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Thai Money Vocabulary…

One thing that might make living in a foreign country a bit easier is to know lots of words on the subject of money. It seems I can’t go more than an hour or so before I have to either use, or talk about money. So, I thought some Thai vocabulary about this stuff we’re constantly concerned with might be helpful. Money subjects below are broken down into topics we all need to deal with.

Money…

The general Thai word for “money” is เงิน /ngern/. It may or may not be historically significant (linguistically, that is) but เงิน /ngern/ is also the same Thai word for “silver”.

เขามีเงินเยอะ
kăo mee ngern yúh
He has lots of money.

ฉันไม่มีเงินเลย
chăn mâi mee ngern loie
I don’t have any money.

The Thai unit of currency is บาท /​bàat/ or เงินบาท /ngern-​bàat/. Originally the baht was a unit of measurement (about 15 grams). Today this unit of weight is used almost exclusively in the measurement of gold.

ข้าวผัดราคาสามสิบบาท
kâao pàt raa-kaa săam sìp bàat
Fried rice is 30 baht.

เขามีสร้อยทองคำ น้ำหนัก 2 บาท
kăo mee sôi tong kam nám nàk 2 bàat
He has a gold necklace weighing 2 baht.

Another word that is used to mean “money” is ตังค์ /dtang/. It is the short form of สตางค์ /sà~​dtaang/ which originally was a small coin, 100th of a baht.

ผมไม่มีตังค์
pŏm mâi mee dtang
I have no money (I don’t have a penny).

พ่อ ขอตังค์หน่อย
pôr kŏr dtang nòi
Dad, can I have some money?

Personal Finances…

The word for “income” or “salary” is เงินเดือน /ngern-​deuan/. It uses the Thai word for “money” เงิน /ngern/ along with the word for “month” เดือน /deuan/. This comes from the fact that in Thailand most paydays come on the last day of the month, so your salary is defined as your “monthly income”.

ฉันได้เงินเดือนแล้ว
chăn dâai ngern deuan láew
I got paid.

เขาได้เงินเดือนขึ้น
kăo dâai ngern deuan kêun
He got a raise (in salary).

On the 29th or so of each month, with their salary almost gone (sound familiar?), most people will be “broke” ถังแตก /tǎng-​dtàek/. This is an idiom, made from the Thai words for “bucket” or “container” ถัง /tǎng/ and the word for “broken” แตก /​dtàek/. So if you say that “your bucket is broken” then you are clean out of cash. Another idiom used to say you are broke is หมดตัว /mòt-​dtua/ which is made up of the words หมด /mòt/ “to run out of” and ตัว /​dtua/ “body” or “one self”.

ฉันไม่สามารถซื้ออะไร ฉันถังแตก (ฉันหมดตัว)
chăn mâi săa-mâat séu a-rai chăn tăng dtàek (chăn mòt dtua)
I can’t buy anything. I’m broke.

Taxes…

The dreaded Thai word for “tax” is ภาษี /paa-​sěe/. To “pay tax” is เสียภาษี /sǐa paa-​sěe/. It is probably just a coincidence that the word เสีย /sǐa/ not only means “to pay” as in taxes, but it also means “out of order”, “broken”, “spoiled”, “to lose”, “to waste”, and interestingly enough “to die” (as Ben Franklyn told us, the only other thing in life besides taxes that we can be sure of).

ภาษีไทยน้อยกว่าภาษีอเมริกัน
paa-sĕe tai nói gwàa paa-sĕe a-may-rí-gan
Thai taxes are lower than American taxes.

It is hard to find anything funny about taxes but there is an amusing idiom using ภาษี /paa-​sěe/. It is ภาษีสังคม /paa-​sěe-​sǎng-​kom/ which uses the word for “tax” along with the Thai word for “community” or “society”, สังคม /​sǎng-​kom/. This idiom is used when we have to make obligatory donations or gifts to friends and family, as in wedding presents or donations at funerals. These are taxes we have to pay if we want to be part of a community or family.

ถ้าเราไปงานศพ เราต้องเสียภาษีสังคม
tâa rao bpai ngaan sòp rao dtông sĭa paa-sĕe săng-kom
If we go to a funeral we need to make a donation.

Investment…

For various reasons some foreigners think investing ลงทุน /long-​tun/ in Thailand is a good idea. For those, I hope that they will make a profit กำไร /gam-​rai/ and not lose their money เสียเงิน /sǐa ngern/, and go “broke” ถังแตก /tǎng-​dtàek/.

