A Guide to Thai - The Thai alphabet

What's the Thai script like?

Thai, like other Indian-based scripts, lists consonants and vowels separately.

Thai consonants are all pronounced with an inherent ‘-or’ vowel. Thus, the first four letters of the Thai alphabet are [gor], [kǒr], [kor], [kor] .

In Thai, one consonant sound can be represented by several different letters. When saying a letter, Thai people give an example word that starts with that letter, to specify which particular consonant they are referring to. For example, the Thai word for chicken ไก่ [gài] begins with the first letter of the alphabet - [gor]. The letter [gor] will always be referred to as [gor gài]. The full name of each letter is always used when spelling out words.

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  • Letter/Name
    Example word
  • Consonants
  •   [gor gài]
    chicken
  •   [kǒr kài]
    egg
  •   [kor kwai]
    buffalo
  •   [kor ra-kung]
    bell
  •   [ngor ngoo]
    snake
  •   [jor jahn]
    plate
  •   [chǒr chìng]
    small cymbals
  •   [chor cháhng]
    plate
  •   [sor sôh]
    chain
  •   [chor (ga)cher]
    tree
  •   [yor yǐng]
    girl
  •   [dor chá-dah]
    theatrical crown
  •   [dtor bpa-dtùk]
    goad
  •   [tǒr sǔn-tǎhn ]
    base
  •   [tor mon-toh]
    A female character in a Thai literary classic
  •   [tor pôo-tâo]
    old man
  •   [nor nayn]
    novice
  •   [dor dèk]
    child
  •   [dtor tào]
    turtle
  •   [tǒr tǑOng]
    bag
  •   [tor ta-hǎhn]
    soldier
  •   [tor tong]
    flag
  •   [nor nǒo]
    mouse
  •   [bor bai mái]
    leaf
  •   [bpor bplah]
    fish
  •   [pǒr pêung]
    bee
  •   [fǒr fǎh]
    lid
  •   [por pahn]
    tray
  •   [for fun]
    tooth
  •   [por sǔm-pao]
    sailing ship
  •   [mor máh]
    horse
  •   [yor yúk]
    giant
  •   [ror reu-a]
    boat
  •   [lor ling]
    monkey
  •   [wor wǎirn]
    ring
  •   [sǒr sǎh-lah]
    pavilion
  •   [sǒr reu-sěe]
    hermit
  •   [sǒr sěu-a]
    tiger
  •   [hǒrhèep]
    box
  •   [lorjOO-lah]
    kite
  •   [or àhng]
    bowl
  •   [hornókhôok]
    owl
  • Vowels
  • ◌อ  [-or]
  • ◌ะ  [–a]
  • ◌ัั  [–u]
  • ◌ัว  [–oo-a]
  • ◌า  [–ah]
  • ◌ำ  [–um]
  • ◌ิ  [–i]
  • ◌ี  [–ee]
  • ◌ึ  [–eu]
  • ◌ื  [–eu]
  • ◌ุ  [–OO]
  • ◌ู  [–oo]
  • เ◌  [–ay]
  • เ◌็  [–e]
  • เ◌ย  [–er-ee]
  • เ◌อ  [–er]
  • เ◌อะ  [–er]
  • เ◌ะ  [–e]
  • เ◌า  [–ao]
  • เ◌าะ  [–or]
  • เ◌ิ  [–er]
  • เ◌ีย  [–ee-a]
  • เ◌ียะ  [–ee-a]
  • เ◌ือ  [–eu-a]
  • แ◌  [–air]
  • แ◌็  [–air]
  • แ◌ะ  [–air]
  • โ◌  [–oh]
  • ใ◌  [–ai]
  • ไ◌  [–ai]

What's significant about the Thai script?

  • Its origins

    The origins of the Thai script can be traced back to a south Indian script which was introduced into mainland South-East Asia during the 4th or 5th century AD. Thai is written across the page from left to right, with no spaces between words, for example:

     น้อยทำงานอยู่ที่นี่เกือบ ๒๐ ปีแล้วค่ะ
    [Nói tum ngahn yòo têe nêe gèu-up yêe sìp bpee lair-o kâh]
    Noi has been working here for almost 20 years.

    The few spaces that do occur serve as punctuation marks, rather like commas and full stops.

     
  • An excess of letters!

    With 42 consonants, the Thai alphabet has many more than it needs: there are four different ways to write ‘s’ and six for ‘t’.

    This abundance of letters reflects the Indian origin of the alphabet and the very different sound system for which it was originally designed.

    Many letters are hardly used and confined only to words that have been borrowed from foreign languages, such as Sanskrit, the classical language of India.

    In the early 1940s, a government attempt to reduce the number of letters proved unpopular.

     
  • Tricky vowels

    Vowel symbols are trickier to count because some are combinations of symbols and others have more than one form. For example, vowels can follow a consonant but they can also appear above it, below it, before it and even surround it on three sides!
     ปา [bpah] throw +
     ปี [bpee] year +   ี
     ปู [bpoo] crab +   ู
     ไป [bpai] go +
     เปีย [bpee-a] pigtail + +  ี+

     
  • Difficult sounds

    While most Thai consonant sounds have close equivalents in English, many learners find it difficult to distinguish between the sounds of the letters, for example:   [b] and   [bp] in words such as  บ้า [bâh], crazy and  ป้า [bpâh], aunt.

     
  • Email and website conventions:

    When giving an email or website address, the conventions are:
    @ at (same as in English)
    . dot (same as in English)
    / forward slash (same as in English) or  ทับ [túp]
    -  ขีดกลาง [kèet glahng] hyphen

     
Facts about Thai

Facts about Thai

10 things to know about the Thai language

Thai key phrases

Thai phrases

Get started with 20 audio phrases

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