Why ฝรั่ง (fáràŋ) Farang is guava and foreigner?

Update on:
Farang in Thai

I remember one student asked me “Do Thai people call foreigners ฝรั่ง (fáràŋ) Farang because we are white like guavas?” Well, in fact, Thai people named guava after foreigners.

Let’s go back to the past to find out the origin of the word ฝรั่ง (fáràŋ) in the Thai language together.

Farang is a borrowed word from the Persian Language

Thais started to call foreigners (specifically white people) ฝรั่ง (fáràŋ) since ชาวเปอร์เซีย (chaaw pəə sia) Persians came to trade with us during Ayutthaya period around AD 1590.

At that time, Thais heard Persians called white people regardless of their nationalities ‘ ฟารัง (faaraŋ) or ฟรัง (fraŋ)’.

It was believed that Persians had come to do the trading with the Thai since the 7th century according to the ancient sculpture evidence.

However, Persians played a more important role and had more influence on the Thai community during the Ayutthaya period not only in commerce but also in politics.

Many of them worked as interpreters for Thai noblemen, and many of them also became Thai noblemen by the order of the king.

The word ฟารัง (faaraŋ) or ฟรัง (fraŋ) Farang in Persian is derived from the word ฟรานจ์ (fraan) or ฟรานจิ (fraan-cì) Franj in Arabic language.

Farang is originally from the Arabic language

Arab people started calling white people Franj when they were in contact with the Western European regions during the time that the Franks were in power. The word Franj was the Arabic version of the word ‘Franks’.

Franj became widely known among Muslim people during the religious wars between Christians and Muslims (the Crusades) in the 11th – 13th Century when the Muslims called those who fought with them Franj.

Later, the term Franj spread to other countries in the East that were in contact with Arab people. The pronunciation of this term has changed from one language to another such as

  • ฟารัง (faaraŋ) Farang in Persian
  • ฟิรานจี (firaan-cii) Firangji in Hindi
  • บาลัง (baaraŋ) Barang in Khmer
  • ฝรั่ง (fáràŋ) in Thai

Why Farang is guava?

Guava was imported to Thailand by Portuguese sellers during the Ayutthaya period. At that time, people did not know what was this fruit and what was its original name.

They only knew it was a fruit from where white people lived. So, they started to call it ผลฝรั่ง (phǒn fáráŋ).

Note: Guava is believed to have originated in the Americas.

ผล (phǒn) means fruit and ฝรั่ง (fáráŋ) means white people, so altogether means white people’s fruit.

Nowadays we call fruits in general ผลไม้ (phǒn-la-máay), and call a specific fruit by their names such as ฝรั่ง (fáráŋ) instead of ผลฝรั่ง (phǒn fáráŋ) and มะม่วง (má-mûaŋ) instead of ผลมะม่วง (phǒn má-mûaŋ).

The word ฝรั่ง (fáráŋ) does not only appear in the word guava but also in other words that refers to things that are from Farang countries.

For example,

(man fáráŋ)

(nɔ̀ɔ máay fáràŋ)

(màak fáráŋ)


(nɔ̀ɔ máay)