Thai Language Blog

Where Do Thais Get Their Nicknames? Posted by on Jan 31, 2011 in Beginner, Culture, Intermediate

As you should already know, most Thais have and go by their nickname. This is mostly because actual Thai names are long and complicated, making them hard to spell and hard to remember. Anyway, this is stuff you probably already know.

What you probably didn’t know is how they got their nicknames.

Typically, it’s the parents that give them the name, for many of various reasons. Let’s go over a few . . .

The Small Daughter

Every other parenting couple in Thailand has named their daughter after a word that means ‘small’, or at least named the daughter after some object that is small. For example, เล็ก, น้อย, นิด, and นก (nok is a bird, which is small).

The Animal

Remember when you first heard about how native American Indians were named after animals, like Running Wolf, Soaring Eagle, or Crazy Horse? Well, it’s pretty much the same in Thailand. I feel sorry for all the girls I’ve met whose name is Pig . . . seriously, what were the parents thinking?!

The Curse

Sometimes, a child is named after something that’s very despised or horrible. A friend of a friend of mine is named Dog. Why? Because Thai dogs are considered lowly creatures. It turns out his mother had, if I remember right, seven mis-carriages. Each time her child would die in the womb, after many months of pregnancy. She and her husband really wanted a child, and believed that perhaps there were evil spirits killing the children. To counter it, they decided to name their child Dog, in effect tricking the evil spirit that there was no pregnancy. Well, he was born, and the name stayed.


In more recent times it’s become popular to name your daughter after a fruit. A mis-pronounced and often mutilated English name for a fruit, that is. For example, Mint is pronounced ‘Men’. Apple is even more confusing because Thais spell it as ‘Ple’ in karaoke, but pronounce it as ‘Bun’ (เปิ้ล) when spoken.

A Random Word in the Dictionary

You’ll always find Thais with unique names, usually some obscure no longer used word taken from deep within a Thai dictionary. They often take pride in telling you what it means.

Porn Porn Porn!!!

Yes, we all get amused at the many many Thais who have Porn in their name. It’s the unfortunate result of the Royal Thai transliteration system, which frankly is a quite terrible way to spell Thai words with the English alphabet. Porn is actually spelled พร, or ‘pr’, and means ‘blessing’. It’s pronounced as พอน, or Pawn, with an emphasis on ‘aw’. A friend of mine is named Suporn, ‘su’ meaning good . . . she went many years being called ‘good porn’ by the not so mature boys in her class . . .

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