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The tourist hub of Bangkok's Khaosan Road is associated with farang

Farang (Thai: ฝรั่ง  [faràŋ], colloquially [falàŋ]) is a generic Thai word for someone of European ancestry, no matter where they may come from. The Royal Institute Dictionary 1999, the official dictionary of Thai words, defines the word as "a person of white race".[1]

Edmund Roberts, US envoy in 1833, defined the term as "Frank (or European)".[2] People of mixed sub-Saharan African-European descent were called farang dam (Thai: ฝรั่งดำ; 'black farang') to distinguish them from white people. This began during the Vietnam War, when the United States military maintained bases in Thailand. The practice continues in present-day Bangkok.[3][4]


Farang statue in Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand

The word farang may have either originated from the Hindi word firangi (Devanāgarī: फिरंगी, "foreign"), a derogatory term for Europeans that was coined during British colonial rule in India, or from the Persian word farang (فرنگ) or farangī (فرنگی), meaning "Frank, European". This in turn comes from the Old French word franc, meaning "Frank", a West Germanic tribe that became a major political power in Western and Central Europe during the early Middle Ages, and from which France derives its name. Because the Frankish Empire ruled a large part of Europe (France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Low Countries) for centuries, all Europeans and even Middle Easterners associated the word "Frank" with Latins who professed the Roman Catholic faith. Frangistan (Persian: فرنگستان‎) was a term used by Muslims and Persians in particular, during the Middle Ages and later periods, to refer to Western or Latin Europe.

According to Rashid al-din Fazl Allâh, farang comes from the Arabic word afranj.[5] In Ethiopia faranj means white/European people. In either case, the original word was pronounced paranki (പറങ്കി) in Malayalam, parangiar in Tamil, entered Khmer as barang, and Malay as ferenggi. From there the term spread into China as folangji (佛郎機), which was used to refer to the Portuguese and their breech-loading swivel guns when they first arrived in China.

Other uses

Farang is also the Thai word for the guava fruit, introduced by Portuguese traders over 400 years ago, which of course can lead to jokes when western foreigners are seen eating a guava in Thailand. Farang khi nok (Thai: ฝรั่งขี้นก) is a particular variety of guava, feijoa. Scruffy Westerners, especially backpackers, may also be called farang khi nok. This means "bird-droppings farang", as khi means waste and nok means (wild) bird; but, while khi nok may mean guano, it is also a species of fish, Diagramma pictum, a species of grunts Haemulidae.[6]

Varieties of food/produce that were introduced by Europeans are often called farang varieties. Hence, potatoes are man farang (Thai: มันฝรั่ง), whereas man (Thai: มัน) alone can be any tuber; culantro is called phak chi farang (Thai: ผักชีฝรั่ง, literally farang cilantro/coriander); and chewing gum is mak farang (Thai: หมากฝรั่ง). Mak (Thai: หมาก) is Thai for arecanut; chewing mak together with betel leaves (baiphlu) was a Thai tradition.

In the Isan Lao dialect, the guava is called mak sida (Thai: หมากสีดา), mak being a prefix for fruit names. Thus bak sida (Thai: บักสีดา), bak being a prefix when calling males, refers jokingly to a Westerner, by analogy to the Thai language where farang can mean both guava and Westerner.[7]

In the Maldives faranji was the term used to refer to foreigners of European origin, especially the French. Until recently the lane next to the Bastion in the northern shore of Male' was called Faranji Kalō Gōlhi.[8]

See also


  1. ^ พจนานุกรม ฉบับราชบัณฑิตยสถาน พ.ศ. 2542 [Royal Institute Dictionary 1999] (in Thai). Royal Institute of Thailand. 2007. Archived from the original on 2009-03-03. Retrieved 2014-04-05. ฝรั่ง ๑ [ฝะหฺรั่ง] น. ชนชาติผิวขาว; คําประกอบชื่อสิ่งของบางอย่างที่มาจากต่างประเทศซึ่งมีลักษณะคล้ายของไทย เช่น ขนมฝรั่ง ละมุดฝรั่ง มันฝรั่ง ตะขบฝรั่ง ผักบุ้งฝรั่ง แตรฝรั่ง. 
  2. ^ Roberts, Edmund. "Chapter XIX 1833 Officers of Government". Embassy to the Eastern courts of Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat : in the U. S. sloop-of-war Peacock ... during the years 1832-3-4 (Digital ed.). Harper & brothers. Retrieved March 29, 2012. Connected with this department is that of the Farang-khromma-tha," Frank (or European) commercial board 
  3. ^ Eromosele, Diana Ozemebhoya. Being Black in Thailand: We're Treated Better Than Africans, and Boy Do We Hate It. The Root. Pg1 2015-05-26. URL:http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2015/05/black_in_thailand_we_re_treated_better_than_africans_and_boy_do_we_hate.html. Accessed: 2015-05-26. (Archived by WebCite® at https://www.webcitation.org/6YpQxWRbF?url=http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2015/05/black_in_thailand_we_re_treated_better_than_africans_and_boy_do_we_hate.html
  4. ^ Eromosele, Diana Ozemebhoya. Being Black in Thailand: We're Treated Better Than Africans, and Boy Do We Hate It. The Root. Pg2 2015-05-26. URL:"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-05-27. Retrieved 2015-05-27. . Accessed: 2015-05-26. (Archived by WebCite® https://www.webcitation.org/6ko4mdWq6?url=http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2015/05/black_in_thailand_we_re_treated_better_than_africans_and_boy_do_we_hate/2/
  5. ^ Karl Jahn (ed.) Histoire Universelle de Rasid al-Din Fadl Allah Abul=Khair: I. Histoire des Francs (Texte Persan avec traduction et annotations), Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1951. (Source: M. Ashtiany)
  6. ^ ThaiSoftware Dictionary Version 5.5 by ThaiSoftware Enterprise Co., Lrd. www.thaisoftware.co.th www.thaisoft.com
  7. ^ "Isaan Dialect". SiamSmile. Dec 2009. Retrieved 28 December 2009. SEE-DA สีดา BAK-SEE-DA บักสีดา or MAHK-SEE-DA หมากสีดา. Guava fruit; Foreigner (white, Western.) BAK is ISAAN for mister; SEE-DA สีดา, BAK-SEE-DA and MAHK-SEE-DA are Isaan for the Guava fruit. 
  8. ^ Royal House of Hilaaly-Huraa

External links

  • Farang in the Concise Oxford Dictionary
  • German language bi-monthly magazine, published by Der Farang, Pattaya, Thailand
  • The Thai word "Farang", its variations in other languages, and its Arabic origin
  • Corness, Dr Iain (2009). Farang. Dunboyne: Maverick House Publishers. ISBN 978-1-905379-42-2. 
  • Marcinkowski, Dr Christoph (2005). From Isfahan to Ayutthaya: Contacts between Iran and Siam in the 17th Century. With a foreword by Professor Ehsan Yarshater, Columbia University, New York. Singapore: Pustaka Nasional. ISBN 9971-77-491-7. 
  • Farang: A Nature Mockumentary (ใจดีทีวี ตอนฝรั่ง) This Thai language mockumentary on the farang is a spoof of the Thai educational TV series กระจกหกด้าน Krajok Hok Dan (Crackers)
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