Banking…

Going to a “bank” ธนาคาร /tá~​naa-​kaan/ in Thailand and “opening” /เปิด/ an “account” /บัญชี/ is fairly simple. But it is difficult to get a good “rate” อัตรา /àt-dtraa/ of “interest” ดอกเบี้ย /dòk-​bîa/. You can “change” แลกเปลี่ยน /lâek-​bplìan/ money there and hopefully you will get a good “exchange rate” อัตราแลกเปลี่ยน /àt-​dtraa-​lâek-​bplìan/.

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about banking and money in Thailand you can check out my blog post: Banking and Money in Thailand.

Another Faux Pas…

On vacation with Thai friends, sitting in a long-tail canoe on a beautiful lake waiting to take off, I asked if Noi was going with us. Our friends on the shore yelled out เธอไม่ชอบเคลื่อนไหว /ter mâi chôp klêuan wăi/. Now, that sounded very much like “Noi doesn’t like waves” (คลื่น /klêun/ “wave”). I mean context – I’m sitting in a boat in the water, aren’t I? And water has waves, doesn’t it? So I yelled out, วันนี้ไม่มีคลื่น /wan née mâi mee klêun/ “There are no waves today.” น้ำนิ่ง /nám nîng/. “The water is calm.”

And of course I knew I made a faux pas right away because everybody on the shore burst out laughing. “She not like MOVE” they called out in unison, stressing the last word. You see, เธอไม่ชอบ /ter mâi chôp/, “she doesn’t like”, was followed by เคลื่อนไหว /klêuan-​wǎi/, the Thai word for “to move” – not “wave” คลื่น /klêun/.

They were playing a little joke on Noi by saying she doesn’t like to move around, a humorous way to say that she is “lazy”. I got the words เคลื่อน(ไหว) klêuan(​wǎi) “to move” and คลื่น /klêun/ “wave” mixed up. Both words have vowels that don’t appear anywhere in English, so no wonder I got them mixed up. But my Thai friends, besides having some fun with Noi, had another belly laugh at my expense. And that’s what faux pas are for, aren’t they?

BTW: If you would like to hear yours truly speaking Thai (you might just be curious) I was recently interviewed by the lovely bloggers Khun Mia and Lani for their Thai Girl Talk podcast. I hope I didn’t embarrass myself too much.

May all our readers have a good, happy, and healthy 2013. And hopefully there will be a lot more vocabulary words in your Thai language war chest.

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
Retire 2 Thailand: Blog
eBooks in Thailand

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Hugh Leong loves explaining things. And during his 40 plus years of trying to learn Thai and its culture, he learned to love the cross-cultural aspect of living in a foreign country and speaking its language. His series, Thai Language Thai Culture, covers various aspects of learning Thai, and how the Thai culture influences how we say things.

17 Comments

  1. Such an interesting post!
    I love the way Hugh connected Thai/English words into a fluent sentences without loosing the point.(eg.see under “Banking”)Its shown a highly skill in both languages.

    In Sukhothai era, the form of exchange was called เงินพดด้วง which were made from เงิน/silver and that was the origin of the word เงิน means money. At that time, there were 5 units(or more) : ไพ เฟื้อง สลึง บาท ตำลึง(less-high value).เงินพดด้วง was used for over 600 years.

    One Thai saying I very like “พูดไปสองไพเบี้ย นิ่งเสียตำลึงทอง” which means one shall receive สองไพ when speaks/พูด or หนึ่งตำลึง when keep quite/นิ่งเสีย. Which one will you should? this could explain the reason why Thais usually are a good listener, maybe!?

    In King Rama V period,the unit was changed to บาท and สตางค์ As Hugh mentioned ผมไม่มีตังค์ or ผมไม่มีสตางค์ I have no money (I don’t have a penny).

    100 สตางค์=1 บาท
    1 สลึง= 25 สตางค์
    4 สลึง=1บาท

    Unit of gold weight in Thailand are สลึง and บาท

    Now, it’s time to search in your coin’s purse for a smallest copper coin..if you look closely you will see “25 สตางค์”

    Half century ago when my mom was a little girl.. she could get a bowl of noodle soup for 1 สลึง or 25 สตางค์ or quarter of 1 Baht.

