When it comes to naming Thai Massage in the Thai language, you’ll find that various distinct words and phrases are used, such as Nuad, Nuad Thai, Nuad Boran, Nuad Phaen Boran, or Nuad Phaen Thai. By the way, in the West it’s also common to say Thai Yoga Massage, but in Thailand this phrase is barely used (except as a means to attract tourists or massage students).
But then, what exactly are the meanings and differences between all these Thai labels and phrases? Before we explain that, first a few notes: in the Thai language (written left to right) you generally don’t find spaces in-between words. Spaces are only used in certain circumstances, such as when we would use a comma or full stop.
Another thing is that when the Thai script (alphabet) is translated to our Latin alphabet (or Roman alphabet), it’s done in a “free style” way, that is, it’s done mostly phonetically. For instance, the Thai word นวด can be written in our alphabet as Nuad, Nuat , or even Nwd. It doesn’t make things easy, but… it is what it is.
Okay, having said that, let’s now take a look at the varieties.
Nuad and Nuad Thai
So, Nuad (นวด) simply translates as massage, rub, batter, or knead, amongst some other meanings. Nuad is the most common way in Thailand to talk about massage. Remember that, for the Thai people themselves, it’s less common to put Thai before the word massage. In the end, to them, in Thailand, it’s clear that Massage equals Thai Massage.
Nevertheless, when it’s used more officially, one would say นวด ไทย (นวดไทย), which translates as Nuad Thai, thus emphasizing Thai Massage (instead of only massage). By the way, the word Thai (ไทย) refers to the Thai people, but the word itself means free or freedom, that is, the Thai call themselves “the free people,” and Thailand means “land of the free.”
Nuad Boran (นวด บราณ or นวดบราณ) means Ancient Massage or Traditional Massage. That is, boran (บราณ) equals ancient, old, or traditional. In the Latin alphabet, you will also find Nuad Boran written as Nuad Bo Rarn, Nuad Bo-Rarn, or even Nuad Bo’Rarn.
Nuad Phaen Boran and Nuad Phaen Thai
The Thai word Phaen (แผน) means way, style, manner, plan. Thus, with the knowledge we have gathered so far, we can discern that Nuad Phaen Boran (นวด แผน โบราณ or นวดแผนโบราณ) can be translated as massage in the ancient way, ancient manner massage, or traditional style massage, etc.
Subsequently, Nuad Phaen Thai (นวด แผน ไทย or นวดแผนไทย) means Thai style massage, Thai manner massage, or massage in the Thai way.
In Thailand, apart from the standard Nuad Thai or Nuad Boran, and so on, you will also find labels such as Nuad Chaloeisak (Thai Folk Massage), Nuad Naam Man (นวด น้ำมัน or Oil Massage), Nuad Rajasamnak (Thai Royal Massage), Nuad Samun Praii (นวด สมุนไพร or Herbal Massage), and Nuad Táo (นวด เท้า or Foot Massage), to name just a few other types (or styles) of massages.
These phrases point to a certain style or type of Thai Massage (for instance, Thai Folk Massage or Thai Royal Massage), the part of the body being massaged (for instance, Foot Massage or Face Massage), or method of massage used (for instance, Oil Massage or Herbal Massage).
Well, we’ve seen that the Thai people use a variety of labels for the phrase Thai Massage. It depends a bit on the context or what one wants to emphasize what phrase is used exactly.
Yet, in the end, the words Nuad, Nuad Thai, Nuad Boran, or Nuad Phaen Thai all mean the same thing though. They point to Thai Massage. For the Thai people there’s no actual difference between massage, Thai Massage, Thai Traditional Massage, Thai style massage, or ancient massage, and so on.