There are 44 consonants in the Thai language. Each consonant belongs to one of three classes (low, middle, or high) which, along with vowel length and tone markers, helps determine a syllable’s tone. The following chart shows each consonant, its class category, and its initial and final sounds.

The 44 Thai Consonants

Notice how unlike the English language many of the consonants have the same sound. For example, Thai has three consonants that all have an initial ‘K’ sound. So the natural question is, “how the heck are you supposed to know which ‘K’ consonant to use? You obviously can’t just use whichever you want!”

Good question, indeed, and one that took me a week or two to figure out when I first started. It was also a question that went unanswered in many of the Thai beginner books I bought or looked at, which I see as a huge and glaring flaw. (Note to Thai book authors: If you are writing a “beginner” Thai book, and one that focuses on the language and not a tourist phrasebook, you MUST – ABSOLUTELY MUST – include the following material.)

Each consonant has a word associated with it to help you remember which one is being used in a particular word. Think of it like “a is for apple,” “b is for boat,” “c is for cookie,” etc. Below is a chart of all of the letters in Thai alphabet order (yes, there is an alphabet order, too) and their respective word associations. Don’t worry about the romanization and pronunciation just yet; I will cover that once I cover tone rules.

Consonant
(Associated Word)
Romanized
Pronunciation
Associated Word
Translation
ก (ไก่)
gɔɔ gài
chicken
ข (ไข่)
kɔ̌ɔ kài
egg
ฃ (ขวด)
kɔɔ kùuat
bottle
ค (ควาย)
kɔɔ kwaai
water buffalo
ฅ (คน)
kɔɔ kon
person
ฆ (ระฆัง)
kɔɔ rá~kang
bell
ง (งู)
ngɔɔ nguu
snake
จ (จาน)
jɔɔ jaan
plate
ฉ (ฉิ่ง)
chɔ̌ɔ chìng
chime
ช (ช้าง)
chɔɔ cháang
elephant
ซ (โซ่)
sɔɔ sôo
chain
ฌ (เฌอ)
chɔɔ chəə
tree
ญ (หญิง)
yɔɔ yíng
woman
ฎ (ชฎา)
dɔɔ chá~daa
traditional hat
ฏ (ปฏัก)
dtɔɔ bpà~dtàk
spear
ฐ (ฐาน)
tɔ̌ɔ tǎan
base/pedestal
ฑ (มณโฑ)
tɔɔ mon-too
mythical character
ฒ (ผู้เฒ่า)
tɔɔ pûu-tâo
old man
ณ (เณร)
nɔɔ neen
novice monk
ด (เด็ก)
dɔɔ dèk
child
ต (เต่า)
dtɔɔ dtào
turtle
ถ (ถุง)
tɔ̌ɔ tǔng
bag
ท (ทหาร)
tɔɔ tá-hǎan
soldier
ธ (ธง)
tɔɔ tong
flag
น (หนู)
nɔɔ nǔu
mouse
บ (ใบไม้)
bɔɔ bai-máai
leaf
ป (ปลา)
bpɔɔ bplaa
fish
ผ (ผึ้ง)
pɔ̌ɔ pʉ̂ng
bee
ฝ (ฝา)
fɔ̌ɔ fǎa
lid
พ (พาน)
pɔɔ paan
offering tray
ฟ (ฟัน)
fɔɔ fan
tooth
ภ (สำเภา)
pɔɔ sǎm-pao
asian boat (junk)
ม (ม้า)
mɔɔ máa
horse
ย (ยักษ์)
yɔɔ yák
demon
ร (เรือ)
rɔɔ rʉʉa
boat
ล (ลิง)
lɔɔ ling
monkey
ว (แหวน)
wɔɔ wɛ̌ɛn
ring
ศ (ศาลา)
sɔ̌ɔ sǎa-laa
gazebo
ษ (ฤๅษี)
sɔ̌ɔ rʉʉ-sǐi
hermit
ส (เสือ)
sɔ̌ɔ sʉ́ʉa
tiger
ห (หีบ)
hɔ̌ɔ hìip
trunk/chest
ฬ (จุฬา)
lɔɔ jù-laa
kite
อ (อ่าง)
ɔɔ àang
basin/tub
ฮ (นกฮูก)
hɔɔ nók-hûuk
owl

There are also two additional obsolete consonants that are no longer used except in a few rare cases. These consonants are:

You won’t come across them very often, but be aware that they exist in some words.

It will take you a while to learn all 44 consonants. I
still have trouble with them myself. What I have found helpful is to learn them in four groups of eleven consonants each. Write them down as you
say them, and be sure to memorize their associated words and
definitions and their classes. Classes are especially important when
you start to learn about how the tone rules work. One thing Su did to help me was create a list of consonants on a page with some missing, so I had to fill in the blanks. Consider this English example:

A B C __ E __ __ H I J __

I found this exercise to be extremely helpful. The trick is to find someone to create these lists for you!

Good luck!