    Hope my comment won’t bored any of readers here :-)

  2. Mia, what you are sharing is interesting. Ta! :-)

  3. Thanks Mia,

    You always have something to teach me. Now I know where the Thai idiom 3 สลึง comes from. If 4 สลึง make a baht then 3 สลึง is not quite a baht. It is the equivalet to the English sayings “Not playing with a full deck.”, or “A few bricks short of a load”, or “A few beers short of a six-pack”. English has lots of these “You’re not quite all there” words, so I Googled them and came up with my favorite so far, “A couple of dilithium crystals short of a warp core” (You have to be a Star Trek fan.) It’s nice when two cultures think alike.

  4. Hey, I just found one more that I had to share – “Knitting with only one needle”.

  5. Happy New Year 2013 Khun Hugh. Hope that your Thai keeps improving by leaps and bounds. Great post, as always. If I may add one more to your collection – “a few sandwiches short of a picnic”. Under your heading “(i)nvestment”, perhaps you may want to cover the terms ขาดทุน (meaning to lose money or literally your capital) and ต้นทุน (capital).

  6. David,

    I was hoping that none of our readers needed to know the word ขาดทุน (to lose or to be broken from – ขาด an investment or capital – ทุน).

  7. A timely post Hugh and Cat, as we brush up on our terrible Thai for our next visit. My favourite money related sentence, at home and, in Thailand would be ไม่มีเงินแต่สบาย(ดี)ค่ะ …if my memory serves me correctly?

  8. Hi Snap,

    That’s a good one. Here is another that you can use พอเพียง /​por piang/. It means “to have enough” (to get by) and is advocated by His Majesty as a happier and more contented way to live and has been taken up by the whole country. Of course the definition of “enough” can be considerable different depending on whom you talk to.

    Hope you can drop by next time you are in town.

  9. I’ve also heard the word ล้มละลาย being used in a lakorn, although I do’t remember the exact context. I don’t know if it only means bankrupt or if it can also mean being broke like ถังแตก. I have had some problems on the word “to save” in the context of saving money in the bank. I tried ประหยัด, but my wife corrected me saying that it only worked when saving on a deal because of a sale or discount. She said I had to use เก็บเงิน. But what then is a savings account? Anyone knows?

  10. Jørgen,

    Good questions:

    ล้มละลาย = to go bankrupt ล้ม lóm = to fall down, topple; ละลาย = melt, dissolve

    เจ๊ง jéng = to go bankrupt, go broke, go out of business

    ประหยัด = to be thrifty, to save (buy something cheaply)

    To save = เก็บเงิน gèp-​ngern (as in a bank or under the mattress)

    To deposit money in a bank = ฝากเงิน fàak ngern

    Account = บัญชี ban-​chee

    Bank account = บัญชีเงินฝาก ban-​chee-​ngern-​fàak

    Thanks for helping to add to the Money Vocabulary list.

  11. Khun Hugh, the formal word for “save” (when used with money) is ออม. ออมสิน is the Government Savings Bank of Thailand and กระปุกออมสิน is a piggy bank.

  12. David,

    Thanks, you are 100% correct. But you know what? I have never heard anyone use the word ออม or ออมสิน (ออม=save, สิน=wealth) except when referring to the Government Savings Bank of Thailand ธนาคารออมสิน. Thanks for the word for “piggy bank” กระปุกออมสิน (กระปุก=jar). That’s a new one for me.

  13. Another wonderful post Hugh! Mia and I were talking about money and how I can’t say the ng word (555) so I use dtang which I know is not always appropriate, and she said you wrote a really interesting post about money. So here I am…knitting w/ one needle.

    Cheers!

  14. Lani,

    Initial ng sound: Here is what helped me.

    English doesn’t have an initial ng sound but we do have that sound in the middle of a word. The word “singing” has it.

    Say the word “singing” and watch what the back of your throat does when you say the last part of the word. See how your tongue presses to the top of the soft pallet? Try doing the same thing at the beginning of a word.

    Practice the following:

    sing
    singing
    si nging
    nging

    When you get it right you can use the following for practice:

    เงิน ngern (monty)
    ง่วงนอน ngûang-​non (sleepy)
    เหงา ngǎo (lonely)
    งู ngoo (snake)
    หงุดหงิด ngùt-​ngìt (irritated)

    Should be lots of fun.

  15. Hey – that’s not bad! Thanks! I’ve been trying a few different things. So folks will just have to wait while I go through saying “singing” until I get it right :P

  16. I just heard another one watching a movie.

    “He’s a controller short of a Play Station.”

  17. Hugh, พอเพียง, that’s a good one! I’m a glass is half full type of person ;) Would love to catch up with you and the lovely KP. Will touch base when we’re a bit closer to CM. Cheers!

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