Thailand’s Royal Society Said Despite Name Change, English Speakers Can Still Call Bangkok as Bangkok


Last Updated on 2022-02-21 , 4:27 pm

The Office of the Royal Society (ORST) has declared the change of the official name of Thailand’s Capital from Bangkok to Krung Thep Maha Nakhon.

However, before anyone gets their snickers in a twist or complain that the name is too long and “I can’t pronounce it” (neither can I, to be honest), the name “Bangkok” is still recognised.

The supposed controversy and heated discussion is all in the punctuation, starting from Tuesday (15 Feb) where the Cabinet approved the ORST changing the way the capital is referred to internationally, going from “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon; Bangkok” to “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok)”.

The symbolism and implications of turning a semi-colon into parenthesis started getting into peoples’ head, causing them to wonder about the significance and what this could all possibly mean, when really….

Both are still viable, nothing has changed, chill out.

The History and Meaning in the Name

The funny thing about the name change is that it’s only confusing for foreigners.

For the Thais, they have always officially referred to their Capital as “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon” or “Krung Thep” for short, in their own language.

The history of Thailand’s Capital is that, in 1782, King Rama I decided to establish his new capital at a more defensible site, so he moved across the river to the west of the Chao Phraya river (modern day Thonburi), which was where Bangkok originally was.

By the way, “Bangkok” translates to “village of wild plums” in English.

When King Rama I built his new capital on that particular piece of land, he renamed it to Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (กรุงเทพมหานคร), which translates into “The Great City of Angels”.

For some odd reason though, the foreigners never caught up with this name change and Bangkok stuck instead, even till this day.

Maybe out of pronunciation or simplicity’s sake—or that geographically they technically were in Bangkok—even the ORST had rolled with the name “Bangkok” in its official announcements since November 2001.

But if you need more evidence that Krung Thep Maha Nakhon is widely recognised Capital name among the Thais, you should start paying attention to the car plates issued in Thailand’s Capital, because it has “กรุงเทพมหานคร” below the vehicle registration number, instead of “กรุงเทพฯ” (Bangkok).


One of the easiest comparisons to this naming situation is how Italians refer to their Capital as “Roma” in their language, whilst foreigners refer to it as simply “Rome”.

Oh, and here’s the best part:


Krung Thep Maha Nakhon is actually the abbreviated version of the Capital’s ceremonial full name.

In fact, Thailand holds the Guinness World Record for having longest capital name, and in official English romanisation, it reads:

Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.

This translates to a long string of superlatives: “The City of Angels, the Great City, the Residence of the Emerald Buddha, the Impregnable City (of Ayutthaya) 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 incarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.”

King Rama I must have really loved his new Capital, to have named it so colourfully and vividly. 


So before complaining, better count your blessings.

Announcements from The Office of Royal Society

The new official name, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, will not come into effect until it’s vetted by a committee in charge of inspecting all draft bills.

The cabinet ministers have also asked the panel to take into consideration the additional observations made by the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

For instance, the ORST will be compiling a dictionary of internal geographic names, with the help of experts from their Foreign Affairs Ministry to update the spelling of countries, territories, administrative zones, and Capitals.

To earn the affirmation of others, start by respecting their cultures first, I suppose.

For instance, ORST has updated the official spelling from Rome to Roma for Italy’s Capital, changed Myanmar’s capital from Yangon to Nay Pyi Taw, and the Kingdom of Nepal to the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.


Furthermore, ORST has also announced that the name Bangkok will still be kept in parenthesis after Krung Thep Maha Nakhon.

Government Deputy spokeswoman Ratchda Dhanadirek said that nothing has changed in the naming of the capital; it can still be referred to as Bangkok since it has always been recognised, regardless of how it’s framed, linguistically. 

It’s just a matter of stylistic preference; the Thai Government won’t be forcing foreigners to adopt the new and more complicated name.

Still, it’s nice to learn something new everyday.

The Great City of Angels… is a beautiful name too.


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Featured Image: Shutterstock / SOUTHERNTraveler