as it means world, and the later means universe.
However, it’s hard to believe that จั้กกะแร้ /jak-gra-rae/, which has almost the same sound /jak-gra-…/ as the Thai words for world and universe, means armpit. Nobody wants to be under anybody’s armpit like everyone is happy to be in จักรภพ /jak-gra-pop/ or จักรวาล /jak-gra-waan/.
However, if you twist your armpit (imagine that your armpit can be twisted), you can have ปวดร้าว /bpuat raao/. ปวดร้าว /bpuat raao/ doesn’t mean only pain, but when you say ปวดร้าว /bpuat raao/ it’s like you’re having a long strip of pain. It could be from your armpit to your ทรวงอก /suang-ok/, which is another beautiful word to look at here.
Both men and women have ทรวงอก /suang-ok/, but you can’t really see anybody’s or your own ทรวงอก /suang-ok/. You can tell it’s position which is in the middle of your chest, but it’s actually imaginary.
Think for example somebody says เจ็บในทรวง /jep-nai-suang/. Do you think they really have pain inside their chests? I don’t think so. It’s more like your feeling is being hurt. เจ็บในทรวง /jep-nai-suang/ is a beautiful word to say, but not to feel, because it explains a lot how pain you’re having.
However, what if you really have pain in your chest? It’s possible that you’re having a heart disease. If you have to be admitted to the hospital, then you’re ร่อแร่ /ror-rae/, life and death are almost in the same line on the monitor. Try pronouncing ร่อแร่ /ror-rae/. Do you feel beautiful on your tongue when you say it? I do.
Now that you have ร่อแร่ /ror-rae/ for human beings, you also have รุ่งริ่ง /rung-ring/ for describing what you wear. If your clothes are รุ่งริ่ง /rung-ring/, it means you could have a hard time fixing the clothe because it’s tattered, just like it’s hard to fix somebody who is ร่อแร่ /ror-rae/.
Try reading ร่อแร่ /ror-rae/ and รุ่งริ่ง /rung-ring/. Can you find the beauty of their sounds? I do, again. Either you have a ร่อแร่ /ror-rae/ person with you or you have a รุ่งริ่ง /rung-ring/ clothe, you might have to สรรหา /san-haa/ somebody to fix it.
สรรหา /san-haa/ doesn’t only mean to look for, but to selectively and carefully look for something or someone to satisfy your need. Anyway, in order to prevent you from being ร่อแร่ /ror-rae/, I suggest you stop or limit your eating of ของหวาน /kong-waan/.
I love eating ของหวาน /kong-waan/, but I’m still young and living in a non-stressed environment. So, I think I still have a few more years to enjoy eating sweet things. Let me ask you what pictures come up in your mind when you say ของหวาน? (OK.. some of you might have to translate it into your language first.) Are those pictures beautiful? So, can I say ของหวาน /kong-waan/ has such a beautiful meaning for sweet lovers?
Khun Narisa Naropakorn…
Thai words with nice sounds:
เรื่อยๆ /rêuay rêuay/ (adverb)
1. To keep doing something (as a suggestion or softened request)
tam bpai rêuay rêuay mâI dtông râyng
Keep on, no need to rush.
เรื่อยๆ /rêuay rêuay/ (adjective, adverb)
SR: Cat เป็นยังไงบ้างครับ
SR: Cat bpen yang ngai bâang kráp
SR: Cat, how are you doing?
Cat: rêuay rêuay kâ
Cat: So-so (nothing exciting is going on)
ราวๆ /raao raao/ (adverb)
jer gan raao raao sìp mohng cháo
(we’ll) meet around 10am.
นิดๆหน่อยๆ /nít nít nòi nòi/ (noun)
A tiny little bit
ภรรยา: คุณไปช่วยเขา วันหยุด ไม่เหนื่อยเหรอ
pan-rá-yaa: kun bpai chûay kăo wan yùt mâi nèuay rĕr
Wife: Aren’t you too tired to do him a favour on your holiday?
สามี: ไม่เป็นไรหรอก นิดๆหน่อยๆ
săa-mee: mâi bpen rai ròk nít nít nòi nòi
Husband: It’s ok. It’s just a tiny little bit (of my time/brain/energy).
