March 31, 2009

Word of the Day: ประมาณ /pra'maan/

Word of the Day for Tuesday, March 31, 2009:

ประมาณ /pra'maan/ quant. approximately, about; v. to approximate, to estimate

I get asked regularly by Thais how long I've been learning Thai. The answer at the moment is ประมาณเจ็ดปี "about seven years". Place ประมาณ before the number. ประมาณห้าสิบคน "about 50 people", ประมาณสองพันบาท "approximately 2000 baht", etc.

Another form is โดยประมาณ, which comes after the number phrase, sort of as a way of hedging what you just said. It's also used to modify noun phrases that don't actually specify a number. For example, ราคาโดยประมาณ "approximate price".

ประมาณ is also used as a verb. If we swap the words in the previous example, we have ประมาณราคา "give an approximate price (for goods or services)".

Bonus vocab: ประมาณ has some phonetically similar cousins that can be easy to confuse. Their pronunciations differ only in the vowel of the second syllable [ประม*น]. They are:

ประเมิน /pra'məən/ v. to evaluate, assess, appraise. Ex: ประเมินผล "evaluate results (e.g. of an exercise); ประเมินราคา "appraise, give a valuation" (note the distinction from ประมาณราคา mentioned above); ประเมินสถานการณ์ "assess the situation".

ประมูล /pra'muun/ v. to bid (e.g. at an auction). Ex: เปิดประมูลราคา "open the bidding"; ผู้ดำเนินการประมูล "auctioneer".

ประมวล /pra'muan/ v. to compile, combine, collect; n. compilation Ex: ประมวลกฏหมาย "code of laws" (literally "law compilation"); ประมวลผล "gather the results (e.g. of an experiment)" (note the distinction from ประเมินผล mentioned above).


  1. Hi.

    I was trying to find confirmation of what "pramuun" means and have not found many dictionaries or websites referring to that it means "to bid". "bid" spells it "bpra-moon".
    Google books have 3 references to the word and also confirms it. One dated back to 1964 spells it pramuun.

    Btw, keep up your good work of teaching/explaining us still learning Thai.

    //TomYam - ปฺระ-มูน

  2. The "spelling" in English isn't significant, really. It only reflects the preference of the dictionary author.

    The word's meaning has stayed relatively stable over the last hundred years, but it apparently used to also be used as a synonym of ประมวล.

    I've thrown together some example definitions (in reverse chronological order):

    Royal Institute Dictionary (2003):
    ประมูล [ปฺระมูน]
    1a verb เสนอราคาแข่งขันกันในการซื้อหรือขายทรัพย์สินเป็นต้น.

    (Translation: "to propose a price in competing to purchase or sell goods, etc." -- i.e. to bid at auction)

    Domnern Garden (3rd edition, 2005):
    v. to tender, bid, bid at an auction

    Lexitron (by NECTEC):
    v. bid, submit a tender; make an offer; tender

    Mary Haas (1964):
    v. to bid (e.g. at an auction).

    McFarland (1916 English-Thai):
    Bid, v. ประมูลราคา (among other senses)

    Cartwright (1907):
    v. (1) to bid a higher price, to raise the price (2) to collect, to gather

    Michell (1892):
    (1) to bid a higher price (2) to collect, to gather

  3. Only 7 years? Remarkable...