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Bangkok residents walk in New Year decorated street
ManyThais, both young and old, usually consult a fortune teller or a local monk for a special 'lucky' nameImage: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

Thailand: Can a name change bring good fortune?

Emmy Sasipornkarn
February 4, 2021

In Thailand, many people believe that a new name could be the solution to their misfortune. Some Thais alter their names numerous times during their lifetime.


Twenty-year-old Sarocha felt being at a low point in her life following a series of "unlucky" events, especially in her love life.

In the hope of breaking out of her cycle of heartache and finally finding "Mr. Right," she decided that having a more "auspicious" name could alter her fortune.

"After my parents broke up I was in a series of bad relationships. I went to see a fortune teller and figured my name was the problem," Sarocha told DW.

Opting for a name change in the hope that it might improve future prospects may sound like a drastic step, but it is common practice in Thailand. Some Thais even opt to change both their first and last name simultaneously.

There are many reasons that compel Thais to change their names — from chronic health issues, to financial troubles or a stagnanting career.

Thais may decide to change their names during childhood or later in life as adults. While some countries such as Iceland and Denmark have a list of approved names to choose from, most Thais usually consult a fortune teller or a local monk for an auspicious, tailor-made name.

Astrological methods

When Somchart first became interested in astrology, he rushed to change his and his family's names with the expectation of boosting their luck.

After reading up on the theory and customs, the 63-year-old realized he had made a mistake when naming his wife and children — he hadn't noticed that a new day starts at 6 a.m., according to Thai astrology.

"Changing names two or three times is not strange at all. I have some friends who have changed their name five or even six times," Somchart told DW.

Constant name changes might be confusing elsewhere but Thais typically address one another by nicknames assigned at birth. Nicknames remain constant and are not at all derived from the first name. Official names, however, are only used in formal or official situations.

Somchart, like many of his peers, followed the ancient scripture Tamra Taksa, a naming guideline that illustrates which letters are considered good or bad luck based on the birth day of the week. A name without vowels, for instance, is recommended for people born on a Monday to avoid misfortune.

Everyone in Somchart's family has unique and rather complex-sounding names because each letter was carefully chosen based on auspicious attributes pertaining to their birthday.

Letters are based on Thai astrology and divided into eight groups: relations, health, power, honor, wealth, diligence, patron and misfortune.

"There is a method, I didn't choose the letters at random," said Somchart, whose current first name is Kichthanaphong.

When asked if he might change his name again, Somchart said that he would do it for his surname, in honor of his late parents. Somchart's family — like other Thais of Chinese descent — had to discard their Chinese surname in favor of an elaborate, lengthy Thai one as a result of the assimilation policy during the late Prime Minister Plaek Pibulsongkram's government.

Name change comes at a price

Switching moniker is also nothing new to 31-year-old real estate agent Nasipas. Her mother has already changed her name twice — the first time after her parents divorced and the second after Nasipas was warned by a fortune teller that she would die before her birthday that year.

Nasipas was initially hesitant when a fortune teller warned her that her last name at the time was particularly inauspicious and advised her to change it.

"Changing my surname felt like a big deal ... but he convinced me with his answer: surnames are like soil while forenames are like plants. If the soil was not good from the start, a plant would not grow," Nasipas told DW.

The whole process of hiring a guru and officially switching monikers comes at a price. Nasipas paid around $80 (€67) for the service, and $5 to register her new first and last names in official records. In a country where the daily minimum wage is $11, name changing is not a priority for those struggling to make ends meet.

Legal requirements

In contrast to many other countries, the process for changing names in Thailand is straightforward. Only two documents are needed: a copy of residential registration and a national ID card — both are replaced on the spot.

While the options for a new name are myriad, Thailand's Person Name Act, however, prohibits the creation of a surname which replicates any existing ones or bears any similarity to titles held by the King or Queen.

Name changers are required to update a stack of legal documents to reflect the name change in official documents such as passports, driver's license and bank accounts, just to name a few. But with better future prospects at stake, many think it is worth the hassle.

A few years after Nasipas received a new name, she says her life has noticeably improved.

"Even now during the pandemic when other real estate agents struggle to earn commission, I feel comfortable financially and never feel like I don't have clients," she said.

In addition to switching moniker, Nasipas purchased a "lucky" cell phone number and car license plate. She has also started wearing a lucky charm.

"I can't put my finger on what exactly has made my life better," she said.

A question of positive thinking?

Sarocha, on the other hand, was disappointed after changing her name to Pachiraporn. It did not supercharge her life as she had hoped it would.

Still, she was optimistic about the practice and decided to give it another shot three years later. This time, the 30-year-old wanted to improve her career prospects.

"A friend working in the same industry was making serious money after changing her name. She recommended that this fortune teller is the real deal, so I thought, why not?"

Sarocha says her life has "blossomed" after switching moniker for a second time but adds that the name change was not the direct cause.

"I have come to believe in the Law of Attraction — your thoughts bring what you want into your life. What you plant mentally triggers the subconsciousness to turn that goal into a reality," she said.

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