เล็กๆน้อยๆ /lék lék nói nóI/ (noun)
Tiny little bit (focus on size/amount)
Even though I’ll hire a maid,
I’ll still need to do some small things myself.
tĕung (chăn) jà jâang mâe bâan dtàe chăn gôr yang dtông tam ngaan lék lék nói nói ayng
คิดว่า /kít wâa/ (verb)
(to) think that
(chăn) kít wâa wan née fŏn nâa jà dtòk
I think that today the rain will fall.
Thai words with nice meanings:
ไว้ใจ /wái jai/ (verb)
keep + heart
(chăn) wái jai kăo
I keep my heart with him/her.
(I have faith in him/her).
(chăn) mâi wái jai kăo
I don’t keep my heart with him/her.
(I don’t have faith in him/her).
Khun Narisa Naropakorn,
Thai Skype teacher
ถูถูไถไถ /tŏo tŏo tăi tăi/ (two ถ ถุง in a row)
– ถู /tŏo/ to scrub
– ไถ /tăi/to plow
Meaning: scrape by on, to get by, to rub along
A: Hey B, how is your life in Thailand?
B: พอถูถูไถไถ /por tŏo tŏo tăi tăi/ enough to get by
บาดตาบาดใจ /bàat dtaa bàat jai/
– บาด /bàat/ to cut
– ตา /dtaa/ eye
– ใจ /jai/ heart
Meaning: Imagine that you see your ex with a new boyfriend or girlfriend… and “it hurts like a knife cut through the eyes and the heart”.
hěn káo gàb kon mài man bàat dtaa bàat jai tîi sòod
See him/her with the new bf/gf, it hurts (like a knife cut through the eyes and the heart.)
ครอบครัว /krôp krua/
– ครอบ/ krôp/ to cover
– ครัว/ krua/ kitchen
What is so beautiful about this word? Each word has such a deep meaning, which shows how Thais value the family. “Kitchen” is the center/heart/stomach of the family.
เอื้ออาทร /ěua aa-ton/
– เอื้อ /ěua/ [to] be charitable to; be kind to; help
– อาทร /aa-ton/ care; concern; regard
Meaning: to help each other
บ้านเอื้ออาทร /bâan ěua aa-ton/
บ้าน /bâan/ house
เอื้ออาทร /ěua aa-ton/ help each other; aid; do (one) a favour
Meaning: Government housing provided by the community to love income people.
From Five Beautiful Words: ชิวชิว /chiw chiw/ means chill, chill out (these days young Thais use it instead of สบายๆ /sabai sabai/)
จินตนาการ /jin-dtà-naa-gaan/ imagination
I like this word for both how it sounds and the meaning.
สวัสดี /sà-wàt-dee/ Hello
Whenever I am away from Thailand and the first word I hear when I return to my homeland and it makes me feel warm every time I hear it.
วิลิศมาหรา /wí-rít-sà-maa-răa/ deluxe, luxurious
พิรี้พิไร /pí-rée-pí-rai/ sluggishly
วิจารณญาณ /wí-jaa-rá-ná-yaan/ thoughtfulness, discretion
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เบื่อ /bèua/ means bored or boring. When Thai people say น่าเบื่อ /nâa bèua/ it really does sound like something you want to avoid at all costs. If you think that you might be the cause of this เบื่อ /bèua/ the word can even sound quite accusatory. When our toddler is really starting to wear my wife’s patience down she will give a plaintive น่าเบื่อ /nâa bèua/ and I know it is time for me to intervene.
สบู่ /sà-bòo/ is another simple Thai word meaning soap that I like because of its sound. There is just something soapy sounding about the word สบู่ /sà-bòo/.
อนิจจา /a-nít-jaa/ is probably my favourite word in Thai and it means impermanent or unstable. One of my motivations for learning Thai in the early days was that I wanted to be able to read the exact words of some of the Thai forest monks like Ajahn Chah. I have been interested in Buddhism since my teens and so when I started reading Thai this was the type of material I focused on. อนิจจา is one of the three most importance concepts in Buddhism. It is also a word that brings me comfort when I’m having a stressful day – nothing is permanent. It originates from the Pali word Anicca. You will also see this same word written as อนิจจัง.
