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See also: TOI, toi, toi5, tối, tồi, tōi, tỏi, tới, toʻi, and to'i


Alternative forms[edit]


Etymology 1[edit]

Related to Proto-Katuic *sool (slave) (whence Pacoh xoul (slave)). Cognate with Muong tôi (a humble first-person pronoun).

“Slave; servant” > “I”.

The development of first-person pronoun from humble nouns such as “slave; servant” is a pan-Sprachbund phenomenon in the Southeast and East Asian region. Per Nguyen (2000), the pronominal use of this word was not attested in poems by Nguyễn Trãi and Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm in the 15th–16th centuries, and was postulated to have appeared at the end of the 16th or the beginning of the 17th century. Its introduction as a humble first-person pronoun posed as a disturbance to the preexisting taomày system: it resulted in an asymmetry with an empty second-person addressee slot corresponding to the humble tôi (see the table below), and led to the use of an appropriate noun, usually a kinship term or status term, to respectfully address the other party, precipitating the now-widespread use of kinship terms as personal pronouns in Vietnamese.

First-person Second-person Third-person
Horizontal pronouns
(no social hierarchy)
tao mày , hắn
Vertical pronouns
(with social hierarchy)

For similar grammaticalisations of pronouns, compare tớ, and in other languages, compare:

Japanese (boku, bộc), Chinese (), Khmer ខ្ញុំ (khñom), Thai ข้า (kâa), Lao ຂ້ອຍ (khǭi), Burmese ကျွန်မ (kywanma.), Malay saya.


tôi (𪝬, 𫇈, 𫬮)

  1. (archaic, historical) slave; domestic servant
  2. (archaic) servant of a monarch
    Synonym: tớ
    nghĩa vua tôia good relationship between a king and his servants
    tôi trung
    a loyal servant
Derived terms[edit]
Derived terms



  1. I; me
    • 2012, Ruelle, Joe, Ngược chiều vun vút [Whooshing toward the Other Way]‎[1], page 234:
      Ý tôi không phải “phương Đông – phương Tây” là cách phân chia văn hoátác dụng.
      I do not mean that the “Eastern – Western” categorization of cultures is invalid.
Alternative forms[edit]
Usage notes[edit]

Tôi is a generic way to refer to oneself; however, Vietnamese speakers usually use a complex system of kinship terms to address each other. For example, anh is used to address an older brother, a husband, or a man slightly older than the speaker. The Wikipedia article on Vietnamese pronouns provides a detailed look at these terms. Because kinship terms require knowledge of the audience's age, gender and social status in relation to the speaker, it is not always practical to refer to someone using these pronouns; instead, the speaker can employ generic words such as tôi and ta, but note that these are considered stiff. Alternatively, the speaker may simply use his or her name (and that of the audience) when conversing.

Note also that, although tôi always refers to the speaker, kinship terms variously refer to the speaker or the audience, depending on context.


See the usage note below for details on how to use these words, most of which are not interchangeable:

Derived terms[edit]
Derived terms
Coordinate terms[edit]

See the usage note below for details on how to use these words, most of which are not interchangeable:

Etymology 2[edit]

Non-Sino-Vietnamese reading of Chinese (SV: thối).


tôi (𤏣)

  1. to temper; to anneal
    Thép đã tôi thế đấyHow the Steel Was Tempered
Derived terms[edit]
Derived terms


  • Nguyen Phu Phong (2000). Personal pronouns in Vietnamese and in Mường. The Fifth International Symposium on Languages and Linguistics, Ho Chi Minh City, (pp. 261–265). Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities.