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Learn Khmer: Part 3: Numbers (How to Count)

Updated on December 18, 2012

Numbers 1 through 5

The basis of counting numbers in Khmer all starts with knowing the first five numbers. After memorizing the first five, the rest of the numbers, apart from the multiples of 10, do not necessarily have to be memorized because they are "built" on the first five. These numbers, basically, are:

1) Muy

  • This word is pronounced exactly like the Spanish word "muy," which means "very" like in the phrase "muy bien," which means "very good." However, "muy" in Khmer means "number 1."

2) (b+p)ee

  • If you've read my first 2 articles, you will probably recognize this word, which means "number 2" in Khmer. This word was used as an example of the "blended sounds" concept in the Khmer language. Just as a reminder, the word is not pronounced "bee" with a pure "B" sound nor pronounced "pee" with a pure "P" sound. The consonant at the beginning of the word should sound like a blend of a "B" and a "P" sound.

3) (b+p)ei

  • This is the number 3 in Khmer. Notice, that like number 2, the consonant at the beginning of the word is a blend of a "B" and "P" sound.

* Saying the word with a pure "P" sound will change its meaning to "panic," which is not what we are trying to say.

4) (b+p)uon

  • This is the Khmer word for the number 4. Again, the word has a blended "B" and "P" sound at the beginning.

* However, for this particular word, even though the pure "B" sound does not exist in Khmer, the blended (b+p) sound should lean more heavily towards the "B" rather than the "P." Leaning more towards the "P" sound actually changes the meaning of the word to "hide," but in this case, we want to say, "four."

5) (b+p)rahm

  • If you haven't figured out the pattern by now, this is the number 5 in Khmer. Once again, this word's consonant at the beginning is a blended "B" and "P" sound.

* Thus, note that it is quite important to get the (b+p) sound learned because it is a part of numbers 2-5. On the side, however, Cambodians will still understand what you are saying even if these words are spoken with a pure "B" or pure "P sound (thanks to context clues); this does not mean that it doesn't sound hilarious, though.

Numbers 6 through 9

The Khmer numbers 6 through 9, as well as many of the other numbers that follow the numerical sequence, are "built on" the foundation numbers 1 through 5. What do I mean by this? Let's take a look at 6 through 9:

6) (b+p)rahm-muy

  • The number 6, in Khmer, is made up of two parts:
  1. (b+p)rahm = five
  2. muy = one
  • Therefore, the Khmer number 6, literally translated, means something like "five and one" or "five plus one."

7) (b+p)rahm-(b+p)ee OR (b+p)rahm-(b+p)ell

  • The number 7, in Khmer is also made up of two parts:
  1. (b+p)rahm = five
  2. (b+p)ee = two
  • Thus, the Khmer number 7, literally translated, means "five and two" or "five plus two."
  • * NOTE: The number 7 in Khmer can also be pronounced (b+p)rahm-(b+p)ell. Where this option derives from, I really do not know, but based on my speaking experiences, I've found that (bp)rahm-(bp)ee is more commonly said amongst those who speak formal Khmer whereas (bp)rahm-(bp)ell is more commonly said amongst those who speak the commoner's Khmer dialect.

8) (b+p)rahm-(b+p)ei

  • The number 8 is also made up of two parts:
  1. (b+p)rahm = five
  2. (b+p)ei = three
  • Hence, the Khmer number 8, literally translated, means "five and three" or "five plus three."

9) (b+p)rahm-(b+p)uon

  • Lastly, the number 9 is also composed of two parts:
  1. (b+p)rahm = five
  2. (b+p)uon = four
  • Just like the pattern for previous three numbers, the Khmer number 9, literally translated, means "five and four" or "five plus four."

Multiples of 10 & Counting on...

Before you can continue counting, you must memorize the multiples of 10, which, unlike the rest of the numbers, are NOT "built on" the first five numbers. The multiples of 10 must be memorized:

10 = (d+t)op

20 = Muh - Pei

  • The "P" in "Pei" is actually a pure "P" sound, so consider it a freebie. You do not have to blend it with a "B" sound.

30 = Saam - Sep

40 = Sai - Sep

50 = Haa - Sep

60 = Hok - Sep

70 = (j+ch)et - Sep

  • The "T" at the end of (j+ch)et should be a very subtle and non-accented "T" sound. It should be there, but barely there.

80 = (b+p)ait - Sep

  • Just like the number 70 in Khmer, the "T" at the end of (b+p)ait should be very slight, not stressed, but still there.

90 = (g+k)ao - Sep

100 = Muy Roy

1,000 = Muy (b+p)on

1,000,000 = Muy Lien


To continue counting from 10:


11 = (d+t)op Muy

  • NOTE: The number 11 in Khmer is made up of 2 parts:
  1. (d+t)op = 10
  2. Muy
  • Thus, eleven, literally translated, means "10 and 1" or "10 plus 1."

* However, for certain numbers that are greater than 11, there are three parts. For example:

16 = (dt)op + (bp)rahm + Muy

  • The three parts are:
  1. (dt)op
  2. (bp)rahm
  3. muy
  • Hence, the number 16, in Khmer, translates as something like "10 plus 5 plus 1."


* Every other number in the Khmer language can simply be put together by using the basic 5 numbers and building those numbers on top of multiples of 10, and the cycle goes on...


* To actually hear the pronunciation of these words, and for, perhaps, better tips, please watch the video below.

Learn Khmer: Part 3: Numbers (How to Count)

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