11 Beautiful Lao Words and Phrases You Can't Translate into English

11 Beautiful Lao Words and Phrases You Can't Translate into English

Lao lends itself to idioms, double entendre and wordplay derived from tongue-in-cheek plays on the tonal language and the cheeky sense of humor that permeates the country. Learn 11 new Lao phrases that we’d do well to integrate into English. 

ຮັກແພງກັນ / Hak Paeng Gan (hak peng gaan)

Hak Paeng Gan is said by close friends after sitting around eating and drinking. It translates loosely to “I treasure our relationship,” or “I love you guys!”

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Lao Couple | © sasint / Pixabay

ບໍ່ຕ້ອງຄິດຫຼາຍ / Bo Dtong Kit Lai (bo dong kit lie)

Bor tong kid laiy is the perfect phrase when the confusion and contradictions of Laos are driving you crazy. It translates as “don’t think too much” or “you shouldn’t think too much.”


Lao Woman | © sasint/Pixabay

ມ່ວນ / Muan Baw? (mouan baw)

Muan means enjoyment or fun but it’s more a state of being in Laos. Everything muan should be savored and time spent doing muan things increased (drinking, laughing, hanging out with friends.) Anything Baw Muan or not enjoyable, such as working too hard, should be minimized. Life in Laos should be muan.

ຢູ່ລ້າໆ / Yu La La (yoo la la)

Literally Yu La La means “in the past” but it’s a euphemism meaning “nothing to do.” Use it when you have free time, are bored or doing some porch sitting, a favorite Lao pastime.

ຈັງໃດສ່ຽວ / Jung Dai Siew (jung dye seew)

Used with close friends or perhaps siblings Jung Dai Siew can be likened to calling out, “What’s up man?” as an informal salutation.

ເຫັນດີ / ເຫັນບໍ່ດີ / Hen Dee (hen dee) /Bo Hen Dee (boh hen dee)

Hen dee literally translates to “see good”, meaning to agree. On the flip side Bo Hen Dee translates to “not see good”, meaning to disagree.

ເຈັບ ອອດໆ ແອດໆ / Jep Od Od Et Et (jep od od et et)

Od Od Et Et is common among mature folks suffering from the aches and pains that are natural with aging. You have a back ache one day, the next day it’s your knee, then your head hurts.


Grandmother and Grandson | © sasint/Pixabay

ຂໍເງິນກິນເບຍ / Khor Ngun Kin Beer (kor nun kin beer)

Khor Ngun Kin Beer means “Can I please have some money to drink beer?” Lao people are known for their love of eat and drink. It’s an honest way to beg for some pocket change.

ຄັກຫລາຍ Khek lai (Khek lai)

Khek lai is somewhat akin to “Awesome!”an is used when something is incredible or impressive, like your friend’s new motor bike or their sweet dance moves. Khek tay tay can be used alternatively and means the same thing. 

 ຝາດ  Fadt (Fadt)

Fadt is a flavor category rarely if ever found in western food. It can be likened to astringent or acidic. Some tropical fruits and nuts make the mouth feel dry and tingly, sort of like the tannins in wine. This mouth feel has its own name in Lao and is desirable or “sep lai” (delicious).


ເງີງາກສາມລໍ້ / Ngeu Ngak Sam Law (nieu nak sam law)

Ngeu Ngak Sam Law translates literally as “three wheels” but means someone is zig-zagging around without knowing his or her way.