สัตว์ประหลาด /sàt bprà-làat/ means monster and this is another fun word that I like. It is actually made up of two words สัตว์ meaning animal and ประหลาด which means weird or strange.
โกหก /goh-hòk/ is a word that I like because of the sound and it reminds me of when I first moved to Thailand – it means to lie or deceive. During my first year there was a song out by Bird Thongchai called แฟนจ๋า /faen jăa/ and in the chorus of this they would sing, “ขี้หก บบี้ อ๊ะ ขี้หก ตาลาลา” /kêe hòk bà-bêe a kêe hòk dtaa laa laa/ This song seemed to be played everywhere in Thailand at the time, and it got stuck in my head. The word โกหก /goh-hòk/always reminds me of then even though they don’t actually say “โกหก” in the song; for a long time I thought they did.
เบาหวาน /bao wăan/ means diabetes and it is another word I like because of the sound and because of memories associated with it. I previously thought health studies in a Thai secondary school and the first time I used this word the students didn’t have a clue what I was on about. I had to do a bit of improvised miming. Eventually they got it though and the whole class shouted back at me ‘bao waan’. I had been saying something more like ‘bawan’. I often think of the look of exasperation in those kids faces when I hear the word เบาหวาน /bao wăan/. It also gave me a more realistic appraisal of my Thai language skills at the time.
สมาธิ /sà-maa-tí/ refers to a type of concentration meditation although many Thais seem to use it to refer to meditation in general. It is related to the Pali word Samadhi. One reason I like the word สมาธิ /sà-maa-tí/ is that it sort of sounds like the chocolate treat Smarties.
ศิลปิน /sĭn-lá-bpin/ means artist and this is another word that I just like because of the sound.
สนับสนุน /sà-nàp-sà-nŭn/ means to sponsor or support and it seems to be something I hear a lot on Thai TV – usually to say who is supporting a particular show.
ชีวิตชีวา /chee-wít chee-waa/ means full of life or energetic. It is made up of two words ชีวิต /chee-wít/ which means life and ชีวา /chee-waa/ which means lively. I just think that there is something so lively about the words ชีวิตชีวา; like somebody is tickling somebody else.
The one that always pops to the forefront of my brain is กรุณา /gà-rú-naa/. It has all the hallmarks of a lovely word:
- It is a Pali loanword.
- It contains a ‘nice’ uncommonly-used letter.
- Its pronunciation is irregular, having a hidden ‘-a’
- Its meaning is one of peace, benevolance, compassion, as well as pleasantly requesting assistance.
- It even looks pretty, especially when written in one of the โบราณ scripts.
Secondly, and I just used it – the word โบราณ /boh-raan/ itself is also up there, carrying with it as it does the ancient traditions of time goes by. Also from Pali, also using the same uncommon letter – and its meaning has a feeling of nostalgia.
Do they get any better than that? Those are my top two ‘most beautiful’ Thai words.
And now from twitter, Facebook, and the comments…
And กาญจนบุรี /gaanjànábùrii/ and สุวรรณภูมิ /sùwannápuum/ are also nice. From what I gather, they mean almost the same thing: golden province and golden land, respectively.
