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If you know a Thai friend by her nickname, ask for the first name. When you hear it, you will understand why so many Thais have nicknames. Most names in Thailand are really long and made up of words with positive or desirable meanings, such as beautiful lady.

Most of the time, parents give a nickname to their newborn child. Family members and close friends would normally use that nickname. Often while the kids are still young, parents and close family call them nong followed by the nickname. The word nong means younger brother or sister. For example, if the kid's name is Pleun, the parents would call her nong Pleun. The word nong is often dropped when the child grows up, even though a number of people around her may still use it, as if she were a little girl.

Actually, Nong is also a popular nickname for both boys and girls.

During the school years, some kids are given a new nickname by their friends. These names often have something to do with their personality or appearance, like Waen, which means eyeglasses. A lot of the time, youngsters come up with funny nicknames to tease their friends. These names can be rude, but teenagers tend not to look at it that way - to them it's cool.
Teenagers in Thailand like to buy nickname accessories

Actually, in Thailand nicknames are more commonly used than first names. It should also be pointed out that the nicknames can be used by almost anyone; not only family and friends.

To be polite in Thai, you put the word khun in front of someone's name. Khun can also be used with nicknames.

Nicknames in Thai is chu len. Literally, chue means name and len means play. Chue len are casual names used among family and friends.

However, we also call well-known people or celebrities by their nicknames.

Thai-Nickname Logic

There are basically two types of nicknames. The first kind is just a short version of the first name. The second kind is a different name altogether, that has nothing to do with the first name.

Short Versions Of The First Name

Some Thais put their nicknames on keychains

The short version of a first name can either been taken from the first or last syllable. For example, a Thai lady with the name Kanchana can be called Kan.

Similarly, a Thai man with the name Prasert can be called Sert.

Some people have two nicknames, one from the first and one from the last syllable, such as Chuchaat. Both chu and chaat are nicknames.

Some Thais don't have a nickname for the simple reason that their names are already short.

Nicknames That Have Nothing To Do With The First Name

This type of nickname is more common than the short version of a first name. It can be a short Thai or foreign word, usually one or two syllables long.

You may be curious to know what type of words Thais use for nicknames; all kinds of words are used. Some of them may not even sound like names to you.

Here are four ways that Thai parents come up with nicknames for their children.

1. Words with positive meanings.

2. Father's and Mother's names.

Many times kids' nicknames are a combination of the mother's and father's nicknames. For example, if the parents nicknames are Mote and Da, the child could be called Mod.

3. Things that the parents like. It could be food, drinks, fruits, animals, places, activities or hobbies. Even the nicknames of their favorite actors, singers or celebrities could be used.

4. The first character in the father's, mother's or sibling's name.

If the father's and mother's nicknames are Jack and Jaa. The nicknames for the children would also begin with the letter J, say Joom, Jee, Jay and Je-ab.

Categories Of Words Thais Use For Nicknames

Nature: roong (rainbow), fon (rain), maek (cloud), fah (short form of tong fah, which means sky)

Places: Lanta (Lanta island in Krabi province)

Animals: nok (bird), nue (mouse), maew (cat), moo (pig), gai (chicken), goong (shrimp), plaa (fish), poo (crab), gop (frog), tao (turtle), mod (ant), looknam (mosquito larva), pla-waan (whale)

Flowers and plants: boa (lotus), khing (ginger), taeng-gwa (cucumber), bai-teuy (pandanas leaf)

Fruits: som (orange), chompuu (rose apple)

Flavors: waan (sweet), preaw (sour)

Fabrics or textiles: faai (cotton), mai (silk), prae (Chinese silk)

Colors: daeng (red), keo (green), dam (black)

Precious stones: mook (pearl), nin (black sapphire), yok (jade)

Small items for girls: gib (hair pin), bo (hair ribbon)

Sports: ping pong (table tennis)

Numbers: neung or ek (one), song (two)

Amounts/sizes: nid or noi (little), lek (small), yai (big)

Physical appearances: oan or you-e or pook (fat or chubby), toom (large earthen jar)

Sounds that don't really have any meaning: aa, aoo, auu, aew, ae, aae, and ouh.

In Thailand it's popular to have your nickname on the cellphone strap
Most of the words above are baby sounds. Only aae is used by adults. When parents play with their babies, they usually talk in a childish voice. Ja-aae is a very common sound adults make when playing a Thai version of peekaboo with babies and small children. Aae is one of the most popular nicknames, especially for girls.

Not only human sounds are used as nicknames, the sound of animals are also popular, such as meow (the sound of cats), jeab (the sound of baby chickens), jib (the sound of baby birds) and op (the sound of frogs).

Nicknames Indicating Male And Female

Common nicknames for boys are Noom (young man) and Chai (male). On the other hand, many girls are called Sao (young woman) and ying (female).

Nicknames can be based on ethnic appearance as well. Many Indian-looking girls in Thailand are called Khaeg. Likewise, Mem is really popular for Thai girls with Western features. A common nickname for Chinese-looking girls is Muey while Chinese-looking boys are called Tee.

Transliteration Of Foreign Words

Foreign words, especially English, make trendy nicknames in Thailand. Most of the time, you won't even recognize the words when you hear the nicknames - that's because of the Thai pronunciation.

The Roman alphabet: a (a), edd or es (s), eg or ex (x)

English names: Anne (Ann), Jag (Jack), Jo (Joe), Joi (Joy), Maak (Mark), Peteu (Peter), Mii (Mike)

Sports related: bon (ball), gof (golf), man-you (ManU)

Vehicle or car makes: boad (boat), ben (Benz)

Drinks/beverages: bea (beer), pepsii (pepsi), ie or ice (ice)

Months: mae (May), joon (June)

Food: oad (oat), nud (donut), moji (Japanese rice cake)

Fruits: poen (apple), choerie (cherry)

Colors: ping (pink)

Institutions that imply wealth: bang (bank)

High positions: top (top)

Other things: ard (art), bo (bow), boy (boy), keem or cream (cream), deem or dream (dream), feem (film), ah-tom (atom)

Thai Nicknames That May Sound Funny Or Vulgar

There are Thai nicknames that may sound funny or vulgar to an English speaker. Here are a few examples: Fug, Porn and Tid.

Fug is most common among boys and means winter melon. Porn and Tid can be either a girl's or a boy's name. In Thai Porn means blessing. It's often part of a first name, such as Somporn or Supaporn. Tid, on the other hand, doesn't really mean anything.

Displaying Nicknames

Thais like to put nickname stickers on their pickup trucks

Thai Teenagers love to display their nicknames on belongings such as cellphones straps, flash drive straps, pencil cases, bags, wallets, key chains, t-shirts and motorcycles.

Among parents, there is a culture of putting nickname stickers on the pickup truck windshield. They do it because they are proud of their children.

This is widely practiced in rural areas. Many parents even name their homes or businesses with their kids' nicknames.

Suggested Reading:   First Customer   Thai Body Language

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