• Jon Herbert

Khmer Language: by the numbers

Updated: Aug 11

Numbers are universally useful language assets and while the numbering system is not overly complicated in Khmer language there are nuances to understand


From directing transport to street numbers in Phnom, and negotiating transactions, knowing how numbers work and are expressed in Khmer language is useful for all visitors. Khmer numbering is not overly complicated, but there are a few distinguishing rules that must be understood to establish the framework.


1. Numbers in Khmer language

2. Numbers from 100 to 9,999

3. Numbers between ten thousand and one million

4. Years and months in numbers in Khmer language

5. Taking or giving a phone number in Khmer

6. Summary of numbers in Khmer language

7. About money (link to the related article)


Wooden blocks with numbers indicating the content is about numbers

1. Numbers in Khmer language


Cambodian people typically use numbers in everyday dialogue to discuss all manner of topics and - noting that there are a few nuances in comparison to the 'normal' decimal system- it is useful to learn about numbers at an early stage of learning some Khmer language.


About numbers in fives


The good news when it comes to Cambodian numbering is that numbers over 10 follow the typical decimal system (10, 20, 30 etc.). However, lower numbers follow a 1-5 pattern, so for example instead of the a unique word for the number 'six' in Khmer language the number is spoken as 'five-one' ('pram-moy'), and instead of using a unique word for the number 'nine' this is spoken as 'five-four' ('pram-buen').


Numbers from 0 to 99


Below are the numbers from 0 to 99 in Khmer language. From 10 onwards numbers ending other than in a zero are expressed by adding the words for the relevant number between 1 - 9 to the word for the preceding number from 10 - 90; for example, 53 is expressed as 'hasep-bei' (fifty-three), and 99 is expressed as 'kausep-pram-buen' (ninety-five-four):

Number

(1-9)

Khmer language

Number

(11 - 19)

Khmer language

Number

(10 - 90

Khmer language

0 (zero)

soun

10

dob

​1 (one)

moy

11

dob-moy

10

​dob

2 (two)

​pi [pee]

12

dob-pi

20

mo-pei

3 (three)

​bei

13

dob-bei

30

sai-seb

​4 (four)

​bu-en

14

dob-buen

40

sam-seb

5 (five

​pram

15

dob-pram

50

ha-seb

6 (six)

​pram-moy

16

dob-pram-moy

60

hok-seb

7 (seven)

pram-pi /

m-pel

17

dob-pram-pi

70

jet-seb

8 (eight)

pram-bei

18

dob-pram-bei

80

paet-seb

9 (nine)

pram-bei

19

dob-pram-buen

90

kau-seb

A note on the pronunciation of numbers in Khmer Language


It is a challenge to imitate Khmer pronunciation in writing using the Latin alphabet (because - for example - English uses 6 distinct vowels and Khmer has 33), and it is worth practicing the pronunciation of numbers with a Khmer speaker before attempting a 'live' conversation.


2. Numbers from 100 to 9,999


Numbers in the hundreds and thousands (below 10,000) follow a similar pattern, for example 'seven hundred' in Khmer is spoke as 'five-two hundred'. The words for 'hundred' and 'thousand' in Khmer language are 'roy' and 'poan' respectively, where 100 is 'moy-roy' and 1,000 is 'moy-poan':

Number (100 - 900)

Khmer language

Number (1,000 - 9K)

Khmer language

100

moy-roy

1,000

moy-poan

200

​pi-roy

2,000

pi-poan

300

bei-roy

3,000

bei-poan

400

buen-roy

4,000

buen-poan

500

pram-roy

5,000

pram-poan

600

pram-moy-roy

6,000

pram-moy-poan

700

pram-pi-roy

7,000

pram-pi-poan

800

pram-bei-roy

8,000

pram-bei-poan

900

pram-buen-roy

9,000

pram-buen-poan

For example: 1,111 is expressed as 'moy-poan, moy-roy, dob-moy' (one thousand, one hundred, [and] eleven (eleven being expressed as 'ten-one' in Khmer), and 8,526 is expressed as 'pram-bei-poam, pram-roy, mo-pei-pram-moy' (eight thousand, five hundred, [and] twenty six).


As in the above examples, the word for 'and' ('neng') is not used when expressing longer numbers in Khmer language.


3. Numbers between ten thousand and one million


When talking about money in Cambodia currency, talking about numbers in 10,000s and 100,000s is common place, bearing in mind that 10,000 riel is equivalent to c.US$ 2.50. In Khmer language, there are specific words for units of 10,000 ('mern'), and for denominations of 100,000 ('saen'), which need to be used to be understood when relating these numbers in Khmer language, so for example 30,000 is bei-mern, and not sam-sep-poam.

