Khmer numerals

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Short description: Numerals used in the Khmer language
The Khmer numerals depicted in four different typographical variants comparing to Arabic numerals (blue).

Khmer numerals are the numerals used in the Khmer language. They have been in use since at least the early 7th century, with the earliest known use being on a stele dated to AD 604 found in Prasat Bayang, near Angkor Borei, Cambodia.[1][2]


The number 605 in Khmer numerals, from the Sambor inscriptions in 683 AD. The earliest known material use of zero as a decimal figure.[3]

Having been derived from the Hindu numerals, modern Khmer numerals also represent a decimal positional notation system. It is the script with the first extant material evidence of zero as a numerical figure, dating its use back to the seventh century, two centuries before its certain use in India .[1][4] Old Khmer, or Angkorian Khmer, also possessed separate symbols for the numbers 10, 20, and 100.[5]

Each multiple of 20 or 100 would require an additional stroke over the character, so the number 47 was constructed using the 20 symbol with an additional upper stroke, followed by the symbol for number 7.[5] This inconsistency with its decimal system suggests that spoken Angkorian Khmer used a vigesimal system.

As both Thai and Lao scripts are derived from Old Khmer,[6] their modern forms still bear many resemblances to the latter, demonstrated in the following table:

Value Khmer Thai Lao

Modern Khmer numbers

The spoken names of modern Khmer numbers represent a biquinary system, with both base 5 and base 10 in use. For example, 6 (ប្រាំមួយ) is formed from 5 (ប្រាំ) plus 1 (មួយ).

Numbers from 0 to 5

With the exception of the number 0, which stems from Sanskrit, the etymology of the Khmer numbers from 1 to 5 is of proto-Austroasiatic origin.

Value Khmer Word Form IPA UNGEGN GD ALA-LC Notes
0 សូន្យ [soːn] sony souny sūny From Sanskrit śūnya
1 មួយ [muəj] muŏy muoy muay Before a classifier, [muəj] is reduced to [mə] in regular speech.[7]
2 ពីរ [piː], [pɨl] pir pir bīr
3 បី [ɓej] bei bei
4 បួន [ɓuən] buŏn buon puan
5 ប្រាំ [pram] brăm bram prāṃ
  • For details of the various alternative romanization systems, see Romanization of Khmer.
  • Some authors may alternatively mark [ɓiː] as the pronunciation for the word two, and either [ɓəj] or [ɓei] for the word three.
  • In neighbouring Thailand the number three is thought to bring good luck.[8] However, in Cambodia, taking a picture with three people in it is considered bad luck, as it is believed that the person situated in the middle will die an early death.[9][10]

Comparison to other Austroasiatic languages 1-5

Whilst Vietnamese vocabulary is very Sinicized, the numbers 1-5 retain proto-Austroasiatic origins.

Value Khmer Word Form IPA UNGEGN Vietnamese Muong language Mon language Bru language Khmu language
1 មួយ [muəj] muŏy một mốch mo̤a mui /mò:j/
2 ពីរ [piː], [pɨl] pir hai hal ɓa bar /pà:r/
3 បី [ɓəj] bei ba pa pɔeʔ pei /péɂ/
4 បួន [ɓuən] buŏn bốn pổn pɔn pon /sí:/
5 ប្រាំ [pram] brăm năm đằm pəsɔn shăng /há:/

Numbers from 6 to 20

The numbers from 6 to 9 may be constructed by adding any number between 1 and 4 to the base number 5 (ប្រាំ), so that 7 is literally constructed as 5 plus 2. Beyond that, Khmer uses a decimal base, so that 14 is constructed as 10 plus 4, rather than 2 times 5 plus 4; and 16 is constructed as 10+5+1.

