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Depiction of farang as a stone guard at Wat Pho in Bangkok; circa 1824–1851

Farang ( Persian: فرنگ) is a Persian word that originally referred to the Franks (the major Germanic people) and later came to refer to Western or Latin Europeans in general. The word is borrowed from Old French franc or Latin francus, which are also the source of Modern English France, French.

The Western European and Islamic worlds came into prolonged contact with each other during the crusades and the establishment of the Crusader states. Many crusaders spoke (Old) French and were from the territory of modern France; while others came from other regions, such as modern Italy or England. In any case, the period predated the idea of the nation state in Europe. Frank or its equivalent term were used by both Medieval Greeks and Muslims to refer to any crusader or Latin Christian. From the 12th century onwards, it was the standard term for Western Christians in the Muslim world.

Through Muslim trading networks, the Persian term farang and related words such as Frangistan ( Persian: فرنگستان) were spread to languages of South Asia and Southeast Asia.


The word farang is from Persian word farang ( فرنگ) or farangī ( فرنگی), refers to Franks, the major Germanic tribe ruling Western Europe. Frangistan ( Persian: فرنگستان) was a term used by Muslims and Persians in particular, during the Middle Ages and later periods, to refer to Western or Latin Europe. According to Rashid od-Din Fazl ol-Lāh-e Hamadāni, Arabic word Afranj comes from the Persian farang. [1] This seems unlikely though, considering that the Arabic 'al-Faranj' or 'Afranj' has been attested since the 9th century, in the works of al-Jahiz and Ya'qubi, a century before 'Farang' was first used in an anonymous late 10th century Persian geography book, [2] suggesting that the Persian 'Farang' is a loan from Arabic. By the 11th century, Arabic texts were increasingly using the term 'Faransa' or 'al-Faransiyah', already attested in the work of Said al-Andalusi in the mid 11th century.

In the languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea, faranj or ferenj in most contexts still means distant foreigner (generally used to describe Europeans or European descendant/ white people), in certain contexts within the Ethiopian and Eritrean diaspora, the term faranj or ferenj has taken on a slightly alternative meaning that closely resembles the term Westerner or Westernized people even though it still mostly applies to European descendants/ White People, it can be applied to African Americans and other Westernized People of Color. During the Muslim Mughal Empire when the Europeans arrived in South Asia, the Persian word Farang was used to refer to foreigners of European descent. The words also added to local languages such as Hindi/ Urdu as firangi ( Devanāgarī: फिरंगी and Urdu فرنگی) and Bengali as firingi (ফিরিঙ্গি). The word was pronounced paranki (പറങ്കി) in Malayalam, parangiar in Tamil, and Malay as ferenggi[ citation needed]. From there the term spread into China as folangji (佛郎機), which was used to refer to the Portuguese and their breech-loading swivel guns when they first arrived in China.

Other uses

South Asia

In Bangladesh and West Bengal, the modern meaning of firingi (ফিরিঙ্গি) refers to Anglo-Bengalis or Bengalis with European ancestry. Most firingis tend to be Bengali Christians. Descendants of firingis who married local Bengali women may also be referred to as Kalo Firingis (Black firingis) or Matio Firingis (Earth-coloured firingis). [3] Following the Portuguese settlement in Chittagong, the Portuguese fort and naval base came to be known as Firingi Bandar or the Foreigner's Port. There are also places such as Firingi Bazaar which exist in older parts of Dhaka and Chittagong. The descendants of these Portuguese traders in Chittagong continue to be referred to as Firingis. [4] The Indian biographical film Antony Firingee was very popular in the mid-20th century and was based on Anthony Firingee – a Bengali folk singer of Portuguese origin. There is also a river in the Sundarbans called Firingi River.

In Telugu phirangi (ఫిరంగి) means cannon, due to cannons being an import.

In the Maldives faranji was the term used to refer to foreigners of European origin, especially the French. Until recently the lane next to the Bastion in the northern shore of Malé was called Faranji Kalō Gōlhi. [5]

Southeast Asia

The Royal Institute Dictionary 2011, the official dictionary of Thai words, defines the word as "a person of white race". [6] The term is also blended into everyday terms meaning "of/from the white race" such as: man farang ( Thai: มันฝรั่ง; "farang yam") meaning potato, no mai farang ( Thai: หน่อไม้ฝรั่ง; "farang shoot") meaning asparagus, and achan farang ( Thai: อาจารย์ฝรั่ง; "farang professor") which is the nickname of the influential figure in Thai art history, Italian art professor Silpa Bhirasri. [6]

Edmund Roberts, US envoy in 1833, defined the term as " Frank (or European)". [7] Black people are called farang dam ( Thai: ฝรั่งดำ; 'black farang') to distinguish them from whites. This began during the Vietnam War, when the United States military maintained bases in Thailand. The practice continues in present-day Bangkok. [8]

Farang is also the Thai word for the guava fruit, introduced by Portuguese traders over 400 years ago. [9]

Farang khi nok ( Thai: ฝรั่งขี้นก, lit.'bird-droppings Farang'), also used in Lao, is slang commonly used as an insult to a person of white race, equivalent to white trash, as khi means feces and nok means bird, referring to the white color of bird-droppings. [10]

Varieties of food/produce that were introduced by Europeans are often called farang varieties. Hence, potatoes are man farang ( Thai: มันฝรั่ง), whereas man ( Thai: มัน) alone can be any tuber; culantro is called phak chi farang ( Thai: ผักชีฝรั่ง, literally farang cilantro/ coriander); and chewing gum is mak farang ( Thai: หมากฝรั่ง). Mak ( Thai: หมาก) is Thai for arecanut; chewing mak together with betel leaves (baiphlu) was a Thai custom.

