Farang (فرنگ) is a Persian and Southeast Asian word that originally referred to the Franks (the major Germanic tribe) and later came to refer to Europeans in general. The word "Farang" is a cognate and originates from Old French: "franc".
Frankish societies emerged in the Middle East, and some Franks traveled to South Asia and Southeast Asia, resulting in some Frankish traditions and foreign words emerging in Asian and Middle eastern environments.
During the crusades, Frankish control was extended further in the Middle East, unlike previous Franks, these Franks were almost all Christian as opposed to older Franks were a mixed group different of religions.
Over time, the word began to be used more generically. In 12th century, the term Frank became associated with all of Western Europeans (including the French, Italians, and the Flemish.) in the Muslim world. Frangistan (Persian: فرنگستان) was a term used by Thai and Muslims and was also used frequently by Persians. Muslim traders referred to all European traders as Farang and it entered much of the languages of South Asia and Southeast Asia as a term.
The Royal Institute Dictionary 1999, the official dictionary of Thai words, defines the word as "a person of white race". The term is also blended into everyday terms meaning "of/from the white race" such as: man farang (Thai: มันฝรั่ง; "farang yam") meaning potato, no mai farang (Thai: หน่อไม้ฝรั่ง; "farang shoot") meaning asparagus, and achan farang (Thai: อาจารย์ฝรั่ง; "farang professor") which is the nickname of the influential figure in Thai art history, Italian art professor Silpa Bhirasri. The word also means guava and at the same time a scorn word in Thai.
Edmund Roberts, US envoy in 1833, defined the term as "Frank (or European)". Black people are called farang dam (Thai: ฝรั่งดำ; 'black farang') to distinguish them from whites. This began during the Vietnam War, when the United States military maintained bases in Thailand. The practice continues in present-day Bangkok.
The word farang is from Persian word farang (فرنگ) or farangī (فرنگی), refers to Franks, the major Germanic tribe ruling Western Europe. Frangistan (Persian: فرنگستان) was a term used by Muslims and Persians in particular, during the Middle Ages and later periods, to refer to Western or Latin Europe. According to Rashid al-din Fazl Allâh, farang comes from the Arabic word afranj. In the languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea, faranj or ferenj in most contexts still means distant foreigner (generally used to describe Europeans or European descendant/white people), in certain contexts within the Ethiopian and Eritrean diaspora, the term faranj or ferenj has taken on a slightly alternative meaning that closely resembles the term Westerner or Westernized people even though it still mostly applies to European descendants/White People, it can be applied to African Americans and other Westernized People of Color. During the Muslim Mughal Empire when the Europeans arrived in South Asia, the Persian word Farang was used to refer to foreigners of European descent. The words also added to local languages such as Hindi as firangi (Devanāgarī: फिरंगी) and Bengali as firingi. The word was pronounced paranki (പറങ്കി) in Malayalam, parangiar in Tamil, entered Khmer as barang, and Malay as ferenggi. From there the term spread into China as folangji (佛郎機), which was used to refer to the Portuguese and their breech-loading swivel guns when they first arrived in China.
In Bangladesh and West Bengal, the modern meaning of firingi (ফিরিঙ্গি) refers to Anglo-Bengalis or Bengalis with European ancestry. Most firingis tend to be Bengali Christians. Descendants of firingis which married local Bengali women may also be referred to as Kalo Firingis (Black firingis) or Matio Firingis (Earth-coloured firingis). Following the Portuguese settlement in Chittagong, the Portuguese fort and naval base came to be known as Firingi Bandar or the Foreigner's Port. There are also places such as Firingi Bazaar which exist in older parts of Dhaka and Chittagong. The descendants of these Portuguese traders in Chittagong continue to be referred to as Firingis. The Indian biographical film Antony Firingee was very popular in the mid 20th century and was based on Anthony Firingee - a Bengali folk singer of Portuguese origin. There is also a river in the Sundarbans called Firingi River.
In the Maldives faranji was the term used to refer to foreigners of European origin, especially the French. Until recently the lane next to the Bastion in the northern shore of Male' was called Faranji Kalō Gōlhi.
Farang is also the Thai word for the guava fruit, introduced by Portuguese traders over 400 years ago.
Farang khi nok (Thai: ฝรั่งขี้นก, Also used in Lao) is slang commonly used as an insult to a person of white race, equivalent to white trash. The term means "bird-droppings Farang", as khi means feces, nok means bird, this refer bird-droppings is white color.
Çaise-Farang (Thai: เศษฝรั่ง, Çaise is Thai word mean fragment/trash; is swap position from française) is commonly used as an insult to a French ethnic.
Varieties of food/produce that were introduced by Europeans are often called farang varieties. Hence, potatoes are man farang (Thai: มันฝรั่ง), whereas man (Thai: มัน) alone can be any tuber; culantro is called phak chi farang (Thai: ผักชีฝรั่ง, literally farang cilantro/coriander); and chewing gum is mak farang (Thai: หมากฝรั่ง). Mak (Thai: หมาก) is Thai for arecanut; chewing mak together with betel leaves (baiphlu) was a Thai custom.
In the Isan Lao dialect, the guava is called mak sida (Thai: หมากสีดา), mak being a prefix for fruit names. Thus bak sida (Thai: บักสีดา), bak being a prefix when calling males, refers jokingly to a Westerner, by analogy to the Thai language where farang can mean both guava and Westerner.
ฝรั่ง ๑ [ฝะหฺรั่ง] น. ชนชาติผิวขาว; คําประกอบชื่อสิ่งของบางอย่างที่มาจากต่างประเทศซึ่งมีลักษณะคล้ายของไทย เช่น ขนมฝรั่ง ละมุดฝรั่ง มันฝรั่ง ตะขบฝรั่ง ผักบุ้งฝรั่ง แตรฝรั่ง.
Connected with this department is that of the Farang-khromma-tha," Frank (or European) commercial board
SEE-DA สีดา BAK-SEE-DA บักสีดา or MAHK-SEE-DA หมากสีดา. Guava fruit; Foreigner (white, Western.) BAK is ISAAN for mister; SEE-DA สีดา, BAK-SEE-DA and MAHK-SEE-DA are Isaan for the Guava fruit.