Colloquially, compound numbers from eleven to nineteen may be formed using the word ដណ្ដប់ [dɔnɗɑp] preceded by any number from one to nine, so that 15 is constructed as ប្រាំដណ្ដប់ [pram dɔnɗɑp], instead of the standard ដប់ប្រាំ [ɗɑp pram].[11]

Value Khmer Word Form IPA UNGEGN GD ALA-LC Notes
6 ប្រាំមួយ [prammuəj] brămmuŏy brammuoy prāṃmuay
7 ប្រាំពីរ [prampiː], [prampɨl] brămpir brampir prāṃbīr
8 ប្រាំបី [pramɓəj] brămbei brambei prāṃpī
9 ប្រាំបួន [pramɓuən] brămbuŏn brambuon prāṃpuan
10 ១០ ដប់ [ɗɑp] dáb dab ṭáp Old Chinese *[di̯əp].[12]
11 ១១ ដប់មួយ [ɗɑpmuəj] dábmuŏy dabmuoy ṭápmuay Colloquially មួយដណ្ដប់ muŏydândáb [muəj dɔnɗɑp].
20 ២០ ម្ភៃ [mpʰej], [məpʰɨj], [mpʰɨj] mphey mphey mbhai Contraction of [muəj] + [pʰəj] (i.e. one + twenty)
  • In constructions from 6 to 9 that use 5 as a base, [pram] may alternatively be pronounced [pəm]; giving [pəmmuəj], [pəmpiː], [pəmɓəj], and [pəmɓuːən]. This is especially true in dialects which elide [r], but not necessarily restricted to them, as the pattern also follows Khmer's minor syllable pattern.

Numbers from 30 to 90

The modern Khmer numbers from 30 to 90 are as follows:

Value Khmer Word Form IPA UNGEGN GD ALA-LC Notes
30 ៣០ សាមសិប [saːm.səp] samsĕb samseb sāmsip From Thai สามสิบ sam sip
40 ៤០ សែសិប [sae.səp] sêsĕb saeseb saesip From Thai, สี่สิบ si sip
50 ៥០ ហាសិប [haːsəp] hasĕb haseb hāsip From Thai, ห้าสิบ hasip
60 ៦០ ហុកសិប [hok.səp] hŏksĕb hokseb huksip From Thai, หกสิบ hoksip
70 ៧០ ចិតសិប [cət.səp] chĕtsĕb chetseb citsip From Thai, เจ็ดสิบ chetsip
80 ៨០ ប៉ែតសិប [paet.səp] pêtsĕb paetseb p″aetsip From Thai, แปดสิบ paetsip
90 ៩០ កៅសិប [kaw.səp] kausĕb kauseb kausip From Thai, เก้าสิบ kaosip
  • The word សិប [səp], which appears in each of these numbers, can be dropped in informal or colloquial speech. For example, the number 81 can be expressed as ប៉ែតមួយ [paet.muəj] instead of the full ប៉ែតសិបមួយ [paet.səp.muəj].

Historically speaking, Khmer borrowed the numbers from 30 to 90 from a southern Middle Chinese variety by way of a neighboring Tai language, most likely Thai.[5] This is evidenced by the fact that the numbers in Khmer most closely resemble those of Thai, as well as the fact that the numbers cannot be deconstructed in Khmer. For instance, សែ [sae] is not used on its own to mean "four" in Khmer and សិប [səp] is not used on its own to mean "ten", while they are in Thai (see Thai numerals). The table below shows how the words in Khmer compare to other nearby Tai and Sinitic languages.

Language comparison
Value Khmer Southwestern Tai Northern Tai Sinitic
Thai Archaic Thai Lao S. Zhuang[13] Nanning[14] Cantonese Teochew Hokkien Mandarin
3 ‒ *saːm sam sǎam sãam ɬaːm1 ɬam41 saam1 1 sa1 (sam1) sān
4 ‒ *sɐe si sài sii ɬi5 ɬi55 sei3 si3 si3 (su3)
5 ‒ *haː ha ngùa hàa ha3 ŋ̩13 ng5 ŋou6 go2 (ngo2)
6 ‒ *hok hok lòk hók huk7 løk24 luk6 lak8 lak2 (liok8) liù
7 ‒ *cət chet jèd jét tɕit7 tsʰɐt33 cat1 tsʰik4 chit2
8 ‒ *pɐət paet pàed pàet pet7 pat33 baat3 poiʔ4 pueh4 (pat4)
9 ‒ *kaw kao jao kâo kau3 kou33 gau2 kao2 kau4 (kiu2) jiǔ
10 ‒ *səp sip jǒng síp ɬip7 ɕɐp22 sap6 tsap8 tzhap2 (sip8) shí
  • Words in parentheses indicate literary pronunciations, while words preceded by an asterisk only occur in specific constructions and are not used for basic numbers from 3 to 10.

