Why do Thai People say “Moong”, “Tûm”, and “Tee” to tell the time?

Why do Thai People say “Moong”, “Tûm”, and “Tee” to tell the time?

Hello everyone! Today is Thursday, 12th July 2018. Now it’s 11.00 O’clock in the morning. What time is it in your country now? Today I’m home and writing my first blog post for sharing some useful knowledge about Thai Language.

Have you ever wondered why do Thai People say “Moong”, “Tûm”, and “Tee” to tell the time?

First of all, let’s get to know more about the word “ Clock” and “Watch” in Thai. Thai people call “naa-lí-kaa” for both two words but we call it by a different name depending on the usage.

For example:
  • By the kind of object such as  นาฬิกาทราย /naa-lí-kaa-saay/ = hour glass or sand timer, นาฬิกาน้ำ /naa-lí-kaa-náam/ = water clock, and นาฬิกาแดด /naa-lí-kaa-dàet/= sun clock
  • By the prepostion of usage such as นาฬิกาพก /naa-lí-kaa-pôk/ = pocket watch,  นาฬิกาแขวน /naa-lí-kaa-kwǎen/ = wall clock, and นาฬิกาข้อมือ /naa-lí-kaa-kôr meu/ = wristwatch
  • By the specific purpose such as นาฬิกาจับเวลา /naa-lí-kaa-jàp-wee-laa/ = stopwatch and นาฬิกาปลุก /naa-lí-kaa-plùk/ = alarm clock

“นาฬิกา” /naa-lí-kaa/ is originated from the word “na-li-ke-ra” in Sanskrit  which means coconut. Long time ago, Thai people are also use the coconut shell as the time telling device. They would punch a hole through the outside of the coconut shell and then float it on the water. If the coconut shell sinks then it means that it is one o’clock.

Nowadays, “นาฬิกา” /naa-lí-kaa/ is used for a noun classifier/time unit by hour. The time will be started counting from 00:01 o’clock until 24:00 o’clock. This kind of time unit is used in academic to report the news and announce some important information such as in the train station, the bus terminal, government office, etc. The abbreviation for “นาฬิกา” /naa-lí-kaa/ is “น.”


e.g. ขณะนี้เวลา 18:00 น.  

/kà-nà-née way-laa sìp-pàet naa-lí-kaa/

It’s six o’clock in the evening now.


ห้องสมุดเปิดเวลา 09:00 น. ทุกวัน

/hôrng-sà-mùt bpèrt way-laa kâo naa-lí-kaa tûk-wan/

The library is open at nine o’clock in moring everyday.


รถทัวร์จะออกเวลา 19.30 น.

/rôt-tour jà òrk way-laa sìp-kâo-naa-lí-kaa sǎam-sìp naa-tee/

The bus will leave at seven thirty o’clock at night.


There are 3 units are used to tell the time in Thai :


(1.) “โมง” /moong/ is the sound that is made from beating a gong ( “ฆ้อง” /kórng/). It is the traditional way to count an hour in the morning between 06:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. in the morning. For 12:00 o’clock at noon, Thai People usually say “เที่ยง” /têang/  = noon or “เที่ยงวัน” /têang-wan/ = midday. For 01:00 p.m. – 05:00 p.m. in the afternoon, we say “บ่ายโมง” /bàay-moong/. By the way, Thai People usually say “บ่ายโมง” /bàay-moong/ between 01:00 p.m. – 03:00 p.m. and say “โมงเย็น” /moong-yen/ between 04:00 p.m. – 06:00 p.m.


(2.) “ทุ่ม” /tûm/ is the sound that is made from beating a drum (“กลอง” /glong/). It is the traditional way to count first six hours at night between 07:00 p.m. – 12.00 p.m., so that’s why we count 7:00 p.m. as 1 tûm or nùeng tûm until 12:00 p.m. as 6 tûm or hòk tûm. Thai People usually say “เที่ยงคืน” /têang-kuen/ = midnight instead of 6 tûm or hòk tûm.


(3.) “ตี” /tee/ is a verb which is made the sound of hitting. It is the traditional way to count the six hours after midnight between 01:00 a.m. – 05:00 a.m.


Now let’s take a look at these. I hope the below table and pictures will help you understand the pattern better.

Have a nice day!


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