Cambodian names usually consist of two elements including a patronymic, which serves as a common family name for siblings, followed by a given name.[1][2] (In Western sources the two are sometimes reversed).[3] Traditionally, the Khmer do not have Western-style family names shared by multiple generations or entire families. Instead, Khmer children use their father's given name as their family name.[4] Other Austroasiatic indigenous people groups within Cambodia have similar naming customs while the Sino-Khmer and Viet-Khmer may follow Chinese and Vietnamese naming patterns, respectively. Chams in Cambodia may have either Khmer or Cham names or a combination of both. Cham name order is the reverse of the Khmer; the given name is followed by the father's given name.[5]:23

Given names

Generally, women are given names relating to beauty, while men are given names of virtues.[6][7] Some Cambodian given names are unisex names.


Surnames are usually taken from the surname or the given name of the father[1] and are generally monosyllabic.[8] Cambodian surnames are sometimes identical to Chinese or Vietnamese surnames.[8] Women keep their maiden names after marriage.[6]

Origin and meanings

The meaning of Cambodian names are generally very simple and reference positive attributes. Cambodian people are called by their given names without a title (informal) or by their given names with a title (formal); the full name, including both family name and given name is often used. [2][6] (Surnames are used as a form of address, however, in the case of names that originated as revolutionary aliases.)[clarification needed]

Different naming traditions exist among ethnic groups other than the Khmer majority. The Cambodian population is 90% Buddhist and names are often taken from Buddhism. Among the Muslim minority, Arabic names are often used as family names.[1]


Khmer names are usually pronounced with the stress (emphasis) placed on the last syllable.[9] Khmer uses a glottal stop (the Cockney stop in "ten green bo'les") and other stops: p, t, c and k which may or may not occur with aspiration. In romanizations of Khmer script, aspiration (i.e., a breath sound) is usually marked with an h. Final r, d, g, s, b, and z sounds are not heard: Ngor is pronounced Ngow. Some final consonants are written but not pronounced.[10]

List of some family names

Khmer "family" names are usually simply their father's given name and as such change with each generation. Other ethnic groups, particularly Chinese-Cambodians and Vietnamese-Cambodians may have a family name that is taken by each generation, in which case the name is pronounced similarly to the language of origin but within the bounds of Khmer phonology. Below is a list of some common family names[11] some of which are also found as given names.

