How did the the word "Farang" originate in Thailand?

    Thai people typically refer to caucasian people as "farang."

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    It is generally believed that the word farang originated with the Indo-Persian word farangi, meaning foreigner. This in turn comes from the word Frank via the Arabic word firinj?yah, which was used 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, by the Eastern Europeans and Middle Easterners, with Latins who professed the Roman Catholic faith.

    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 called the French "Chow Francais" or "Chow Farang Sate (rhymes with gate)." Thai people historically loved to shorten words, especially words with foreign origin. Examples include: PiLok 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.

    This website notes that "farang" is a word loosely used to describe white Europeans and came from the word “Franks” and subsequently “Farangi.” Some westerners feel that the pronunciation of the word “Farang” is attributed to accent drift from trying to pronounce “Franks” or “Farangi.” One reference suggested that a letter to the King from the Governor of the Siamese port referred to the Danes in 1621 as Farang. I am not sure it necessarily means that the Thais in that era were totally unaware of the existence of the French people.

    A Vietnamese may tell you that the word “farang” comes from the French (francais).

    The Americans came after the Europeans. Why not refer to them as Farang as well? After all, most Thais cannot make the distinction between white people. Occasionally Thais may mistakenly refer to a light-skinned middle easterner as “farang.” This is mainly due to naivete than anything else. A Thai never ever calls a Chinese or a dark-skinned Indian "farang." Thais, however, sometimes refer to a white Russian as “farang.”

    The word "farang," is neither derogatory nor complimentary. 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.

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