When most backpackers think of the Thai capital, they conjure up images of street food, bustling markets, and all-night parties – and they’d be right! But they don’t really give a second thought as to what the word Bangkok means or where it comes from. However, if you do delve into the etymology of the word, you’ll find that it has quite a hazy history and a crazily long Thai name which is more than a mouthful to pronounce! Read on to learn more about the long-winded name of this mad capital so you can show off your new-found Thai history knowledge to your friends and family or impress the locals with your knack of the Thai language.
Where did the long Thai name come from?
The full Thai name for the city is actually:
กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุทธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบุรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์
Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit
The Ayutthaya part of the name comes from the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Siam and the rest was created during the reign of King Mongkut (aka King Rama IV) who just fancied a rather elaborate name for his kingdom.
The full name stands in the Guinness World Record Book as the longest city name in the world, with a whopping 168 letters. Thankfully for us the city is universally known as just Bangkok so we’re alright!
The whole name translates as:
The city of angels, the great city of immortals, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated God, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarma.
That’s a pretty impressive description of a capital city if we do say so ourselves!
While the whole name is taught in Thai schools, knowing the name Bangkok or simply Krung Thep (City of Angels) will more than suffice.
Why is it now known as Bangkok?
There are thought to be a few reasons as to why we now know the city as Bangkok.
One reason is that the name may come from the two Thai words Bang meaning ‘village located on a stream’ and perhaps Ko meaning ‘island’. As a city, Bangkok has a particularly wet landscape with water, bridges and islands making up the capital as a whole – so this name would make some sense.
Alternatively, it could be a shortened form of the words Bang Makok – a combination of ‘village located on a stream’ and the Elaeocarpus hygrophilus, an olive-likeplant that grows in the region and throughout South East Asia.
Whatever the reason, it is much easier for us as travellers to call the city Bangkok and be easily understood by locals knowing where we want to go!
The city is an amazing place to start your journey allowing you to get an insight into the culture, cuisine, shopping and style of the whole country. Plus, if you practise hard enough during your trip you might even be able to pronounce half of the words of the full Thai name by the time you leave!