Nicknames and Their Use in Thai Culture

What’s in a name? Well, in the case of Thai culture, sometimes nothing. Thai people use their nickname on an everyday basis as opposed to their formal name. They often only use the real name for official documents and formal situations. In fact, it is not uncommon to only know a Thai person by their nickname. Furthermore, a nickname may be changed throughout a person’s life. This is due to the name being thought of as a reason for a person’s bad luck.

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Nicknames have evolved over the years once ranging from the order of a child’s birth to physical characteristics. However, nowadays anything can be a name for a person…animals, foods, products, or English words a Thai person finds cool.


Chompoo (my daughter's nickname), or rose apple


My own daughters’ nicknames are Chompoo and Pancake. Chompoo is a rose apple in Thailand. It looks like a pear and can be colored green, red, or pink (si chompoo is Thai for the color pink). Pancake, on the other hand, is named after the food of the same name. And at the same time, named after the famous Thai actress, singer, and model ‘Pancake’ Khemanit Jamikorn. It is also a play on part of my daughter’s formal name which ends in -pan.


My daughter's nickname is Pancake


Here’s some other names you may see used in Thailand and, if necessary, the English name for the word…


Names from nature

Ploy (gemstone), Dao (star), Fai (cotton), Mook (pearl), Mali or Malee (Jasmine flower, although considered an old name)



Fah (sky, blue), Daeng (red), Kiew (green), Som (orange color and the fruit)



Nok (bird), Kwang (deer), Noo (mouse), Gai (chicken), Ling (monkey), Moo (pig). Pla (fish)



Mint, cherry, ice, honey, donut, Pepsi, Cola


Popular English names

Jane, Sara, May, Lily, Jenny, David, Joe, Lucas, Andy



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