Trying to impress the locals or struggling to understand everyday language in Thailand? Here are some commonly used slang words and colloquialisms in the Land of Smiles.
Something that is jaap is cool, awesome, or pretty great! It’s used to show appreciation and admiration. It’s mainly used by younger Thai people. While you may hear hip older people referring to something as jaap, you’ll probably find that the speaker is being sarcastic.
Goo is an informal word for I. Unlike the standard words of pomme (male) and chan (female), goo can be used by people of any gender. It is commonly heard among close friends, generally from the younger generations.
As goo is the informal word for referring to oneself, meung is the casual way to refer to another person. Similarly, it is only appropriate to use with close friends and in an informal setting. You certainly shouldn’t even think of using it with your boss!
Gig is used to refer to a person’s casual lover. It can be used to refer to both men and women. A close English equivalent would perhaps be the term “friends with benefits”. At least one party is often, but not always, already married or in a long-term serious relationship and having naughty fun on the side. Generally, both people know they are each other’s gigs and it isn’t typically seen as an offensive description.
A jaow chew is a playboy. Depending on the context, it can be used in a playful and jokey manner or (more rarely) as an insult. If a well-intentioned friend is giving you some friendly advice about a potential love interest and you hear this term, it may be wise to proceed with caution … unless, of course, you’re happy to be a gig.
Kwai is the Thai word for buffalo. Depending on the context, it can also be used as a term that’s somewhat akin to imbecile. It is very common to hear friends jokingly calling each other buffalo, but it is not advised that foreigners follow suit. There’s often a fine line between using slang as part of an inside joke and getting in hot water for unwittingly throwing insults around.
A dek naew is a young person who needs to keep up with all the latest trends. They will likely be wearing the newest fashions, have the most recent mobile phone, and do anything to appear cool in the eyes of others. They are hip, modern, funky, and totally up to the minute.
While baa is the proper word for crazy, the alliterative ting tong is often used in a jokier manner. It is typically used to indicate that someone is perceived as being a bit wacky, unusual, or eccentric. Although not usually taken as an insult, it wouldn’t be wise to scoff at your boss’s requests and call them ting tong to their face.
A rather lovely Thai slang phrase, pa-sa dok mai literally translates as flower language. If somebody is speaking pa-sa dok mai, they are using tender and poetic words of love. Friends may, however, mock each other if they hear someone using such dreamy and romantic lingo when speaking with a love interest.
Taken from the English phrase high society, high so is used in Thai when talking about somebody from the upper reaches of society. It can also be used in a light-hearted, mocking way to refer to a perceived social climber. If your pals mention that a new bar, for example, attracts lots of high so, you know to don your fancy attire and expect higher-than-normal prices.
Mao moi is a slang verb for gossiping or talking behind someone’s back. The first part of the phrase comes from the English word for mouth. If you hear your Thai friends mentioning that someone likes to mao moi, you’d be wise to keep your secrets to yourself!
Tang is an everyday slang term for money. It is derived from the word satang, a unit of Thai currency. While many people know that Thailand uses the Thai baht, you may not know that one baht is further split into 100 satangs. Satangs are rare today because of their very low value, and many shops will not accept such small coins. The word tang has been in use since satang coins were more common.
If somebody is said to be grop, you know that they do not have much money (or tang!) and are struggling financially. A good English equivalent is broke. This slang word may be used both factually to portray a person’s difficult position or, less commonly, as an insult.
Dok means flower and faar means the sky, so a dok faar is literally a sky flower. In Thai slang, the term is used for a woman who comes from a well-connected, powerful, or rich family. The inference is that she was born lucky and can rely on her roots to navigate her way through life. It’s generally not seen as a derogatory term; rather, it’s normally used in a matter-of-fact way to describe a person’s situation.
Being filled with joy in the Land of Smiles isn’t as great as it sounds; joy is the Thai slang word for sad! It goes beyond simply feeling a bit gloomy though, and usually implies some element of sorrow, despair, or feeling despondent.