Khmer IPA Romanization Origin
កូយ Kuy
កឹម Kem
កែប Kep
កែវ kaew Keo (2nd most popular surname in Cambodia) meaning glass or jewel or crystal
ខាត់ kʰat Khat Chinese
ខាយ kʰaːy Khay (triumphant, victorious)
ខៀវ kʰiəw Khiev (Chinese "qiao", vietnamese "kiều")
ខ្លូត kʰlout Khlot generic name for melon-like fruit
គឹម kɨm Kim (Korean "Kim" / Mandarin Chinese "Jin", meaning gold)
គួច Kouch
ឃាង Kheang
ឃិន Khin Chinese (respect, admiration)
ឃីម Khim
ចន្ទ Chan/Chhan/Jan Sanskrit word canda (चन्द) meaning moon
ចាន់ Chan
ចាប Chap Bird
ចេង Cheng
ចេន ceːn Chen/Jen (Given only to Cambodians of Chinese descent)
ឆន cʰɑːn Chhorn ; whole, complete, entire.
ឆាយ Chhay
ជា ciə Chea Recover
ជាម ciəm Cheam A type of bowl. Derived from Persian jam (جام) meaning "cup."
ជិន cin Chin/Jin
ជឹម cɨm Chim/Choem
ជ័យ cɨj Chey/Jey/Jay Most popular surname in Cambodia, the Cambodian word "chey" meaning "victory" or "victorious", derived from Sanskrit Jaya (जय)
ឈិត cʰit Chhet/Chhit (odd, unusual)
ឈិន (old)
ឈឹម cʰəm Chhim/Chhem (respect, admiration)
ញឹក ɲɨk Nhek abbreviation of 涅槃 (Nirvana)
ដួង duəŋ Duong beloved, dear, darling
ឌិត dɨt Dith ḍita from Sanskrit Paṇḍita (पण्डित) meaning wise man or scholar; or Chinese ("Di")
ឌិន dɨn Din from ḍina (डिन) in Pali meaning flight
ឌី Dy
ឌុល dul Dul from ḍula (डुल) in Pali meaning earring or tremble
ឌួង duəŋ Duong Chinese (east)
តក់ Tok Droplets of water
តាង taːŋ Tang
តាត taːt Tat (attain)
តូច touc ~ tuːc Toch/Touch Small or Tiny
តាំង Taing
ថន Than
ទាវ Teav
ទី tiː Ty
ទុំ Tum
ទ្រី Try
ទេព teːp Tep from Deva (देव), Sanskrit for god or divine
ធី tʰiː Thy
នី Ny
ប៉ាង paːŋ Pang (vast)
ប៉ុក pok Pok (Bo)
ប៊ុន bun Bun (the four winds, from Vietnamese bốn)
ប៉ែន paen Pen/Ben (guest/visitor)
ផាន pʰaːn Phan (to overflow; be abundant)
ពិជ Pech
ពេជ្រ Pich
ភី pʰiː Phy guardian, one of great importance
មា maː Ma ม้า (Thai version of Chinese "Ma")
មាន miən Mean rich or wealthy; or (nostalgic, distant)
មាស miəh Meas Khmer for gold
មួយ muəy Muy/Muoy the number 1
មូល muːl Mul round
មេង meːŋ Meng (Chinese "Meng")
ម៉ៅ maʋ Mao (Chinese "Mao"), locals argue that it came from a spoken form of the Khmer word black or kmav (ខ្មៅ), but this word is reconstructed from Proto-Austro-Asiatic as *kVm and thus is unlikely to be so.
យស់ yuəh Yos/Yous
យុន yun Yun (Chinese "Yun")
យូ yuː Yu (Chinese "Yu")
រស់ rʊəh Ros to live
រួយ Rouy
លិម lim Lim (Chinese "Lin", meaning forest)
លី Ly
លីវ Liv
លឹម Lim
វ៉ាង ʋaaŋ Vang
វង្ស ʋʊəŋ Vong Circle, line of descent. Derived from the Sanskrit word vansha (वंश) meaning lineage.
sɑː Sor/Sar White
សង sɑːŋ Sang Payback
សម sɑːm Sam
សរ sɑː Sor/Sar
សាង saːŋ Sang (Variation of Chinese "Chang")
សាត saːt Sat
សាន saːn San
សាយ saːj Say
សិន sɨn Sin 森; (Forest)
សឺន səɨn Son
សុខ sok Sok from Sanskrit sukha (सुख) meaning joy or happiness
សុង soŋ Song
សុន son Son
ស៊ុយ suy Suy (Sui Dynasty)
សូ soː So (Chinese "Sū")
ស៊ូ suː Su (Chinese "Sū")
សួន suən Soun Garden
សឿង Seoung
សៀង sieŋ Sieng/Seang Soy or Shang (From Shang Hai City)
សេង seiŋ Seng
សេន sein Sen Cent
សោម saom Som from Sanskrit soma (सोम) meaning moon or sky
សាៅ Sao Saturday
ហាក៉ Hak
ហុង hoŋ Hong (Red)
ហ៊ុន hun Hun
ហូ hou Ho/Hu (Chinese "Hu")
ឡាយ Lay
ឡុង loŋ Long (Chinese "Long", meaning dragon)
អាង aːŋ Ang/Aang (Cantonese variation of surname "Wu")
អិម ʔim Im/Yim (Hakka Chinese 'jim5')
អុង ʔoŋ Ong (Chinese "Wang" (pronounced Ong in Hokkien dialect), meaning king)
អ៊ុច ʔuc Uch/Ouch To Light
អ៊ុយ ʔuj Uy
អៀម ʔiəm Eam/Iem/Iam
អៀវ ʔieʋ Iv/Eav
អ៊ុំ ʔum Um Aunt (Your parents older brother or sister)
ឯក ʔaek Ek/Aek Self, Single; from Sanskrit eka (एक)
ឱក ʔaok Ok/Aok 玉 (Jade)
ឱម ʔaom Om (Chinese "Yan")

List of given names

Unlike Cambodian family names, given names may have multiple syllables and differ greatly. Given names were influenced greatly by Sanskrit.

