Where did the name Bangkok come from?

Home »  Bangkok »  Where did the name Bangkok come from?

FindYourSpace is going to explain how Bangkok got its name and the way it’s so infamously pronounced.

What will surprise you at first is, the area we know today as Bangkok existed long before it was the present day capital.  Bringing us to our second revelation. Throughout Thailand’s rich history, there has actually been more than one capital city – 4 to be precise.



The very first capital city of Thailand was created in the city of Sukhothai (1238 – 1438), the golden age of Thai culture when the alphabet was formed.  As the kingdom expanded and grew more powerful, Ayutthaya city (1350-1767) became the second capital city. The third capital city was situated in Thonburi (1767-1782), a more strategic location against repeated regional battles.  But the best location was east of the Chaophraya river, the location where the current capital Bangkok (1782) resides today.

Before the capital was moved to Bangkok, locals had been living there for ages and referred to the pre-capital area as ‘Bahng Gawk’ (บางกอก).

‘Bahng’ (บาง), means ‘a place’ in Thai.  ‘Gawk’ (กอก), comes from มะ-กอก which means ‘olives’.  You bet that the name Bangkok came from the fact that ‘Bahng Gawk’ was a place with lots of olive trees.

Suddenly, you’ll begin to notice all ‘the places’ in Thailand that start with Bang (Bahng) like Bangna, Bangsue and Bangkapi and start wondering what resource or commodity is in such abundance there.

Bangkok Olive tree

flickr/stew dean

When the capital moved from Thonburi to Bangkok in 1782, an official name was given to it by King Rama the first who named it ‘Krung Thep’.  So in a confusing turn of events – ‘Bahng Gawk’ is in fact the original name of the area – and not some sort of nickname!

In another turn of events, the pronunciation of ‘Bangkok’ is of course mispronounced.  And the way it’s conveniently spelt doesn’t help the masses out much either.

Krung Thep can quickly be translated to ‘The City of Angels’.  For namesakes, ‘The ‘City of Angels’ is more often compared to New York. Like the Big Apple, Bangkok is also known as The Big Mango (not the Big Olive but who’s counting).  And like New Yorkers, Bangkokians are the people that live in the capital city.

Modern condominiums and apartments where the ‘New Yorkers’ of Bangkok live 

The official name of Thailand’s capital, ‘Krung Thep’, isn’t technically spoken correctly either.  It’s actually a shortened form of its full name – which happens to be the longest name for a city in the world!

See for yourself:

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

กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยามหาดิลก ภพนพรัตน์ ราชธานีบุรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์ มหาสถาน อมรพิมาน อวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะ วิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์

Bangkok's full name

Full translation of Bangkok’s official full name

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 reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn

Even Thai’s can’t always say the full name correctly on cue so don’t feel too bad about this one.


Leave a Reply