Mark Hollow @hmmbug
ใบ /bai/ as classifier for flat objects, including the world e.g. โลกใบนี้
คำ /kam/ as a noun means “word” but also is a classifier for a mouthful e.g. ผมจะกินคำเดียว
Nikon G. @Helaku33 (no longer online)
ทัศนคติ /tus-sa-na-ka-ti/ attitude
คำคม /kum-kom/ inspirational quote
Michael Holland @MichaelBKK
แมว /maew/ cat (I always thought แมว was the most perfectly appropriate word in any language 😉
แล้ว /láew/ already
เลย /loie/ completely, entirely
เอกสาร /àyk-gà-săan/ document, paper
คลอง /klong/ canal, waterway, watercourse
ระยิบระยับ /rá-yíp rá-yáp/ brilliant, glitteringly, sparkling – Jørgen Nilsen Facebook
ธรรมดาๆ /tam-má-daa tam-má-daa/ ordinary, common, usual, regular
ประสีประสา /bprà-sĕe-bprà-săa/ know, be sensible, know the ways of the world
เบ้อเร่อ /bêr-rêr/ very big, huge, large, gigantic, enormous, immense, massive
งดงาม /ngót ngaam/ be beautiful, be excellent, be wonderful, be artistic, be pleasing
ธรรมชาติ /tam-má-châat/ nature, natural, creation
For me, most of the words I suggested are not necessarily beautiful in the true sense, but I think they sound funny when you pronounce them, and I associate them with something. So for example, ระยิบระยับ is a word a learned from reading a cartoon. Because I thought it sounded funny, I can still remember the scene from the cartoon when I learned it. The same is true for most of the other words I suggested, so I guess it is a highly subjective point of view Except maybe งดงาม which I think means beautiful, but its a more poetic expression if I remember correctly from the dictionary.
One hundred of the most beautiful Thai words…
Ok. Here’s the thing. So far there are 84 wonderful Thai words on the list. Care to add more?
10 thoughts on “The Most Beautiful Words in the Thai Language”
Btw: I tweeted this article earlier – Most annoying words of 2012: ‘Whatever’, ‘you know,’ ‘like’, ‘just sayin’ … and Mia suggested doing one for Thai.
So if you have annoying Thai words to share (keeping it clean, obviously 😉 please shoot them over for a post on the subject.
Rick, just start using it that way and each time, explain why. And you just might change how it’s treated!
Too bad that the classifier for บั๊ก doesn’t change depending on whether the bug has been fixed or not, rather like the classifier for ช้าง changes depending on whether the elephant is wild (ตัว) or has been captured and domesticated (เชือก).
Perhaps บั๊ก could change from ตัว into ซาก after they’ve fixed it …
Mark, hilarious to hear that Thais use the classifier for animals for บั๊ก 🙂
ps: apologies for it taking so long to get your comment unstuck. I was in transit (just flew in).
Good morning Martyn. You are right – there are a few words on that list that sound like sing along song titles and such 🙂
An amazing stack of words and phrases, I’ll try out one or two today. Sĭn-lá-bpi is surely a song title or better still chorus just waiting to happen.
Have a happy New Year.
Hi Catherine, a good collection of words you have here. For me, I find beauty in the meanings, especially when the modern and old usages are compared such as the ใบ example above.
Here’s a more modern example… working in IT in BKK I hear a lot of loan words from English computer terminology. One such word is บั๊ก (bug) as in “a bug (error) in a computer program.” Considering the first ever bug was literally a moth caught in a relay, it’s nice to hear Thais use the classifier for animals (ตัว) when referring to them: บั๊กตัวนี้นะ แก้ไขยากมาก isn’t an uncommon response when I need something fixed late on a Friday afternoon…
Rick and Keith, thank you for suggesting more great sounding Thai words! I’m on the long-haul back at the moment so will add them (and others coming via email and FB) to the list once I reach home.
My intention is to get the final list recorded the first week of 2013. That way those who don’t read Thai can understand our reasoning. I’m not limiting the list to 100 so if you do have more to add, please do.
Happy (almost) New Year all 🙂
Or maybe there is room for a couple more วรร words to go with สุวรรณภูมิ? These two seem to trip off the tongue nicely for me (when spoken by someone who can actually speak Thai 🙂 :
วรรณคดี /wan-ná-ká-dee/ literature
วัฒนธรรม /wát-tá-ná-tam/ culture
If I’m not wrong, the word สบู่ is a loanword from Japanese ‘soap-u’, which in turn is an obvious loan from English.
Three of my favourite Thai nouns are กุหลาบ, องุ่น, and กะหล่ำ, which I believe are 3 of the rare Persian words imported into Thai.
There’s something fascinating about the idea of being able to ask for the same thing in Chiang Rai as in Tehran, whereas สตรอว์เบอร์รี่ doesn’t quite have the same lilt to it…