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How to Say Goodbye in Thai

In Thailand, the most common way to say goodbye is the same as the Thai greeting “sàwàt-dee” (สวัสดี) accompanied by a wai gesture. The polite particle khráp (for a man) or khá (for a woman) will of course also be tacked onto the end of the phrase, so it becomes “sà-wàt-dee khrap/kha”.

In Thailand guidebooks you’ll sometimes see the phrase “la gàwn” listed as the Thai word for goodbye. But “la gàwn” (ลาก่อน) — which literally means “leave first” — is only occasionally heard in formal situations. In such settings, you also might hear the formal Thai word for goodnight: “rah-dtree sàwàt” (ราตรีสวัสดิ์). But again, this isn’t common.

You could spend years in Thailand and never actually hear the formal Thai words for goodbye and goodnight spoken in real life. If you tried saying goodbye to your Thai friends with “la gawn” or “rah-dtree sàwàt,” you’d probably get a weird look or a laugh. Instead, adult friends or colleagues often will use the traditional “sà-wàt-dee khrap/kha”.

Younger Thai people will frequently say goodbye by using the English borrowed “bye-bye” (บ๊ายบาย). And some adults will say “bye-bye” after they have offered first the polite “sà-wàt-dee khrap/kha”.

Be aware that the phrase “bye-bye” can sound a little abrupt to the Thai ear when spoken by itself. So when it’s used in Thailand, it is often preceded by “okay ná” and/or accompanied by some expression of good will or gratitude. For example:

Okay ná, bye-bye, khăw hâi sà-nùk ná
โอเคนะ บ๊ายบายขอให้สนุก นะ
Translation: Okay, bye bye, have fun! (Note the Thai word ná is a polite particle to soften the sound of the sentence)

Bye-bye, khàwp khun têe maa sòng
บ๊ายบาย ขอบคุณที่มาส่ง
Translation: Bye-bye, thanks for the lift!

Doo lae dtua ayng dûay ná. Bye-bye!
ดูแลตัวเองด้วยนะ บ๊ายบาย
Translation: Take care of yourself. Bye bye!

Close friends in Thailand also sometimes use the phrase “Pai lá” (ไปละ), which means “I’m going” or “Pai gàwn ná” (ไปก่อนนะ) or “Pai gàwn lá ná” (ไปก่อนละนะ), which means “I’m going before you”. You might hear a Thai say goodbye like this when leaving a friend at a bar.

 

Thailand Monk on Telephone
To say goodbye in Thai when on the phone, you can use the English loan word “bye-bye”.

How to Say Goodbye on the Phone in Thailand

When saying goodbye on the phone in Thailand, the English loan word “bye-bye” (sometimes preceded with “okay”) is also used, as is the word “hello” when answering the phone, with Thais stretching out the pronunciation: “hellooooo”. For a whole book of English loans words that have been incorporated in the Thai language, check out The Original Thai-English Cognate Dictionary.

When talking on the phone with family or friends, Thais often will say goodbye with the phrase “kâe née làe” (แค่นี้แหละ), which literally means “That is all”. However, this can sound curt. So, when using the phrase, you might add the sentence, “Láew jer gan ná” (แล้วเจอกันนะ), which means “I’ll see you later”.

Now, what about if you don’t want to say goodbye in Thai because you are just leaving for a moment and will be right back? In that situation, you want to say, “Báep neung ná, dĭo maa” (แป๊บนึงนะ เดี๋ยวมา).

Why Some Thais Don’t Say Goodbye

If you have traveled from out of town to visit with the parents of your Thai spouse, a seemingly strange thing may happen when you’re leaving to go home. That is, your spouse’s father will have disappeared and isn’t there to say goodbye to you.

Some Thais are superstitious in these goodbye situations. They will make themselves scarce, so that they don’t have to say goodbye, because they believe that if they do, they may not see you again for some reason. So, by not saying goodbye, this ensures that you will be back and they will see you again.

David Alan
Sakon Nakhon Isaan