​Number - 10k - 90k

Khmer language

Number - 100k - 1m

Khmer language

10,000

moy-mern

100,000

moy-saen

20,000

pi-mern

200,000

pi-saen

30,000

bei-mern

300,000

bei-saen

40,000

buen-mern

400,000

buen-saen

50,000

pram-mern

500,000

pram-saen

60,000

pram-moy-mern

600,000

pram-moy-saen

70,000

pram-pi-mern

700,000

pram-pi-saen

80,000

pram-bei-mern

800,000

pram-bei-saen

90,000

pram-buen-mern

900,000

pram-buen-saen

1,000,000

moy-lien / ma-lien

Numbers in the millions follow a similar pattern, for example 1 million is 'ma-lien', and 2,301,005 is 'pi-lien, bei saen moy-poan, pram (2 million, 3 hundred [and] one thousand, [and] five.


Calendar 2022 indicating the next section is about dates

4. Years and months in numbers in Khmer language


Years


Although the religion Cambodia is predominantly Buddhist the Gregorian calendar is used and not the Buddhist calendar, so for example the year 2022 is 2022 in Cambodia, and not - as it is officially in Thailand - the year 2566 (for everyday purposes).


When talking about years the full number of the year needs to be given to be understood in Khmer language, and the number not broken down into a pair of double digits: for example: 1977 is 'moy-poam, pram-buen-roy, jet-seb-pram-pi' (one thousand, nine hundred, [and] seventy seven, and not 'nineteen, seventy-seven', and on the same basis 2022 is 'pi-poan, mo-pei-pi' (two thousand, [and] twenty-two) and not 'twenty, twenty-two'.


The Khmer word for year is 'chnam' and it is important that this word is said before the number to indicate it is a date year, and not after the number which would indicate a period of time in years; for example:

  • Chnam 2022 = the year 2022

  • 2,022 Chnam = 2,022 years as an expression of a period of time


Months


While the 12 months of the year do have specific names in Khmer language, usefully months are commonly expressed as a number. The Khmer word for month is 'kaite', so 'kaite-pram' is May (month five) and 'kaite dob-pi' is December (month twelve).


Again, it is important that the word for month 'kaite' is said before the numbe rto indicate a month; for example 'kaite pram' indicates the month of May, wheras 'pram kaite' means 5 months as a period of time.


Summary of months and years in Khmer language

English language

Khmer language

Khmer language

Year / 2022

Chnam

pi-mern, mo-pei-pi

Month / 5 months

Kaite

pram kaite

January

Kaite-moy

Meah-ga-ra

February

Kaite-pi

Kum-peya

March

Kaite-bei

Mi-nia

April

​Kaite-buen

Mey-sa

May

Kaite-pram

U-sa-pia

June

​Kaite-pram-moy

Mi-to-na

July

​Kaite-pram-pi

Ga-keda

August

​Kaite-pram-bei

Sey-ha

September

​Kaite-pram-buen

Kan-nya

October

​Kaite-dob

​To-la

November

Kaite-dob-moy

Witch-ika

December

​Kaite-dob-pi

T-nu

5. Taking or giving a phone number in Khmer


Trying to provide a phone number in Khmer language using single digits is likely to get no further than a quizzical look, and to be understood it is necessary to break the number down into threes. For example:


T. (0)95 321 1234 = (soun) buenpram-roy-hasepbei, pi-roy-dobmoy, pi-roy-samsebbuen


[ buenpram-roy-hasepbei, pi-roy-dobmoy, pi-roy-samsebbuen ] [ (nine hundred and fifty three) (two hundred and eleven) (two hundred and thirty-four) ]

Practicing with one number to learn it by wrote begin with is a good start on the journey to being able to understand long numbers that are later related in a live conversation.


6. Summary of numbers in Khmer language


The table below can be used to work out any number between 1 and 1,000,000 - for example: 21 is 'mophei-moy', and 873 is 'pram-bei-roy, jetseb-bei'.

0 - 9

Khmer

10 - 90

Khmer

100 - 1,000,000

Khmer

0

soun

1

moy

10

dob

100

roy

2

pi

20

mo=pei

1,000

poan

3

bei

30

sam-seb

10,000

mern

4

buen

40

sai-seb

100,000

saen

5

pram

50

ha-seb

1,000,000

[m] lien

6

pram-moy

60

hok-seb

7

pram-pi

70

jet-seb

8

pram-bei

80

paet-seb

9

pram-buen

90

kau-seb

7. About money


An understanding of the language around numbers naturally leads into conversations about money (or 'loy' in Khmer language), and information on how money works in Cambodia can be found here.

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Cambodia: the colour of money



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