What does Sawadee mean in Thai Language?

Sawadee, or Sawadee ka by default means hallo in Thai. For girls, it ends with a “ka” which is the default polite ending particle for females to use. For guys, it should actually be Sawadee krub – as “krub” is the default polite ending particle for males to use. So if a guy starts saying “Sawadee ka”, it might be that you’re being greeted by a ladyboy 😏 or that the poor guy doesn’t know any better (HUGE SMIRKS 😏😏).

Read here to learn what does krub mean in Thai

The real meaning of sawadee

สวัสดี – sawadee or sa-wat-dee technically means hallo or goodbye. Hence, do not be weirded out if someone ends the call off with sawadee – it is polite and it is not wrong. In fact, I hear sawadee being used under the context of goodbye more often than the other Thai word for goodbye (la korn / ลาก่อน).

สวัสดี – sawadee can be split into สวัส sa-wat and ดี dee. Most Singaporeans know the latter – ดี dee just means good. สวัส sa-wat is a greeting which means goodness, fairness and prosperity.

How to greet in Thai language using sawadee?

When greeting someone, Thai people will say “sawadee” ka/krub and put their hands together. The act of pressing your palms together is known as “wai” – it is a respectful way of greeting someone in Thai. Usually, Thai people press their palms to their chest level. How high your hands go and/or how low you bow depends on who you are greeting.

If you want to say “good morning” instead of “hallo” in general, you can use “arun sawat” อรุณสวัสดิ์ instead of “sawadee”. sawat is the same in both context. “arun” means dawn. I typically hear “arun sawat” used in a more formal context as it is supposed to sound more elegant. Most Thai people simply stick to “sawadee”.

Sometimes, Thai people will be lazy and shorten it to “wat dee”, dropping “sa” at the start. Again this is not wrong, and I have heard younger Thais use “wat dee” among friends of their same age.

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When else to use sawadee in Thai Language?

As sawadee is a greeting in general, its usage is not confined to simply “hallo” or “goodbye”. Another common Thai greeting with the word “sawadee” is sawadee pee mai สวัสดีปีใหม่ – this means Happy New Year. “sawadee” has the same meaning above and pee ปี means year, ใหม่ means new.

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About the author – see the About page for more information

Joanne Tan is an aspiring polyglot and has so far mastered English, Chinese and Thai languages. She first started learning Thai in 2015 before staying in Bangkok for 5 months, and then continued studying Thai up to Advanced Levels at the National University of Singapore. In 2017, Joanne was awarded ‘Advanced Thai Proficiency’ by the Sirindhorn Thai Language Institute of Chulalongkorn University. Today, Joanne freelances as a Thai teacher in Singapore and helps her Thai friends actively promote Thai culture.