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soc.culture.thai Language FAQ
Section - L.5) The word "farang"

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From: Gwyn Williams
Date: 29 Mar 1994 04:24:21 +1000

                ORIGIN OF THE WORD "FARANG"

  A wide-spread belief in Thailand is that the word "farang" (Caucasian) 
is derived from the French word "francais". This derivation is implausible 
on phonetic and historical grounds. It is in fact a popular misconception. 
It is true, however, that these words have the same ultimate source. 

  The word is attested in various forms in languages in Europe, Africa, 
the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. It is clear that the 
word orginated as "Frank" in Europe and spread eastwards along Muslim 
trade routes. 

  Thai most likely borrowed the word from influential Muslim Persian or
Indian traders in the 17th century or even earlier. The Persian word was 
"farangg". The term probably was used to refer to early Portuguese 
traders and subsequently to all Europeans (ie., non-Muslims). 

  It is possible that the Thai word "farangset" ("French") is a blend 
of the word "farang" and the French word "francais", ie., "farangset" is
actually derived from "farang", not vice versa. Certainly, the word 
"farang" existed prior to, and independently of, "farangset".

  The following is an edited collection of discussions on the origin of 
the Thai word "farang". PART 1 includes the initial discussion on 
soc.culture.thai (PART 1). I forwarded the topic to LINGUIST LIST for 
information on the word in other languages (PART 2).

[Editor's note: Both articles are available for anonymous FTP as files
    the-word-farang-1.txt and the-word-farang-2.txt from
    from directory /soc.culture.thai/SCTinfo/languages.]



The original soc.culture.thai FAQ was proposed, put together and initially
maintained by Thanachart Numnonda (

Sincere appreciations for valuable contributions from:
  Andrew Atzert ( for L.2;
  Gwyn Williams for L.5;
  Jaray Chomchalao ( for L.4;
  Jessada Jongsukvarakul ( for correction to L.4;
  Lee Hopper ( for L.3;
  Matt Barney ( for L.2;
  Parames Laosinchai (CHLBB@CUNYVM.BITNET) for input to L.1;
  Putnam Barber ( for L.2;
  Rob Reed ( for input to L.1;
  Samart Srijumnong ( for L.3 and translations of
    poems in L.4;
  Thinakorn Tabtieng for L.2; 
  Unalome Techamuanvivit ( for passing on L.1 and;
  Wirote Aroonmanakun ( for L.1.

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