Prior to using a decimal system and adopting these words, Khmer used a base 20 system, so that numbers greater than 20 were formed by multiplying or adding on to the cardinal number for twenty. Under this system, 30 would've been constructed as (20 × 1) + 10 "twenty-one ten" and 80 was constructed as 4 × 20 "four twenties / four scores". See the section Angkorian numbers for details.

Numbers from 100 to 10,000,000

The standard Khmer numbers starting from one hundred are as follows:

Value Khmer Word Form IPA UNGEGN GD ALA-LC Notes[15]
100 ១០០ មួយរយ [muəj.rɔːj] ([rɔːj], [mə.rɔːj]) muŏy rôy muoy roy muay raya From Thai, ร้อย roi.
1,000 ១,០០០ មួយពាន់ [muəj.pŏən] muŏy poăn muoy poan muaya bân From Thai, พัน phan.
10,000 ១០,០០០ មួយម៉ឺន [muəj.məɨn] muŏy mœn muoy mueun muaya mȳna From Thai, หมื่น muen.
100,000 ១០០,០០០ មួយសែន [muəj.saen] muŏy sên muoy saen muaya saena From Thai, แสน saen.
1,000,000 ១,០០០,០០០ មួយលាន [muəj.lien] muŏy léan muoy lean muaya lâna From Thai, ล้าน lan.
10,000,000 ១០,០០០,០០០ មួយកោដិ [muəj.kaot] muŏy kaôdĕ muoy kaot muaya koṭi From Sanskrit and Pali koṭi.

Although មួយកោដិ [muəj kaot] is most commonly used to mean ten million, in some areas this is also colloquially used to refer to one billion (which is more properly មួយរយកោដិ [muəj rɔj kaot]). In order to avoid confusion, sometimes ដប់លាន [ɗɑp.liən] is used to mean ten million, along with មួយរយលាន [muəj.rɔj.liən] for one hundred million, and មួយពាន់លាន [muəj.pŏən.liən] ("one thousand million") to mean one billion.[16]

Different Cambodian dialects may also employ different base number constructions to form greater numbers above one thousand. A few of the such can be observed in the following table:

Value Khmer Word Form[16][17] IPA UNGEGN GD ALA-LC Notes
10,000 ១០,០០០ ដប់ពាន់ [ɗɑp pŏən] dáb poăn dab poan ṭáp bân lit. "ten thousand"
100,000 ១០០,០០០ ដប់ម៉ឺន [ɗɑp məɨn] dáb mœŭn dab mueun ṭáp mȳna lit. "ten ten-thousand"
100,000 ១០០,០០០ មួយរយពាន់ [muəj rɔj pŏən] muŏy rôy poăn muoy roy poan muaya raya bân lit. "one hundred thousand"
1,000,000 ១,០០០,០០០ មួយរយម៉ឺន [muəj rɔj məɨn] muŏy rôy mœn muoy roy mueun muaya raya mȳna lit. "one hundred ten-thousand"
10,000,000 ១០,០០០,០០០ ដប់លាន [ɗɑp liən] dáb léan dab lean ṭáp lāna lit. "ten million"
100,000,000 ១០០,០០០,០០០ មួយរយលាន [muəj rɔj liən] muŏy rôy léan muoy roy lean muaya raya lāna lit. "one hundred million"
1,000,000,000 ១,០០០,០០០,០០០ មួយពាន់លាន [muəj pŏən liən] muŏy poăn léan muoy poan lean muaya bân lāna lit. "one thousand million"

Counting fruits

Reminiscent of the standard base 20 Angkorian Khmer numbers, the modern Khmer language also possesses separate words used to count fruits, not unlike how English uses words such as a "dozen" for counting items such as eggs.[18]

Value Khmer Word form IPA UNGEGN GD ALA-LC Notes
4 ដំប, ដំបរ [dɑmbɑː] dâmbâ, dâmbâr damba ṭaṃpa
40 ៤០ ផ្លូន [pʰloun] phlon phloun phlūna From (pre-)Angkorian *plon "40"
80 ៨០ ពីរផ្លូន [piː ploun], [pɨl ploun] pir phlon pi phloun bīra phlūna Lit. "two forty"
400 ៤០០ ស្លឹក slək slœ̆k sloek slẏka From (pre-)Angkorian *slik "400"

