Farang (Thai: ฝรั่ง [faràŋ]) is a generic Thai word for someone of European ancestry, no matter where they may come from. Edmund Roberts, US envoy in 1833, defined the term as "Frank (or European)." People of African ancestry may be called Thai: ฝรั่งดำ farang dam ('black farang') to distinguish them from white people. This began during the Vietnam War, when the United States military maintained bases in Thailand.
It is generally believed that the word farang originated with the Persian word farangi, meaning foreigner. This in turn comes from the word Frank via the Arabic word firinjīyah, which was used to refer to the Franks, a West Germanic tribe that became the biggest political power in Western Europe during the early Middle Ages, and from which France derives its name. Due to the fact that the Frankish Empire ruled Western Europe for centuries, the word "Frank" became deeply associated with Latins who professed the Roman Catholic faith by Eastern Europeans and Middle Easterners.
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 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-shit 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.
Varieties of food/produce which 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 betel, which many rural Thais chew for the euphoria it gives.
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.
- 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"
- 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)
- ThaiSoftware Dictionary Version 5.5 by ThaiSoftware Enterprise Co., Lrd. www.thaisoftware.co.th www.thaisoft.com
- "Isaan Dialect". SiamSmile. Page last updated 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."
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- Farang in the Concise Oxford Dictionary
- German language bi-monthly magazine, published by: Der FARANG, 576/25 Moo 5, Photisarn Rd. Chonburi 20150, 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.