9 great Thai proverbs, sayings and idioms – and their meanings

Thailand is a beautiful country with a rich and deep culture. One of the ways in which its language can be seen is through its proverbs, sayings and idioms. These are popular expressions that have been passed down from generation to generation for centuries. In this blog post, we will explore 9 examples of these phrases!

1. แมวไม่อยู่หนูร่าเริง – meaw mai yoo noo ra reng

Translation: The cat is away, the mouse is cheerful

Meaning: When someone is not around to watch or control them, people will often do what they want. This proverb is often used to describe the behaviour of children when their parents are not around.

2. นั่งเล่นในสวน ไม่อยู่ แมวเต็มโต๊ะ – nang len nai suan mai yoo meaw dtem toh

Translation: I am sitting here playing in the garden, and the cat is sitting there full table

Meaning: This example demonstrates the use of this proverb when someone is being lazy and not helping. The cat in this instance has been described as having a lot more energy than its owner!

3. หน้าไม่เป็ – nâa mai bpen

Translation: The face is not a banana

Meaning: This phrase describes the fact that you cannot always tell what someone else thinks or feels from looking at them.

4.ให้เร – hâi rae

Translation: To give rice.

Meaning: This phrase is used when someone has given another person something without first asking for anything in return.

5. ขี้เก – khee gae

Translation: To scratch an itch.

Meaning: This phrase means to do something that you really want to do, even if it is not the best thing for you to do. It can also be used to describe someone who is acting impulsively.

6. ใจไม – jai mai

Translation: The heart does not lie.

Meaning: This phrase means that you should always trust your intuition or gut feeling when making decisions.

7. เย็ – yae

Translation: Come in.

Meaning: This expression means to join a conversation already taking place and also encourages others to become involved with it too. It can be translated as “come on” or “get a move on”. A slightly more formal way of saying this would be “By all means! Please come in!”

This proverb is often said by teachers in order to encourage their students to speak during a lesson.

8. หนีเสื่อประจระเข้ – nee seua pa ja ra kay

Translation: To escape from the tiger to the crocodile.

Meaning: This proverb refers to making a bad situation even worse by your actions.

This can be used when someone has made an unfortunate decision and realised it was the wrong one later on in life. The options they have are limited, so their current situation is not great either! It can also mean that you should think carefully before making any big decisions or risks.

It could also refer to a person who makes enemies of those around them at work or school because they do not get along with another group of people there. They then end up having no friends left, which leads to feeling lonely and isolated emotionally.

9. สีซอให้ควายฟัง – see sor hai kwai fang

Translation: To play the violin for the buffalo to listen to.

Meaning: This proverb is often used when someone is trying to explain something in a way that is not interesting or relevant to the person they are speaking to.

It can also be used when someone is trying to teach something but the student is not interested and keeps daydreaming.

This phrase could also be translated as “talking to a brick wall”.

10. จับเหล็ – jap leh

Translation: To catch a chicken.

Meaning: This phrase means to do something quickly and without any delay. It can also refer to someone who is very skilled at what they do, because it is as easy for them as catching a chicken!