In the Isan Lao dialect, the guava is called mak sida ( Thai: หมากสีดา), mak being a prefix for fruit names. Thus bak sida ( Thai: บักสีดา), bak being a prefix when calling males, refers jokingly to a Westerner, by analogy to the Thai language where farang can mean both guava and Westerner. [11]

See also


  1. ^ Karl Jahn (ed.) Histoire Universelle de Rasid al-Din Fadl Allah Abul=Khair: I. Histoire des Francs (Texte Persan avec traduction et annotations), Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1951. (Source: M. Ashtiany)
  2. ^ Dabashi, Hamid (16 January 2020). Reversing the Colonial Gaze: Persian Travelers Abroad. Cambridge University Press. p. 68. ISBN  9781108488129. The earliest source in which the word farang appears in Persian is actually by the anonymous author of Hudud al-'Alam/Boundaries of the World from the tenth century, and even before in Arabic in the works of Al-Jahiz (776–869), as in the expression "King of Farang" or the region of "Farang."
  3. ^ Hasan Osmany, Shireen. "Chittagong City". Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  4. ^ Bangladesh Channel Services. "Explore the wonders of Chittagong in Bangladesh". Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  5. ^ "Royal House of Hilaaly-Huraa". Archived from the original on 2021-02-11. Retrieved 2015-12-13.
  6. ^ a b พจนานุกรม ฉบับราชบัณฑิตยสถาน พ.ศ. 2542 [Royal Institute Dictionary 1999] (in Thai). Royal Institute of Thailand. 2007. Archived from the original on 2009-03-03. Retrieved 2014-04-05. ฝรั่ง ๑ [ฝะหฺรั่ง] น. ชนชาติผิวขาว; คําประกอบชื่อสิ่งของบางอย่างที่มาจากต่างประเทศซึ่งมีลักษณะคล้ายของไทย เช่น ขนมฝรั่ง ละมุดฝรั่ง มันฝรั่ง ตะขบฝรั่ง ผักบุ้งฝรั่ง แตรฝรั่ง.
  7. ^ Roberts, Edmund (1837) [First published in 1837]. "Chapter XIX 1833 Officers of Government". Embassy to the Eastern courts of Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat : in the U. S. sloop-of-war Peacock ... during the years 1832-3-4 (Digital ed.). Harper & brothers. Retrieved March 29, 2012. Connected with this department is that of the Farang-khromma-tha," Frank (or European) commercial board
  8. ^ Diana Ozemebhoy, Eromosele (26 May 2015). "Being Black in Thailand: We're Treated Better Than Africans, and Boy Do We Hate It". The Root. pp. 1–2. Archived from the original on 29 May 2015. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  9. ^ "ฝรั่ง คืออะไร แปลภาษา แปลว่า หมายถึง (พจนานุกรมไทย-ไทย อ.เปลื้อง ณ นคร)". Retrieved 2018-12-15.
  10. ^ "ฝรั่งขี้นก คืออะไร แปลภาษา แปลว่า หมายถึง (พจนานุกรมไทย-ไทย ราชบัณฑิตยสถาน)". Retrieved 2018-12-15.
  11. ^ "Isaan Dialect". SiamSmile. Dec 2009. Archived from the original on 16 March 2010. Retrieved 28 December 2009. SEE-DA สีดา BAK-SEE-DA บักสีดา or MAHK-SEE-DA หมากสีดา. Guava fruit; Foreigner (white, Western.) BAK is ISAAN for mister; SEE-DA สีดา, BAK-SEE-DA and MAHK-SEE-DA are Isaan for the Guava fruit.

Further reading

  • Corness, Dr Iain (2009). Farang. Dunboyne: Maverick House Publishers. ISBN  978-1-905379-42-2.
  • Marcinkowski, Dr Christoph (2005). From Isfahan to Ayutthaya: Contacts between Iran and Siam in the 17th Century. With a foreword by Professor Ehsan Yarshater, Columbia University, New York. Singapore: Pustaka Nasional. ISBN  9971-77-491-7.
  • Kitiarsa, P. (2011). An ambiguous intimacy: Farang as Siamese occidentalism. In R. V. Harrison & P. A. Jackson (Eds.), The ambiguous allure of the West: Traces of the colonial in Thailand (pp. 57–74). Hong Kong Univ. Press; Silkworm Books.

External links