Most likely, it's just a coincidence. I don't have direct proof, but here are some speculations that may (or may not) lead to an answer.
I think you may have been confused hearing this word with a negative particle: ไม่เอา
[mâj au] which may be perceived as
[mâj jau] which is used very often e.g. buying food.
Most Thai loanwords with Mid-Chinese origin are phonetically similar to Cantonese pronunciation, not to Mandarin Chinese. The Cantonese pronunciation of 要 is
[yiu3], unlike Mandarin
There are many other words (e.g. อยาก
[jàːk]) that can equally be borrowed from same Mid-Chinese word (if they were).
A minor difference in meanings: 要
[yau1] translates to "demand/request/important", while เอา
[au] is "desire/need". In this sense, อยาก
[jàːk] is more suitable for meaning of "demand" or "wish".
The last thing. It may or may not be relevant to เ◌า, but certainly worth thinking. When traveling to Northern Thai provinces (Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai), I found something interesting. The thing is that some diphthongs have unusual pronunciation. Here's how they read it:
- Sara Au เ◌า
[au] is read as
- Sara Ai Maimuan ใ◌
[ai] read as
- Sara Ai Maimalai ไ◌
[ai] read as
You will probably hear examples of the last item by yourself, even in Central Thailand. For instance, people pronounce the negative particle ไม่
[mêj], like in:
[mêj miː] "don't have" (instead of
[mêj dâːj] "can not" or "was not" (instead of
Note that the "unofficial" pronunciation is very close to a decomposed written form, e.g.
ไ = เ◌ + ◌ี,
เ◌า = เ◌ + ◌า, etc.
I have also found a hypothesis expressed by Nantana Danvivathana in their book The Thai Writing System, page 188. Quoting:
Li Fan Kuei stated in his A Handbook of Comparative Tai (1977, pp. 256, 288-289) that in Lungchow, one of the Thai languages spoken in China, words written with <ไ-> in the Thai language are pronounced with
[ai], while words written with <ใ-> are pronounced with
[aɯ]. This gives rise to the hypothesis that in ancient Thai <ไ-> was pronounced as
[ai] and <ใ-> was pronounced as
Note that this hypothesis does not confirm ไ◌ to
[ei] or เ◌า to
So if I was looking for an origin of เอา, I would rather look into words with