Review: Domnern Sathienpong Thai-English Dictionary

Domnern Sathienpong Thai-English Dictionary

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Review: Domnern Sathienpong Thai-English Dictionary…

Title: Domnern Sathienpong Thai English Dictionary 4th Edition
Authors: G. Domnern, W. Sathienpong
ISBN: 9789742129200
Pages: 800
Price: 395baht (hardbound CD and larger font) 255 baht (paperback)
Availability: Just about anywhere which sells Thai books, Se-Ed, B2S, Asia Books, Kinokunia, Chula Books, etc.

I normally write reviews about Thai language schools and articles about my trials and tribulations in learning Thai. This is my first book review, so please bear with me.

I have several English-Thai dictionaries scattered around the house. Before I could really read Thai to any degree of proficiency I relied on them heavily. Problem is, looking up English words to find the Thai equivalent is often a hit or miss endeavor. True, you’ll get whatever the author of the dictionary thinks the appropriate Thai word or words for the English word, but what you won’t get is usage, example sentences, and compound words the word is tied to. And you often won’t get critical information about the word as far as if it is colloquial, formal, official, or used primarily in written Thai. And this is information a non-native speaker of Thai needs to use new vocabulary. These shortcomings had me giving away my English Thai dictionaries to Thai friends.

While browsing the dictionary section at B2S (the bookstore chain of Central Group) I happened across the bright blue cover of the Domnern Sathienpong Thai-English Dictionary. Now, at that time I could read Thai fairly well, meaning I could read something and mostly comprehend what it was saying. After I looked through the paperback edition I immediately bought it. Once I got it home I started reading it. I know, reading a dictionary doesn’t seem like an edge of your seat thing to do, but the way this dictionary presents information makes it quite an interesting read.

After a couple of days reading the paperback edition I realized that saving the 140 baht between the cost of the paperback and the hardback edition was short-sighted. The print in the paperback is noticeably smaller and often I couldn’t tell which vowel was which. A trip back to B2S to purchase the hardback edition solved and I was good to go.

The hardback version comes with a CD. I immediately installed it on my PC with disastrous results! It totally changed the entire desktop to the Windows default of giant icons, oversized printing, etc. An uninstall and system restore took care of the problem and I now use the CD as a coffee table coaster.


Some things I’ve found of interest in this dictionary are: the Thai word กระ, which can mean freckle, liver spot, or tortoise shell as a stand-alone word, is also the prefix for about 10 pages worth of words! Similarly the prefix ประ, which can mean to strike, touch, add, attack or pat on has nearly 9 pages worth of words.

What I like most about this dictionary is the use of example sentences in many of the definitions. I also like that the authors delineate slang from formal words, and seem to have no reticence in providing example sentences for some pretty coarse slang words. Now, granted, the slang is quite dated and not that much contemporary (ภาษาวัยรุ่น is included). Still, at 54 years old, it’s more age appropriate slang for me.

Another thing I really like is the incorporation of compound words related to a base word. I can’t begin to tell you the times I’ve looked up a word and then found myself reading the dictionary for 5 or 10 minutes. And all because there were so many compounds that can be made from the single word I was looking up. The dictionary has 71 listings for word compounds which start with ใจ and 36 for words which in which ใจ is used as a suffix.

In the back of the dictionary are appendices devoted to: birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, plants, aquatic life, geographical names, Thai dishes and ingredients, military and police ranks, Thai governmental, state, financial institutions, public universities and abbreviations. These are also very interesting to read thru, especially the section about police/military rank and the abbreviations. You can’t begin to read a Thai newspaper without a sizeable vocabulary in Thai abbreviations so this indeed is a helpful section.

Another asset, this dictionary is captioned with icons to denote polite, formal, slang, royal, etc.

Some of the downsides to the dictionary…

There is no Thai pronunciation for words, so you’re left to your own devices on whether a particular word has a double functioning consonant (used as a final and then again as a stand-alone sound too). Even if they’d included the pronunciation Thais are used to reading, it would have been an improvement, especially for a non-native reader/speaker.

