How to say “Toy Boy” & “Toy Girl” in Thai

Finally someone asked a question! And it’s from my regular visitor Catherine. Thanks, Cat.  🙂  The question:

Some time ago, I kiddingly called a Thai friend a toy boy. His English is good but does not cover all slang, so my other friend (female) tried to explain.

[Cat’s friend offered gigolo, mistress and words along that line.]

In the west, toy boy is a playful word. But she could not come up with an equally fun Thai equivalent. …

So my question is this… does Thailand have more relaxed, fun descriptions than prostitute?

When I first got the question, a ready word did not spontaneously spring to mind and declare itself a winner. I had some idea but wasn’t so sure. (Unfortunately I’ve never had any practical experience with toy boys — which might have primed me for this question. 🙂  So, I had to make do with asking a couple of Thai girlfriends.)

Ask them I did, and got more or less the same answer, which confirmed my suspicion that “toy boy” does not have a perfect equivalent in Thai, but a few approximates that come close enough – and with an interesting background to boot. Here they are:

เด็ก /dèk/ or เด็กเลี้ยง /dèk líiang/ — literally “a kid” or “a kid in one’s support”

These terms are slang, and do not connote that the “kid” concerned is a prostitute.

It all sounds very innocent and very altruistic, isn’t it? But read on.

The terms are playful like the slang “toy boy”. Despite its literal meaning, the “kid” in the Thai expression is not necessarily a young boy or young girl. Often it’s a young man or, more often, young woman — the term applies to both sexes.

In the old days there was a Thai tradition (widely practiced or not I don’t know) of raising and grooming a child since childhood to become one’s wife or husband (when the child “grew up” and became “old” enough to become one). This is a tradition called เลี้ยงต้อย /líiang tÔOy/.

The word ต้อย /tÔOy/ in the expression is an old term and means “little” or “small”, as in a little kid or a small child. Usually the child is a girl, though once in a while, I guess, that might happen to boys too. (ต้อย TÔOy is also a common Thai girl name.)

Since that kind of tradition, if practiced today, would likely lead one to prison, it is no longer (widely) practiced (there might be some stragglers out there). First, the laws prohibiting this type of thing would make it complicated and too risky a venture. Plus, people these days are too impatient to wait years and years for a future wife or husband to grow up. So เด็กเลี้ยง(ต้อย) /dèk líiang (tÔOy)/ these days aren’t exactly raised since childhood either – the future lover (masquerading as a patron) would look for a young thing who’s presumably old enough to be legally safe. And marriage would not be a prerequisite.

The few Thai girlfriends I asked first gave me the word เลี้ยงต้อย /líiang tÔOy/ when I asked them the question of how to say “toy boy” in Thai. But that’s not the word to call a toy boy (or toy girl), but rather a way to describe or tease someone for having a toy boy, or toy girl.

One of my girlfriends fingered มาช่า วัฒนพานิช the famous Thai celebrity who has a much younger (& sizzling hot!) boyfriend (whom Westerners might call her toy boy) as an example of someone who เลี้ยงต้อย /líiang tÔOy/ in the modern sense. (I know it’s hard to say who’s the ‘kid’ from the look of them in the picture. Believe it or not, the boyfriend is closer in age to the lady’s son.)

มาช่า วัฒนพานิช & กฤษณ์

มาช่า วัฒนพานิช กับแฟนหนุ่ม กฤษณ์ Macha Wattanapanich & Boyfriend Krit – A cougar & a toy boy?

Still, even in this modern usage, when compared to the Western counterpart, I think the Thai version has a stronger connotation of patronage in the relationship. That is, a เด็ก /dèk/ or เด็กเลี้ยง /dèk líiang/ is often, though not always, financially supported by his or her patron-cum-lover: a condo, a car, brand name products, etc. are common gifts. It’s also not uncommon for the patron-cum-lover to pay for his or her dèk’s education as well.

(If you happen to read this, Macha, I’m not suggesting that you’re supporting your hunky sweetheart.  With your beauty and youthful looks, the last thing a man  — young or old — would think of in your company is your money.)

To sum it up, the expression เลี้ยงต้อย /líiang tÔOy/ is now commonly used with cases where a man or a woman has a much younger lover. But the toy boy (and often toy girl) is called เด็ก /dèk/, เด็กเลี้ยง /dèk líiang/ or less often เด็กเลี้ยงต้อย /dèk líiang tÔOy/ of the cougar, sugar daddy or sugar mommy. 


Conceivably English-speaking Thais who know the English slang might just use the English version. One friend also told me that when the English term “toy boy” is used among Thais, it is often used among gay men and hence has a homosexual connotation. But I know nothing about this last remark.

Any comments and further erudition would be appreciated.

…………UPDATE …………

“Toy boy” or “boy toy” in English? In other words, is it “a boy who is a toy” or “a toy who is a boy”? Native speakers, please enlighten!

From Urban Dictionary:

Toy boy = Female cradle-robbing. The much younger male partner to an older or middle-aged woman.

Boy toy = A male used specifically by females for pleasure and fun when their husband or boy friend is not giving them enough attention or in case of break up or divorce.

And what’s the best Thai slang for it?

Is it เด็กเลี้ยง /dèk líiang/?