Sanskrit and Pali influence

As a result of prolonged literary influence from both the Sanskrit and Pali languages, Khmer may occasionally use borrowed words for counting. Generally speaking, asides a few exceptions such as the numbers for 0 and 100 for which the Khmer language has no equivalent, they are more often restricted to literary, religious, and historical texts than they are used in day to day conversations. One reason for the decline of these numbers is that a Khmer nationalism movement, which emerged in the 1960s, attempted to remove all words of Sanskrit and Pali origin. The Khmer Rouge also attempted to cleanse the language by removing all words which were considered politically incorrect.[19]

Value Khmer Word form IPA UNGEGN GD ALA-LC Notes
10 ១០ ទស [tŭəh] tôs tos dasa From Sanskrit and Pali, dasa
12 ១២ ទ្វាទស [tviətŭəh], [tviətĕəsaʔ] tvéatôs tveatos, tveateaksak dvādasa From Sanskrit and Pali dvādasa
13 or 30 ១៣ or ៣០ ត្រីទស [trəjtŭəh] treitôs treitos trīdasa From Sanskrit and Pali, trayodasa
28 ២៨ អស្តាពីស [ʔahsɗaːpiːsɑː] âsdapisâ asdapisa ‛astābīsa From Sanskrit (8, aṣṭá-) (20, vimsati)
100 ១០០ សត [sataʔ] sâtâ saktak sata From Sanskrit, sata

Ordinal numbers

Khmer ordinal numbers are formed by placing the word ទី [tiː] in front of a cardinal number.[20][5] This is similar to the use of ที่ thi in Thai, and thứ (第) (from Chinese 第 ) in Vietnamese.

Meaning Khmer IPA UNGEGN GD ALA-LC Notes
First ទីមួយ [tiː muəj] ti muŏy ti muoy dī muaya
Second ទីពីរ [tiː piː], [tiː pɨl] ti pir ti pi dī bīra
Third ទីបី [tiː ɓəj] ti bĕi ti bei dī pī

Angkorian numbers

It is generally assumed that the Angkorian and pre-Angkorian numbers also represented a dual base (quinquavigesimal) system, with both base 5 and base 20 in use. Unlike modern Khmer, the decimal system was highly limited, with both the numbers for ten and one hundred being borrowed from the Chinese and Sanskrit languages respectively. Angkorian Khmer also used Sanskrit numbers for recording dates, sometimes mixing them with Khmer originals, a practice which has persisted until the last century.[21]

The numbers for twenty, forty, and four hundred may be followed by multiplying numbers, with additional digits added on at the end, so that 27 is constructed as twenty-one-seven, or 20×1+7.

Value Khmer Orthography[5] Notes
1 mvay
2 vyar
3 pi
4 pvan
5 pram (7 : pramvyar or pramvyal)
10 ១០ tap Old Chinese *di̯əp.[12]
20 ២០ bhai
40 ៤០ plon
80 ៨០ bhai pvan Literally "four twenty"
100 ១០០ çata Sanskrit (100, sata).
400 ៤០០ slik

Proto-Khmer numbers

Proto-Khmer is the hypothetical ancestor of the modern Khmer language bearing various reflexes of the proposed proto-Mon–Khmer language. By comparing both modern Khmer and Angkorian Khmer numbers to those of other Eastern Mon–Khmer (or Khmero-Vietic) languages such as Pearic, Proto-Viet–Muong, Katuic, and Bahnaric; it is possible to establish the following reconstructions for Proto-Khmer.[22]

Numbers from 5 to 10

Contrary to later forms of the Khmer numbers, Proto-Khmer possessed a single decimal number system. The numbers from one to five correspond to both the modern Khmer language and the proposed Mon–Khmer language, while the numbers from six to nine do not possess any modern remnants, with the number ten *kraaj (or *kraay) corresponding to the modern number for one hundred. It is likely that the initial *k, found in the numbers from six to ten, is a prefix.[22]

Value Khmer Reconstruction[23][24] Notes
5 *pram
6 *krɔɔŋ
7 *knuul
8 *ktii Same root as the word hand, *tii.
9 *ksaar
10 ១០ *kraaj Corresponds to present-day /rɔj/ (one hundred).



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