I’ll relate a pronunciation fox-paw (faux-pas) I had 6 or so months ago in Thai language class. Now I’d learned the word อวยพร by looking it up in the dictionary when I was reading a teen romance novel, but I’d never spoken it aloud. In the lesson at school during the read aloud part, I unfortunately got stuck with a passage that had the word อวยพร in it. I pronounced it as อะ-วะ-ยะ-พน. The teacher who was in the process of taking a drink from a bottle of water almost blew it out her nose at my horrific mangling of the word. Honestly, if there had been a Thai pronunciation in the dictionary when I first looked up the word, I’da never made a fool out of myself like that. Still, hardly anyone else in class knew I mispronounced it so badly, until the teacher (after composing herself) pointed it out to everyone. We had a good laugh and I took it in stride. But really, sometimes you just don’t know how to pronounce an unfamiliar Thai word and a pronunciation guide would be a valuable addition.

They also have the irritating penchant for listing a word, but instead of providing the definition saying “see such and such other word”. I mean come on, how hard would it have been to put the definition in two places?

As I said earlier, that CD is a disaster waiting to happen so DON’T load it into your PC. I did Google around for a fix but came up empty. Also, it won’t display Thai font correctly on Windows 7, so using it as a coaster to set drinks on is probably the best you’ll get out of it.

Those are minor shortcomings and certainly shouldn’t stop anyone who can even read Thai marginally from getting this dictionary. I’ve found I’m about as fast (sometimes faster) looking up words with it than some technophiles are using the Thai-English dictionary app on their smart phones. It certainly gets you dialed in to the order of the Thai alphabet (which I still can’t recite BTW), and the progression of Thai vowels in a dictionary format. While I can’t recite the Thai consonant alphabet in order, I can look at the dictionary and guess pretty accurately what letter is what by the thickness of the sections.

Who will get use out of the dictionary…

I’ve recommended this dictionary to foreigners learning Thai almost any time I run into one. Truth be told, I’ve even bought copies to give them out to people studying Thai. Recently I ran into one foreigner I’d given a copy to months before. He promptly took 400 baht out of his pocket and gave it to me, saying it was the best thing he’d come across to help build his Thai vocabulary. I mean, how cool is that?

Cat wanted me to include some of my favorite words and example sentences in this review. However, my version of spoken Thai is coarse, blunt, direct, littered with profanity and far from suitable for a website like this. I think readers should invest in the dictionary and find their own pearls of wisdom rather than me providing examples (which might not be viewer appropriate).

I hope this review was of interest. If I continue to review books I’m certain to get better…

Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com

8 thoughts on “Review: Domnern Sathienpong Thai-English Dictionary”

  1. Yes. Try this. Worked for me.
    1.Go to Control Panel/Clock, Language, and Region/Region/. (slightly different for each Windows version)
    2. At the Administrative tab, change system locale to Thai.

    This changes the unicode to Thai so it will be able to read it.

  2. Thanks for your review of this great dictionary. I used to use it all the time (third edition) and loved the CD. However it was only compatible with my old Windows98 computer and I’ve moved on. it still lies there in the hard disk of my present computer but the sound files don’t work in newer versions of Windows so I guess I lost interest in it and fogot about it. Thanks for reminding me how special the CD is. I think I may have to buy the new edition. And yes, fully agree that it’s a dictionary that one can read and get lost in. The coarse definitions are hilarious, too. I use the appendices regularly, especially for plants, birds, Thai dishes and ingredients, snakes, etc. They often use the scientific Latin names for species and from there one can search out the English equivalents on Wikipedia, etc. Those myriad กระ- entries are amazing. I don’t know who the authors are but they’ve done a great job.

  3. IMPORTANT ADDENDUM to the D/S Dictionary Review!!!

    I have to totally withdraw my rather coarse remarks about the usefulness or lack-thereof about the C/D which comes with the hardbound edition.

