Thai Language Blog

Thai Smells Posted by on Feb 27, 2013 in Beginner

We will finish off our four part series of sensory vocabulary (see previous posts on colors, shapes, flavors) with the sense of smell. 

Are you familiar with the Asian fruit called the durian (tu1rien1 ทุเรียน)? It’s a big sweet-tasting pineapple-sized fruit famous (infamous?) for the smell – it literally reeks for some people. The smell is so strong that hotels ban guests from bringing durians into their rooms, and ‘no durian’ signs can be found throughout public areas in Asia. 

The durian also comes with a myth of death. Supposedly, if you eat durian while drinking alcohol you will die. Every Thai I’ve ever met believes this, and I can’t convince a single one to try it. Seriously. They say that durian causes the body temperature to rise, and supposedly so does alcohol. Therefore 1+1=dead. 

Note: It’s an urban legend/myth that most SE Asians have believed for at least a century. This 1969 science paper, if anyone is interested, mostly disproves the myth: “Durian and alcohol–A preliminary report.”

Anyway, back on subject with smells. There are very few Thai words commonly used for smells, with most just being various combinations of the same key words. Here is a quick list below: 




Smell (neutral) Glin2 กลิ่น
Smells good Glin2 haawm5 กลิ่นหอม
Good smell Haawm5 หอม
Stinks Men5 เหม็น
Perfume Nam4 haawm5 น้ำหอม
Cologne Ko1lon1 โคโลญ
Bad breath Baak2 men5 ปากเหม็น
Fart Dtot2 ตด


This video will give you practice for words that smell good. This lady is doing a product review for some really expensive perfume. I apologize to the guys on how ‘girly’ this video is.


And now practice for words that smell bad. Here we have a crude comedy in the Esaan dialect about a man who absolutely reeks, and who has farts so smelly that it can cause things to die.


Additionally, below are a few common plants that use the ‘haawm’ key word: 




Onion Hua5 haawm5 หัวหอม
Banana (large western type) Guay3 haawm5 กล้วยหอม
Shiitake mushroom Hed2 haawm5 เห็ดหอม
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