Thai Language Blog

Poo yai Posted by on Jun 16, 2011 in Beginner, Culture, Intermediate

Today I’m going to talk about Poo3 Yai2 ผู้ใหญ่. Poo3 means ‘person’ and Yai2 means ‘big’. Generally, ‘poo yai’ means ‘adult’. You start off as a child (dek1 เด็ก), work your way up to teenager (wai1 run3 วัยรุ่น), and after a few more years you’ve made it.

That is of course if you survived all those times driving in Bangkok on a motorbike without a helmet while chatting on your cell phone . . .


Now, there is poo yai, and there is Poo Yai. Notice the capitalization. The difference is that sometimes Poo Yai can refer to the ‘elders’, like village chiefs (ผู้ใหญ่บ้าน poo3 yai2 baan3) or town mayors. It’s meant as plural, such as ‘let’s go talk to the Poo Yai as they have seniority for this decision’. It could also take on a sarcastic negative connotation to refer to those with power that treat everyone like pawns or children, as in ‘the city is suffering from corruption, but as it benefits the Poo Yai nothing will be done’. If you don’t know already, ‘seniority’ or อาวุโส (ah1 wu4 soo5) in Thailand is determined mostly by age. That means you must listen to and obey those who are much older than you without question, as to do otherwise would be extremely disrespectful.


I once asked a Thai friend how she felt about the rule of seniority for elders. She said that ‘it isn’t fair’ and ‘it isn’t right’, that she didn’t like the system of ‘seniority’ in Thailand. And then surprisingly she said, ‘but when I’m old I’d like to be given this same respect, and treated as a superior’. I guess she felt if she had to be an inferior her whole life, she would have earned her right to seniority. Sounds fair!


There are many ways to refer to really old people. There is the informal คนแก่ (kon1 gae2) which means ‘old person’. There is the more polite term ผู้สูงอายุ (poo3 suung 5 ah1yu4) which means ‘person of high age’. If the person is old and in a position of high respect, such as an old monk, you can refer to him as หลวง (luang5).


ผู้ใหญ่ poo3 yai2 – adult

เด็ก dek1 – child

วัยรุ่น wai1 run3 – teenager

ผู้ใหญ่บ้าน poo3 yai2 baan3 – village chief

อาวุโส ah1 wu4 soo5 – seniority

คนแก่ kon1 gae2 – old person

ผู้สูงอายุ poo3 suung 5 ah1yu4 – person of high age (polite for ‘old person’)

หลวง luang5 – [use to refer to old monks] Top Thai Movies for Farang

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