    David of Thai-Language-Dot-Com was kind enough to send me an email and then work with me over the phone to get the C/D to install properly on my p/c running Windows 7 Ultimate. I am NOT the most p/c literate person out there, so I doubt I could provide instructions on how to get it working, but once you do get it to work; WOW!!!

    There are a myriad of ways to search for words, and nearly EVERY single word, example phrase, sentence in both Thai and English is a spoken sound file! In playing around with it for the last 4 hours, I found a couple files which didn’t say the complete compound word, but man there are a LOT of words and a zillion sound files in it.

    It’s set up the same way as the dictionary is so if you find a ‘root word’ you also get all the compounds that word is tied to as well. With the dictionary you can only look up words written in Thai, but the C/D lets you look up English words too for the Thai equivalent or where that word is used in a definition.

    Once you get this C/D installed and working it’s easily worth the price of the dictionary by itself. Heck you could use the dictionary as a door stop as valuable as the C/D is. Although I’m a book and paper kinda guy so will still carry the dictionary..

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Benjawan’s three way Thai-English-karaoke Dictionary App and recommend it to everyone, but this one blows hers right out of the water because of the sound files for the example sentences. The down side was it took a LOT of fiddling around with my p/c to get it to display and to work, but I could just be not all that smart too…

    The sound files are all clear, spoken at “normal speed” and switch between a man and a woman.

    IF you get that dictionary, DON’T use the C/D as a coffee coaster until after you load it into your p/c. I had to clean the heck out of mine to get it to finally load, but am glad I didn’t throw it out like I was going to in the first place..

    Anyway, I just wanted you guys to know. . .

  4. After this article came out I received more than a few emails asking for some of my favorite words and their definitions in this dictionary. The other nite, I was reading the dictionary entries for ป and came across the word ปริ๊ด or ปรี๊ด as both spellings are under the same listing.

    Thai uses a LOT of “sound association words” which if I’m not mistaken are called onomatopoeia. A good example of this is ฉี่ the colloquial word for urinate. Really by definition it means a “sizzling sound”, coincidentally also very close to the sound urine makes striking the ground.

    But I digress, ปริ๊ด (ปรี๊ด) has this meaning; “rapidly, in a jet, whistling, tweet, sound of spitting, to spurt (out, up, into, etc), spit”. The example sentence given in Thai was น้ำพุ่งปรี๊ด. The English sentences were “The water spurted out” and “He ejaculated”!! As I said, this dictionary pulls NO punches when it comes to “coarse definitions”.

    I’ve got a LOT more but that’s all I’m contributing. Find your own gems, they’re in there believe me!

  5. I got an email from a reader about fixes for installing the c/d, but deleted it by mistake thinking it was a comment…

    Anyway, here’s my answer;
    Honestly, I never tried to install the CD on my new desktop p/c running Windows 7. I did it on my laptop (also Windows 7) and it wouldn’t display the Thai font correctly when you opened the dictionary. It didn’t change the icons or formatting like it did when I installed it on my old desktop running Windows XP though.

    It was like the .txt files of about 100 Thai song lyrics I’d compiled. When I tried to open them with Windows 7 they just display as gibberish characters and no amount of fiddling around has got them to display correctly. So there goes about 3 years of “ripping” song lyrics to use as a Thai language learning tool…

    That’s why I recommended the c/d is better served being used as a cup coaster on your table instead of installed on your p/c.

    Sorry I couldn’t be more help.

  6. Martyn, I have the dictionary but I haven’t tried the CD yet. I have a Mac and as the CD would have to run on an emulator, I passed. And after reading Tod’s review, I’m even more reluctant to try it!

  7. Tod and Catherine

    A Thai-English dictionary that comes complete with a free drinks coaster. That’s a good start and a great combo for wiling away a few evening hours.

    In this iPod, iPad and every kind of fad world we now live in it’s good to see a good old-fashioned book getting such a good review. And 395 baht will hardly break ones bank.


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