The Thai word "Farang", its variations in other languages, and its Arabic origin

While reading a recent issue of the Canadian Geographic, I came across a news item mentioning two Canadians in Thailand, who run a magazine targeted for Westerners, called Farang. The similarity of this term to the Arabic ones piqued my interested, so I did some research on it.

I found that this term Farang means "White European" in Thai. The Wikipeda Farang article says that the origin of this term is uncertain.

The term Arabs used for Eastern Europe in the seventh century was Rum الروم being the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium). For Western Europe, the term Firinjia came to be used somewhat after that, and specially during the Crusades, since a large percentage of the Crusaders were Franks. Hence the term Firinjah stuck to all Western Europeans.

As Arab traders travelled to East Asia, the term was borrowed into the languages of that region. Initially describing the Portuguese, it was used for all "whites" later.

Arabic Word Transliteration in Latin characters Comments
فرنجة Firinja, Firinjah Plural
فرنجي Firinji Singular of above term
أفرنج Ifranj, Afranj Another plural form
أفرنجي Ifranji, Afranji Singular

Here are the derivations in other languages.

Term Language Comments
frangos, firanja Greek "Westerner", "Latin Catholics", "Land of the Franks"
ifrangi Turkish
frang Syriac "a European", "The Country of the Franks; Western Europe; Latin language or church"
afrangi, ifranji, faranji Arabic Arabic variations. See details in table above.
afrang,faranj, ferang, ferangi, feringhi Perisan
farenghi Hindi
farengi, farangi, pirangi Tamil
farangi Malayalam
farang Thai
barang Cambodian Khmer
pha-rang, pha-lang-xa Vietnamese
palang Malaysia
barang Bahasa Indonesia
paalagi, papalangi, vaalagi, papa-'aa Samoan/Maori Likely a coincidence ?

References

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Comments

Fi rang: "rang" is color

Fi rang: "rang" is color according to Indian languages and Fi is (light color ; not dark).It is Indian origin also

Thai word for Rose Gulab Indian also Gulab ; Siam is the name for Thailand before and it means Shyam in Indin language which means brown or Sun set.Gold is called Suwarn same is the name of Thai Airport Suwarn bhom here bhom is Bhomi which means land ie Golden land.many words like Raja,Rajkumar,rani,Rajkumari,senapati,praja,sukh,dukh,narak,swarg are few of the words Thiland & India have commen.there are many u can share it
Thanks

Farang

Yes, thai based on Sanskrit. many gods are also common. many gods worshipped in india can be found in thailand.

one can say there is alot of culture that is common between the hindu indian and thai people.

Good luck thailand, namaste & swadee krap with folded hands. love frm india.

The Origin of the Word Farang from a Person Who's Thai

The origin of the word "farang" can be ambiguous and debatable. Having been brought up in Bangkok, I have always felt an intimate association with the word from a Thai's perspective. Thailand was very much influenced by the French early on. We call the French "Chow Francais" or "Chow Farang Sate (rhymes with gate)." Additionally, Thai people love to shorten words, especially words with foreign origin. For example, PiLok is short for Pitsanulok, and "SING" from the word "racing" means to drive a car super fast. Regardless of the country of origin, all white people then were generically known as "Chow Farang Sate," then later on, Farang for short.

Some reference on this website is precisely correct when it notes that "farang" is a term loosely used to describe white Europeans. Although the Americans came much later, why not refer to them as Farang as well? After all, we Thais cannot make the distinction between a white man who's French and one who's an Australian. Occasionally Thais may refer to light-skinned middle easterner as farang. This is mainly due to their naivete than anything else. A Thai never ever calls a Chinese or a dark Indian "farang." It is, however,OK to refer to a white Russian woman as farang. The word "farang," to me, is neither derogatory or complimentary to white people. To me, the connotation is roughly neutral. On the other hand, "Ai Lian" for Italian is definitely derogatory since it sounds like the word LIAN in Thai, meaning to overeat or eating so much one wants to throw up.

Although Peter Hovart did not address the origin of the word, his description is most acceptable to me, and to falang Khruu, good try!

Farang meaning

You've been miss-informed. I've been married to a Thai for over 20 years. The word means outsider. It can be derogatory depending on context and may rise to the level of a racial epithet or ethnic slur. If someone calls you a farang in Thailand, you have been insulted. Don't be naive.

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