How to Choose a Thai name

Thousands of people with a fascination of Thai culture visit our web sites every day. Not all of these are tourists – many have already been to Thailand on holiday and want to know more about their favourite destination. It always surprises my Thai colleagues at school when I tell them how many foreigners are visiting our web sites every day. The most popular one with foreigners is which gets about 9,000 unique visitors per day. Then about 4000 people visit and a similar number This makes them proud to hear that so many people have a fascination with everything to do with Thai life and culture.

However, what surprises them the most is the number of requests we get from people asking for advice on how to choose a good Thai name! These people feel that they have become so connected with Thai culture that they want to go to the next step by getting a Thai name. Some even want to tattoo their Thai name on their body. However, choosing a Thai name is not as easy as it first looks. Thai people don’t just pick names at random or ones that sound nice or have good meanings. Most of them would consult an astrologer or monk in order to choose a name that is auspicious and would bring the child plenty of good luck in their life. Thai people believe so much in auspicious names, that if they feel that their name hasn’t brought them enough good luck they will change it!

I will tell you the experience of Gor when the time came to choose a name for his baby. He went to his “family” monk who is also good at Thai astrology. The first thing the monk asked was the day and time of birth. He then consulted a book to find which letters should and shouldn’t be used in her name. He then wrote these on a piece of paper together with three suggestions for names which have good meanings. (Visit to see a scan of this paper.)


Gor’s baby was born on a Friday. You can see the choice for a Friday baby in the chart above. On the left hand side are different characteristics which you might like for your baby. The monk chose “sri” (marked with **) which means glory, fame and good luck. This is only for girls. The characteristic “det” (marked with *) is only for boys and means power, luck and honour. By the way, the letters marked in red should never be used by a baby born on a Friday. That group is very unlucky! It means disaster and neverending trouble.

Here are my translations for each group:

บริวาร (bo-ri-waan) – you will always be surrounded by people
อายุ (aa-yoo) – you will live a long and prosperous life
เดช (det) – power, luck, honour for a boy
ศรี (see) – glory, fame, luck for a girl
มูละ (moo-la) – you will inherit valuable things from your parents
อุตสาหะ (oot-saa-ha) – diligent, patient, successful at work
มนตร (mon-dtree) – older cousins and older people will help and support you
กาลกิณ (gaan-gi-nee) – disaster, neverending trouble

The names the monk chose were as follows:

I have marked in green the auspicious letters. Out of the three names, Gor then chose Chanakarn which means “a darling to all people”. It seemed the most fitting of all names.

However, circumstance in your life might lead you to changing your name. Sometimes people do this because a monk didn’t choose their name in the first place. Also, people might change their name if they had a string of bad luck and want to “try again” with life. Suthee (the webmaster of used to be called Suthiphong. His parents changed his name after a piece of bad luck when he was a child involving a bucket of acid on a hot day. Even some of the teachers at my school have changed their names in adulthood which is very confusing. Now, who are you?

Although Gor had chosen “Chankarn” correctly to be his daughter’s name, a year later circumstances have changed that would make the name unlucky for her. As Gor hasn’t written yet in about why he had to change his daughter’s name, I won’t mention it here yet.

I am sure a lot of children would like to change names that were chosen by monks. Sometimes the emphasis is too much on an auspicious name rather than what is suitable for that child. I know some boys that have girl sounding names. Other names have some really peculiar meanings. I think the majority of my students are 100% embarrassed about their parents’ names. Sometimes during my English classes I might ask the students what their mother’s or father’s names are. They are always hesitant to say this out loud and whenever they do everyone nearly always laughs.

If you want to try and choose a name for yourself, then click here to find out which letters you should and shouldn’t use. However, when it comes to actually choosing a name with good meaning, you should consult some Thai friends. If in doubt, always consult a friendly monk first. Choosing a Thai name is a serious business.

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