LearnThaiwith Us!Start Learning!
Like in English, Thai has titles that you can add in front of names. In Thai society, it is important to establish who is ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ from the get-go, and the language is designed to make it very simple to do so. From a westerners point of view this concept is offensive I agree, but it’s something you’ll need to understand and work with if you want to truly fit in to Thai culture. If you are a beginner, make sure you remember at least the first three.
น้อง – nong 4, Use this before the first name only when referring to friends and family that are younger than you. You can also use this word to call the attention of a waiter/waitress.
พี่ – pee 3, Use this before the first name only when referring to friends and family that are older than you. Be careful with this word, as using it will establish your inferiority. Also, don’t use this to refer to older girls you’re romantically interested in – they don’t want you to point out that age difference!
คุณ – khun 1, Add this in front of a name to sound more formal. It’s similar to saying Mr or Ms, and is common over the phone or at the office. Don’t confuse this word for ‘you’, which has the same spelling.
นาย – naai 1, This is more formal than คุณ, and means Mr or ‘master’. Say this for high level people, VIPs, officials, etc.
นาง – naang 1, A formal title to put in front of first names of married women. It is the equivalent of Mrs.
นางสาว – naang 1 saow 5, A formal title put before the first names of unmarried women, the equivalent of Miss.
คุณหนู – khun 1 nuu 5 – I typically see this used either sarcastically or jokingly as a way to point out a girl/woman who has been spoiled by her wealthy father.
คุณหญิง – khun 1 yeeng 5, The Thai equivalent of “Lady”. Only old ladies that are important (or think they are important) will use this.