From the Blog

August 13, 2014

The Long and Short of Thai Names

Have you ever wondered why it appears all Thai’s have a nick name and why do they have such long first and second names. The Long and Short of Thai Names

Nicknames in Thailand

Traditionally nicknames were given at birth to confuse evil spirits ( ปีศาจ ปีศาจ ), that are said to be constantly on the lookout for newborn children to control.

The Long and short of Thai namesIn modern day Thailand the length of a Thai’s first name almost ensures a nickname will be used; who wants to shout for a person when the name is so long you can be out of breath before you get through reeling it off.

Thai parents will generally give their children nicknames soon after they are born, some are simply traditional Thai names but more commonly the names are from western words (see below).

Thai’s in general believe English words are cool and lucky. It is worth noting Thai’s will regularly change their own nicknames with the hope the change, will bring them good luck and fortune.



The following are the Top 10 most common Thai nicknames as surveyed by The Ministry of Culture of Thailand.

1.เมย์ May /may/: A girl’s nickname. Not given that May was born in May.

The long and short of Thai names2.พลอย Ploy/ploy/: A girl’s nickname, meaning precious stone or gem.

3.แนน Nan /naen/: A girl’s nickname. This is not Thai language, but a western name

4.ไอซ์ Ice /ái/: Is both a girl’s and a boy’s name. Again a western name

5.แบงค์ Bank: Boy’s name. Yep! It is another English word that sounds cool to Thai’s.

6.น้ำ Nahm /náam/: A Girls name meaning ‘water’.

7.ฟ้า Fah /fáa/: A Girl’s name meaning ‘sky’, ‘blue colour’, or the short word for นางฟ้า /naang-fáa/ meaning ‘angel’

8.นิว New /niu/: Is both a girl’s and a boy’s name and again is another English word.

Long and short of Thai names9.บอล Ball /bon/: Is a boy’s name, it means the same in English as it does in Thai.

10.เบียร์ Beer /bia/: Is both a girls and a boy’s name.  Yep, it is ‘beer’ and it means the same in English as it does in Thai. It proves that Thai’s do have a wicked sense of humour.


Long Thai surnames

The fact is that many Thai’s do actually have short names. Having a short surname can indicate that the family name is from an ethnic Thai ancestry  i.e. those families that have been native Thai for tens of generations.

The Long and short of Thai names 1Most of the earliest people to settle in Thailand are thought to have originated from China where surnames are traditionally short e.g. Wong, Tek, Tan etc.

As time passed and the Thai Empire grew both the original Chinese-Thai families and the newer peoples living under Thai rule, mainly Mon, Khmer and Lao, as well as Chinese, Indian and Muslim immigrants wanted Thai sounding names.


This in turn meant they had to apply to the Thai government, for in Thailand, by law you are not allowed to have the same surname as another family.


The Long and short of Thai names The consequences of which, means anyone who shares a surname in the Kingdom, is a member of the same family and so the extended Thai family is created.

As many of the shorter surnames were already taken, the new assimilated Thai’s had to create longer surnames that still sounded Thai, others simply chose to associate their new family names in some way with another already existing well to do family name.

Both forms of creating a unique Thai family name, resulted in their surnames simply…. grew longer.



The long and short of Thai namesThis simple law of one family one name, has lead in part to the strict Class Society in the Kingdom, where a family name can represent money and power or more commonly perceived here as

Thailand:    Power = Money.


The Long and short of Thai names








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  1. John - January 18, 2016 4:18 pm

    A few others. Fon meaning rain, yai meaning large, lek meaning small.

  2. Steve - January 18, 2016 2:50 pm

    My wife’s nickname is Nok, or bird in Thai, very popular, also Katay, or rabbit…
    I don’t think I have ever heard any of her friends or relatives use their real names to each other… And they gave a huge family !


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