Thai name

Thai name

Thai names follow the Indian/Western pattern in which the family name follows a first or given name. In this they differ from the family-name-first pattern of the East Asian tradition.

Thai names, both given name and family, are often long and there are a great many of them. The diversity of family names is because they are required to be unique to a family, and they are a recent introduction. Further, Thai people change their family names relatively frequently (this practice being virtually unknown in many other countries outside of marriage).

Last names only became legally required of Thais in 1913: [ [ Asian Times: Bankok - What's in a name? The number nine, if you want] ] before then, most Thais used only a first or individual name. The names generally convey positive attributes. Under Thai law, only one family can use any given surname: thus any two people of the same surname must be related, and it is very rare for two people to share the same full name.

Thai names are often long, particularly among those of upper-class families and also among Thais of Chinese descent, whose lengthy names stem from an attempt to translate Chinese names into Thai equivalents. For example, the family of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who are of Chinese descent, adopted the name Shinawatra ("does good routinely") in 1938.

As a measure of the diversity of Thai names, in a sample of 45,665 names, 81% of family names were unique, and 35% of given names were unique: the people with shared family names are thus related, and the diversity of given names is conventional. [ [ 45,665 Thai names: Examining passlist.96] , by Doug Cooper]

Noble names

Descendants of the nobility, both hereditary and non-heredity positions, generally take the noble name of their ancestor for a surname. For example, Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram adopted the surname Pibulsonggram as it was his given noble rank. Descendants of royal princes in the Chakri dynasty are bound by royal traditions to adopt the name of their royal ancestor as a surname. For instance, Hugo Chakrabongse is a descendant of Prince Chakrabongse Bhuvanath. Some (far removed) descendants of royalty add the preposition "na" (ณ) to geographical names to create surnames, in exactly the same way that members of German noble families use "Von." Thus Mongkol Na Songkhla, a minister in the Surayud government, has a name which indicates he is a distant descendant of royalty or nobility in that geographical region (for instance the surname "Na Chiangmai" belonging to descendants of the rulers of Chiangmai, which was a vassal state of Siam). The name of Kasem Sanitwong Na Ayutthaya, another minister, indicates that he is related to the royal family, as it is also tradition for far-removed descendants to add "Na Ayutthaya" after their surnames. In this case, Sanitwong is the family name of Kasem. Sanitwong itself being a name of a royal consort of Rama V and the subsequent family name for her descendants.

Formal and informal names

In polite speech, Thais will address each other or refer to each other by their given name, preceded by the honorific "khun" (for either men or women), quite similar to using of the word "San" (さん -san) following the name of a person to which the speaker is politely referring in Japanese culture. This applies particularly to persons of public distinction. Thus, the ministers mentioned above would be addressed and referred to as "Khun Mongkol" and "Khun Kasem," especially since they are respected persons. There are some misunderstandings that "Khun" would be replaced with "Khunying" when a person to whom the speaker refers is a woman. In fact, “Khunying” is comparable to Lady in western culture. Please see Thai royal and noble titles for more details.

In less formal situations, Thais will address each other by nicknames ("chue-len" or _th. ชึ่อเล่น "play-name"). Given by parents or relatives in early childhood, these nicknames are typically one syllable (or worn down from two syllables to one). They may often be nonsense words or humorous, and usually have no relation to the person's actual name. All Thais have such a name, and they are freely used in everyday life regardless of how childish they may seem to non-Thais. The King's nickname, for example, is Ong Lek (TH: องค์เล็ก ; Ong is a numerative noun for kings, princes, princesses, priests, images of Buddha, gods, angels, palaces, pagodas; "Lek" means "little (one)", a common name for younger brothers). Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's is "Maew", the Thai name for the Hmong. In addition, some Thais may also have some additional nicknames given by their friends or colleagues especially during their school age or adolescence. These friend-given nicknames usually linked with notable physical feature or behavior of that person. For example, a boy with eyeglasses may be called by his friends “Waen” ( _th. แว่น "eyeglasses"). After the boy was frequently called by his friends as Waen, he may at some points accept that name as another nickname of himself even though he still uses his family-given nickname when he speak with other members in his family.

Westerners meeting Thais in everyday life will usually be introduced to the Thai person only by their nickname, and will not discover the person's real name unless they ask: Thais tend to assume (generally correctly) that Westerners cannot pronounce or remember long Thai names. Except in the most formal situations (meeting a government minister, for example), it is quite acceptable to address or refer to a Thai by their nickname. The nickname can be preceded by "khun". This will seem slightly comic to Thais, but will be understood as a gesture of respect.

ee also

*Thai royal and noble titles


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