Guide to Thai slang


For anyone trying to learn Thai, you may have noticed that it is one hilariously specific language, with idioms appropriate for almost all situations.

Hence, here we are with a list of Thai expressions and slangs that will not only spice up your vocabulary and help you to better communicate with locals, but are also guaranteed to help you understand Thai culture a little better. 

More about Thai language culture:


– Common Thai idioms and expressions –


Before you go through, it’s important to note that the majority of the terms are slang and therefore should not be used outside of your immediate circle of peers.

We’re starting off with the classic ones; those that have been with us since MSN Messenger was the thing.


1. 555


This is basically the Thai version of “lol”. Since the word for number five in Thai sounds like “ha”, 5’s are used to suggest that something is funny. Only used in texting – the funnier something is, the more fives you can type.

Tips: go from “55” or “lol”, to “555” or “hahaha”, to “55555” and more for bigger laughs if you’re not sure where to start.

people laughing

Used in a sentence:

Girl 1: I just got caught taking a picture of a hot guy on the train. SEND HELP.
Girl 2: Lol, how?
Girl 1: My flash was on…
Girl 2: 55555 poor you.


2. Fin


Almost a decade ago, Thais started saying “fin” to describe any and all things that “hit the spot” or are “beyond satisfactory”. The term is thought to have derived from the word “finished”, “endorphine” and “finale”. 

man giant food

Fin is typically used at the end of a sentence, with a maak to emphasise that it is “very fin”. For example, noodle fin maak which translates to “these noodles really hit the spot”. At other times, it’s used to describe a blissful moment.

Used in a sentence:

A: Hey, guess what!
B: What?
A: I just got to talk to my crush, fin maak.


3. Satu


Put simply, satu is the Buddhist equivalent of “Amen”. Thais use a single “satu” when receiving well-wishes or compliments, as if to manifest the kind words into existence. 

girls asian pose
Image credit: Sista Cafe

It is sometimes followed by a wai gesture, which is the pressing of both palms while bowing your head a little to create a prayer-like movement, before using your hands to “work” in the magic on your head and neck.

Used in a sentence:

A: I hope you get that job you’ve been wanting!
B: Saaatu!


4. Zab


chilis

Zab” is an Isan term, which is a Northeastern dialect, that means “delicious”. However, the meaning of the word got lost in translation on its way to Bangkok and has been used to describe food – or gossip – as “spicy” and attractive individuals as “hot”. 

Alternative spelling: Zap

Example of zab as “delicious” or “spicy”:

A: How does this papaya salad taste?
B: Zab lai! (Very delicious or spicy!)

Example of zab as “hot” and/or “sexy”:

Girl 1: Hey, how do I look in this outfit?
Girl 2: Zab maak kaa! (Girl, you look hot!)

hot girl post2
Another example of a girl looking bomb and a comment saying “you’re looking zap in short hair”.
Image credit: @thanyarita


5. Kam kam


Kam kam literally means “funny” or “hilarious”, but is often used to mean “just for fun” or “just for laughs”. For example, uploading a funny picture of you and your friends, or even entering a competition just for fun.

girls selfie

Used in a sentence:

A: Hey, there’s a badminton competition next week. You up?
B: Meh, I don’t think so. I’m not that good.
A: Come on, kam kam. Don’t need to win.
B: Fine, let’s just do it for fun!


6. Lamyai


Try googling “lamyai” in Thai and you’ll see a page full of longan fruit, as that is its dictionary definition. Very similar to the term lamkarn which means “annoyed”, Thais use lamyai to express annoyance, dislike or frustration; you can even call someone a lamyai if they happen to be annoying you, specifically when they’re being a slowpoke. However, the word can also be used in a lighthearted way.

funny friends playing

Used in a sentence:

Girl 1: *Calls boyfriend to ask how he is doing*

Girl 2: Oh, you and your boyfriend are so sweet, like all the time. Lamyai!


– Thai Gen-Z slang –


This generation seems to have created a whole new set of terms that capture their values. Here are a couple of new expressions used among Thai teens and younger adults that make communication more creative than it has ever been.


7. Ai tao


Ai tao” is a recent slang that came into being a few years ago. Deriving from the word “ai jao” or “you” in English, it is used to lead a sentence that expresses adoration, or to add softness and cuteness to the noun or adjective that usually comes after.

Two common examples are ai tao auan and ai tao khwam rak, which translates to “fatty” and “love” in a gentle, loving way.

Although you can use it with anything that you find cute, like chubby animals, the best person to use this with is no one other than your bae who deserves that extra affection.

Used in a sentence:

cute cat

A: *Sees a cute cat* Ai taooo

Pro-tip: We Thais like to drag the last consonant of a word out.


8. “Tip” or “noun + tip”


The word “tip” itself means “divine”, but to Thai netizens, tip is used to mean “an imaginary of something” or “to imagine something up”. An example would be fan tip which translates to “imaginary boyfriend/girlfriend”; it could be referring to a person you like and want as your boyfriend, but it could be an imagined boyfriend who doesn’t exist as well.

girl daydream money
Rich tip – saying you’re rich even when it’s only in your imagination.

Another example would be tiew tip, which means “imaginary trip”, saying you’re on vacation even though you really aren’t.

Used in a sentence:

A: Hi, I just want to tell you that Jungkook is my new boyfriend.
B: Jungkook from BTS?
A: Yes.
B: Lol. I think you mean boyfriend tip.


9. “Kang” or “don kang”


Recently, “kang” became widely used among Thai teens and young adults to mean “got played”. 

It originates from the words “tom toon”, which has the same meaning of tricking or fooling. The two words literally translate to “boil” (tom) and “stew” (toon), hence why the word is replaced with kang meaning “curry” in English; seeing that curry is made that way – boiled and stewed. 

In short, kang is just the hip version of tom toon.

Grammatical tip: Kang is used as a verb whereas “don kang” is its passive form.

Used in a sentence:

A: *Rushes into the office at 9AM*
B: Hey, what are you doing here so early?
A: What? I thought the meeting was at 9AM. C told me that.
A: Lol. You just don kang man.


10. “Pang” or “sud pang”


Sud pang” is a more recent version of “pang”, which is a Thai onomatopoeia of explosive fireworks. 

In social contexts, however, it is used to describe anything as “excellent”, “majestic”, “stunning” and coincidentally “the bomb”. Sud pang has become popular ever since it was featured in a song by a famous Thai female rapper called MILLI released just last year in August.

instagram post3
An IG post of a dance video teaser.
Image credit: @beamhoneyb

Translation:

Comment 1: “Very pang sister”.

Comment 2: “God, so pang, looking forward to the video”.

Used in a sentence:

A: Have you seen the latest dance video by Lisa, BLACKPINK?
B: Yeah! It was so pang!


Head in the water


While there are several other expressions and slangs for you to learn about, it is safe to say that you’re no longer at the tip of the iceberg but deep down in the water getting closer to Kwarm Pen Thai or what it’s like to be Thai.

More on Thai culture:


Cover image adapted from: Cookpad (Left), Siam Dara (Centre)

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