Breaking Down Thai Vocabulary

It’s been a while since I last posted here. I have been traveling and busy posting on my retirement blog, but mostly I have been a bit lazy lately. Forgiveness please.

I have also decided to change the format here a bit and concentrate on Thai vocabulary (in the news and that I have encountered recently in my daily life here) more, and less on Thai newspaper articles.

One of the things I want to concentrate on is how to build Thai vocabulary by learning how to break down more complex Thai words into their constituent parts. By doing this, learning Thai vocabulary for non-Thai speakers can be even easier than learning English vocabulary is for Thais.

Let’s take a look at a few words that I have encountered recently.



I was driving in Chiang Mai the other day and saw a pickup truck pass me. On the bed of the pickup was a small crane.

Now, if you had never heard the English word “crane” before, would you know what it meant? If the word was used in isolation, and not in context, how could you decipher the meaning? The answer is you could not.

Back to the Chiang Mai road I was on and the pickup truck. On the side of the pickup were the words

รถยก rót yók

The two words that I could recognize were รถ = “car” or “vehicle”, and ยก meaning “to lift”. It just so happened that I knew these two Thai words. And because of that I also knew what the word รถยก meant.

It meant “a vehicle used for lifting”, and in this case it meant “crane” (after a dictionary lookup I found out that it could also mean “forklift”).

If a Thai (or an English speaker) had never seen the English word “crane” before he/she would never know its meaning. But if they had never seen the Thai word รถยก before, they would instantly have a pretty good idea of what it meant.

See, some Thai vocabulary IS easier to learn than English vocabulary, for Thai as well as English speakers.



I was playing golf this week with a friend at his golf club. It was time to pay his annual dues and as he was in the office I started thinking about the Thai word for “dues”. I didn’t know the word so I made some guesses. Here is what I came up with using the typical Thai way of creating more complicated vocabulary.

First guess: “annual dues”. In Thai we might have ค่า kâa (fee, price, cost). Then we add the word for “yearly”) ประจำปี bprà~jam-bpee.

ประจำ = regular, habitual, steady
ปี = year
ประจำปี = yearly (annual)

So the term “Annual dues” would then be ค่าประจำปี kâa-bprà~jam-bpee


Second guess: “membership fee”. Member, subscriber = สมาชิก sà-maa-chík
So the term “Membership fee” would be ค่าสมาชิก kâa-sà-maa-chík


Third guess: Maybe they just used the simple term “fee”.
“Fee” = ธรรมเนียม tam-niam

So we could use the term ค่าธรรมเนียม kâa-tam-niam


And as it turns out they were all close and would have been understandable to a Thai, but no cigar. The word they used in the office for “fee” was

ค่าบำรุง kâa-bam-rung

บำรุง – “to care for”, “take care of”.

This term can be translated as “Maintenance fee”, which is what the “dues” payment my friend was paying them would be used for at this golf course.

Since I knew all the constituent parts of these words, they are quite easy to remember now and they are all now part of my active Thai vocabulary.



Unfortunately, this is a word often in news nowadays. The Thai word for “terrorist” is

ผู้ก่อการร้าย pôo-gòr-gaan-ráai

Let’s break this down.

ผู้ pôo means “one who does”. This an often used prefix in Thai and is used for anything from “expert” ผู้เชี่ยวชาญ pôo-chîeow-chaan, to “governor” ผู้ว่าราชการ pôo-wâa-râat-chá~gaan.

ก่อ gòr to instigate (to cause)


ร้าย ráai evil

So the term ก่อการร้าย (to cause evil) = terrorism


ผู้ก่อการร้าย (one who causes evil) = terrorist


This entry was posted in Thai Language, Thai Vocabulary. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s