Someone suggested ของเล่น /khǑOng lên/ “plaything”, and another word just popped up in my head a little while ago ผู้ชายป้ายเหลือง / /pÔO-chaay pâay-lǔeaang/ “yellow-plate man” or “yellow-light man”? (“yellow”  as in for “temporary parking”).

Please share your thoughts.

8 responses to “How to say “Toy Boy” & “Toy Girl” in Thai

  1. Thank you Kaewmala, this section is a fabulous idea 🙂

    ‘in the old days there was a Thai tradition of raising and grooming a child since childhood to become one’s wife or husband’

    Interesting to know. I’ve read about this in history books. I believe it’s still going on in some countries (?)

    From what I remember, the idea is to make sure your future spouse is groomed to be the person you want to raise children with.

    And weren’t children raised together at one time? In order for the parents to be sure of what they were getting for a daughter or son in-law? I’ll have to look into it.

    And when you know what a pot luck marriage can be even these days, it does make sense. Not that it’d ever happen in the world I live in…

    So the เด็กเลี้ยง is our equivalent of a mistress (if a female). We don’t have a male equivalent for mistress (or do we?) Toy boy is a younger male lover, not necessarily supported although gifts are usually forthcoming – it’s usually a one-on-one relationship. Gigolo is an older toy boy, a male who has many gals.

    Note: My knowledge of this subject is weak, so if anyone knows the male for mistress – as in Thai เด็กเลี้ยง – please chime in.

    • Cat, the เด็กเลี้ยง /dèk líiang/ (if a female) is a more youthful, modern slang equivalent of “mistress” in English, but it is really more like a “toy girl” (if female), a kept young woman of some sugar daddy, than a mistress which, to me at least, feels more traditional and kind of “established”.

      Given the Thai history of polygamy (still currently practiced), we’re not in lack of words for mistress at all. Among them are:

      อีหนู /ii-nǔu/ (lit. ‘young girl’ — a slang that preceeded เด็กเลี้ยง /dèk líiang/)

      เมียน้อย /miia nÓOy/ (lit. “minor wife”)

      เมียเก็บ /miia kèp/ (lit. “kept wife”)

      Until recently, I think, in Thai culture, when a woman entered into a sexual relationship with a man, regardless of whether there was a wedding or marriage license, the woman often considered herself some sort of “wife” — not exactly the same mindset of Western mistresses whose status is clearly separated from that of wives.

  2. >>>>“Toy boy” or “boy toy” in English? In other words, is it “a boy who is a toy” or “a toy who is a boy”? Native speakers, please enlighten!”>>>>>
    As a native English speaker, toyboy is far more common and the one used in English newspapers etc.
    Boy toy would be understood, but is in my opinion just a word play.
    See eg

    • Thank you คุณเจมส์, for the comment and the dailymail link.
      … And Cougar Madonna is (said to be) looking for a new toyboy already?!! Wow! One สะดือด่วน* ‘fast navel’ lady!

      *สะดือด่วน /sà-duue dùuan/ (lit. “nave/belly-button express”)

  3. On toy boy talk, I have two points.

    First, I think there is another history to “เลี้ยงต้อย”. “ต้อย” does mean little. But “เลี้ยงต้อย” can also refer to the phrase “เดินตามต้อยๆ” – meaning [a little one following an adult every where the latter goes]. “เลี้ยงต้อย” is pictorial in a sense that the little one has been raised by her current lover since she was very young, when she would follow and do all the things (obediently, I would say) to her current lovers.

    Second, I asked my 60ish years old mother what would be a Thai term for people who are “liang-toyed”. Well it took me almost 20 minutes to explain my question to her. She didn’t get it. I probed further what is a word for men who attracts and have แม่ยก. This question needs further explanation. Despite half an hour of explaining my questions, I got no answer. My mother didn’t get why we need to have words for those who are liang-toyed and have mae-yok. The point here is there are plenty of toy boys in Thailand in the old days and in the present days but they have no names that we can conveniently refer to.

    “เด็ก” is the right referent to toy boy but not commonly used as a single word. To refer to toy boy/toy girl, “เด็กผม” or “เด็กฉัน” is used, tr. “my dek”. Or in a question form “เด็กใคร”. But the meaning of these words can also denote relationship other than sexual. They can refer to “being under the power/patronage (in a sense of gang member). Being a dek, either in a sexual relationship or patron-client/gang-type relationship) is always an illicit state of being in Thai society.

    • Thanks so much, kimmim, for sharing your thoughts. Love especially the story about your mother.

      I don’t know the deep history of “เลี้ยงต้อย” so I can’t really add more to the commentary. Perhaps Cat will come back and add hers after her research, Cat? hint, hint 😉

      BTW, I moved your comment from the “Wet Top of Staircase” article and placed it here, so that people who follow this post can see your comment.

  4. FYI, in my experience “boy toy” is common American usage which I would define as “a young man who a woman, especially an older woman, has a relationship with, especially a non-serious relationship.” To this American ear, “toy boy” sounds wrong. So I think it must be a US/UK split.

  5. Pingback: “Play” in Thai Idioms – Part 3: Erotic Play « Thai Woman Talks – Language, Politics & Love·

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