Is there a similarity between Cantonese and Thai? I've noticed that some words such as the word for chicken is the same.

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    FWIW, when watching Cantonese horror films with small portions in Thai (as a native Cantonese speaker), I was completely incapable of understanding the Thai.
    – user5714
    Commented May 28, 2016 at 19:45
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    I'm a Cantonese. Just thought of sharing this, Cantonese find listening to Thai is really funny because their choice of sound construction for characters are similar to us. youtube.com/watch?v=_n_yvfH1UjQ In the video, the 2 Hong Kong show hosts are laughing very hard simply about the pronunciation of colors in Thai. They all sounds like something indecent. (The Thai teacher in the middle just don't get it and sitting there being awkward) The comment section has listed out the funny words. Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 11:52
  • 他们哈哈大笑啊! :-) Interesting video. Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 12:15
  • It is an accident. The Thai word's etymology can be found here: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E0%B9%84%E0%B8%81%E0%B9%88 . Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 5:21

6 Answers 6


Cantonese does contain a substrate from the Tai languages, which includes Thai and Zhuang as modern members, so that could be a source of similarities. However, the word for chicken (雞), and most other Cantonese vocabulary, can be traced to Chinese sources, so that's not it.

  • English contains a substrate from the roman languages. It doesn't make it contain ”similarities” to those languages, other than having a common indo-european root. Thai and Cantonese are simply not related, and this answer is plain wrong.
    – user4452
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 17:27
  • " contains a substrate from the roman languages"? Wikipedia: The vocabulary of Modern English is approximately a quarter Germanic (Old English, Scandinavian, Dutch, German) and two-thirds Italic or Romance (especially Latin, French, Spanish, Italian),
    – user6065
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 18:44
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    @user4452 Please look up what "substrate" means in linguistics. It does not mean they're related. It means that the population originally spoke that language, and then some new language took over, but the "substrate" had some effect on how the incoming language evolved (and/or became a source for loanwords). Britain had a Celtic substrate but was overtaken by Germanic languages. Southern China had a Tai-Kadai substrate but was overtaken by Chinese. I think the vowel-length distinction in Yue languages (which is totally weird! not like other topolects at all!) is attributed to this. Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 22:36

No similarity whatsoever (different families), but diffusion of a dominant language. This would be more obvious visavis cantonese and vietnamese.

Chinese is the latin of East Asia, and there are many loanwords in neighboring languages.

  • Just like the kanji in Japanese I suppose. Commented May 28, 2016 at 19:52
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    Kanji is just hanzi, that is characters imported from China. But japanese also has two sets of pronunciations, one which mimics classical chinese, and a modern that is true to the japanese tongue. But the diffusion is bidirectional, and words like 电话, 社会, 经济 and so on are japanese in origin.
    – user4452
    Commented May 28, 2016 at 19:59

A huge population of Northern Thai consists of Chinese and most of these Chinese come from Southern China Guangdong Province from an area/ city called 潮州 (Chao zhou /teochew).

Even today, most of these modern Thai Chinese can speak some Teochew although they may not understand Mandarin.

Due to mixing of cultures, some words could have translated to Thai. Pronunciation may be closer to Teochew than Mandarin.

I believe one of their kings was of Chinese descent as well.


As for Cantonese and Hokkien dialects, I believe that the prolonged encountering between Southern Chinese and Tai speakers (Zhuang ,Thai, Lao etc.) made their phonetic repertoire more rich than the Mandarin dialect. Many words in Cantonese and Hokkien sound very much like Thai, for example Number 1 - 10 or the names of common objects such as chair (Gao Ee), table (Tou), guest (Khaek/khek).

Mandarin has fewer sounds because the Chinese writing system has no phonetic information. You cannot make new sound with it. Chinese language appears phonetically pure because loan words and names are “dubbed” with closest sounding Chinese characters. Chinese used to borrow many words and terminologies from Sanskrit through Buddhism. But its writing system does not allow any systematic orthography which is needed in order to incorporate new linguistic elements from an Indo-European language. Japanese has the same problem, and though it now have separate kana scripts, Japanese language still have very few sounds.


I found Thai tones and the sounds of Thai words are very close Cantonese, perhaps they both spoke Tai before the Qin Dynasty.


actually there ARE similarities (im thai-chinese and i speak both mandarin & thai + i do understand a bit cantonese too) While chinese is a sino-tibetan language and thai isnt theres still many words who are very similar to eachother , thai (in case of pronouncing is the most similar to chinese and besides that some words are also similar to hindi and a lot also to vietnamese , whenever i hear vietnamese i feel like im hearing a different type of thai) also both thai & chinese are tonal languages such as lao and viet. the comment with a past king was right (several thailand kings were actually chinese) + Thai people MIGRATED from SOUTH China 4000 years ago , so theres still a language in southern china thats very similar to the modern thai language. Thais originated from there and it stuck with them even though there were some changes since they moved south to the now land that first was called SIAM and now thailand. u can get the info about the thai volks origins in some HISTORY books about thailands people and where they actually came from. It was also mentioned in at least SOME documentations (history docu.) that thais originally came from south china (btw a lot of the south chinese ppl still look similar to thais) thats why some of the thai language has some similarities with chinese, even though cantonese is more similar to it instead of mandarin.

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