If you're wondering how to say ‘darling' in Thai, ‘sweetheart' in Thai, or other mushy ways to refer to your girlfriend or boyfriend, this post is for you.
I'll cover the most common terms and arm you with some other vomit-worthy ways to flatter your forever or temporary friend.
1. My Darling
The most common lovey-dovey word foreigners tend to encounter is tîi rák.
You might have seen this spelt as “teerak”, and you may have heard it shouted at you by a girl in a miniskirt and high heels as you stumbled towards a taxi at 1 AM.
Where you go, tîi rák?
This means dear, darling, or love.
So in English you might say:
- Thank you, dear.
- Hello darling.
- Thank you my love.
You can use it in the same way…
– ที่รัก /tîi rák
Note: You may hear the rák part pronounced with an l, like lák, but the correct pronunciation is an r. Lák with the letter ‘l’ actually means ‘to steal.
And then there's the Thaiglish version that sounds more like “daa-ling”
In Thai it is spelt the following way:
– ดาหลิง /daa-lǐng/ or ด่าลิ้ง /dàa-líng/
These last two versions are more formal and traditional and may sound a little odd coming from a foreigner with limited Thai speaking ability.
– Dearest / beloved: ทูนหัว /tuun hǔa
– Dear / darling: ยาหยี /yaa yǐi
2. My Sweetheart
And so we move on to the English classic, sweetheart.
I don't actually hear this much, but maybe that's because my wife never says anything nice to me :).
– หวานใจ /wǎan jai
What I do hear, usually at airports when a Thai woman is asking her male companion to collect the bags from the conveyor, or in a bar when it's time to pay the bill, is the Thaiglish version: “Sa-weet-haart” 🙂
“Sa-weet-haart…Check bin na!”
“Good Girl/My Love”
“Good girl” sounds quite condescending in English and more like you're referring to your dog for having done a wee in the garden, but in Thai it's fine to use this phrase in this context.
It literally translates as “good person” but can be used in a romantic context to indicate “good girl/my love”
– คนดี /khon dii
Try this sentence on for size when consoling your partner:
– โอ๋ๆ ไม่เป็นไรนะ คนดี /ǒo ǒo, mâi pen rai ná, khon dii/ “Oh, come, it’ll be all right, my love.”
Here's a version solely reserved for a female lover, possibly a gay lover, and can also be used to address a younger sister.
– น้องรัก /nÓOng rák/ = dear (lady) love
3. Other Terms of Endearment
These terms shouldn't be used in public as they are very sweet and over the top for an exchange on the train or in a mall. Keep them for your most mushy private encounters.
Most beloved: ยอดรัก /yÔOt rák
Dearest love: สุดที่รัก /sùt tîi rák
Dearest heart: ยอดดวงใจ /yÔOt duang jai
4. Some Gentle Advice
1. Use Sparingly
As a general rule, use the above words sparingly – as you would in your own language.
My native language is English and there is nothing worse than overusing the words darling, sweetheart, my love, or baby.
It's like using the words I love you. Over use renders the words somewhat meaningless and significantly reduces the impact.
In addition, don't solely use these terms when you're trying to creep round your lover and gain favouritism; it is just as obvious in Thai as it is in English that you are trying to butter her/him up.
2. Use Naturally
Use the terms naturally. For example, if you're having a phone or Facebook messenger conversation and you're saying “hello” or “goodbye”, then you might say “hey darling” or “see you later sweetheart”.
3. Use Privately
Also remember that despite the stereotypical view of the West that Thai women are all hookers and sex crazed nymphomaniacs, Thai society is rather conservative and the large majority of women are not comfortable with public displays of affection.
This has changed somewhat in the last couple of decades, and subtle displays of affection such as holding hands or a gentle rub on the arm or similar is usually fine. But there is nothing more frowned upon than a man or woman being all over his/her partner in public.
I personally apply the same rule of thumb to this type of language. There is no need for me to be hollering wǎan jai! wǎan jai! to get my wife's attention in the middle of MBK shopping mall. Or referring to her as tîi rák every 5 minutes while out eating with friends.
Additionally, I personally wouldn't use these terms in front of my wife's parents. It just feels strange to me. I never hear my wife's sister and her husband doing this, and I don't actually think I can recall a time when I have heard any other couple doing in front of their parents.
Perhaps this is just my experience. I'm not saying it is wrong to do so, but do exercise discretion.
I understand that there is an element of excitement when learning new words in a foreign language, especially when you are able to use them with your partner who is a native of that country: you want to show that you are making an effort to learn and that you are literally speaking the same language. But the novelty will quickly wear off. So don't wear these words out!