Khmer IPA Romanization Origin
ɓɑːliːn Balin (bah-lin)
ជា ciə Chea good health
Cheata (chee-ay-tah) meaning birth, nation, origin
Cheng (Variation of Chinese "Zheng")
Chheang (Chinese "Chang")
Da (Similar to Chinese "Da" but not related; Khmer meaning for "elder man")
ដារា ɗɑːrɑː Dara Sanskrit, meaning star
Leng (Chinese "Liang")
Lo (Chinese "Luo")
ណារុង Narong (nah-rong)
Naroeung (nahroong)
និមល Nimol Which is without doubt, without blemish, always happy
Phuong (poong) name of a kind of flower
Saroeung (sah-roong)
ស្រី Srey (sareiy): (Khmer, meaning girl; from the Sanskrit strī́ [स्त्री])
Son (sawn): (Variation of Chinese "Sun")
បុប្ផា Bopha (bohpa) meaning flower or blossom
ចិន្ដា Chanda (chahndah): (More popular Khmer names) meaning heart or mind
Chhoun (choo-en)
Khan (kahn)
កុសល Kosal (kohsahl)meaning good deed
គុន្ធា Kunthea (kunt-hee-ah)
Lai (lah-ee): (Chinese "Lai")
Lun Ang (loom-ang): (Variations of Chinese "Lun" and "Wu")
ម៉ាលី Maly (mahlee)
Mey (Mae) "妹" (Chinese "mèi" meaning "youngest" sister or "little" sister)
ម៉ាប់ Map (mahp): Mập ("Fat" or "Chubby")
Moeuk (mew)
ផល្លា Phalla (pahlah): (More popular Khmer names) meaning fruit (फल्ला) in Pali
Phireak (pee-re)
ពៅ Poew (pohew): youngest (sibling)
Rith (rit) meaning power
Ry (ree)
សំណាង Samnang lucky
Sarit (sahrit)
សុផល Sophal (sohpahl): (More popular Khmer names)
Suon (soo-in): meaning garden
Tren (trayng): Trần (Vietnamese version of Chinese "Chen")
ទី tiː Thy Thị (Chinese "弟" for "youngest" son or "little" brother)
Thuy (toy-ee): Thủy (Vietnamese version of Chinese ), meaning water
វណ្ណា Vanna (vahna): gold, golden, from Sanskrit varṇa (वर्ण)
វុឌ្ឍិ vuttʰi Vuthy (voo-tee): meaning prosperity. Derived from the Sanskrit word vriddhi (वृद्धि) which means growth.

Compound names

At times, many families combine shorter names to create a longer name. This happens often among the wealthier class of Cambodians.

  • Sovanna (Combined "So" and "Vanna") means gold in Sanskrit
  • Somally (Combined "So" and "Maly")
  • Chandarith (Combined "Chanda" and "Rith")

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Naming systems of the world" Archived 2008-04-23 at the Wayback Machine. (self-published). Citing Huffman, Franklin Eugene. Cambodian names and titles. Institute of Far Eastern Languages, Yale University (1968). OCLC 20035170.
  2. ^ a b Short, Philip. Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare. Macmillan (2006), p xv. ISBN 0-8050-8006-6.
  3. ^ Kershaw, Roger. Monarchy in South-East Asia: The Faces of Tradition in Transition. Routledge (2001), p xiv. ISBN 0-415-18531-9.
  4. ^ Huy, Vannak (2003). THE KHMER ROUGE DIVISION 703: From Victory to Self-destruction. Phnom Penh: Documentation Center of Cambodia. pp. 6 (note 1). Retrieved 20 November 2017. 
  5. ^ Ueki, Kaori (2011). "PROSODY AND INTONATION OF WESTERN CHAM" (PDF). University of Hawaii. Retrieved 20 November 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c Valerie Ooka Pang & Li-Rong Lilly Cheng. Struggling to Be Heard: The Unmet Needs of Asian Pacific American Children. SUNY Press (1998), p51. ISBN 0-7914-3839-2.
  7. ^ Asian American Community Mental Health Training Center. Bridging Cultures: Southeast Asian Refugees in America. University of Michigan (1983), p98. OCLC 10431338.
  8. ^ a b Mary Fong & Rueyling Chuang. Communicating Ethnic and Cultural Identity. Rowman & Littlefield (2003), p40. ISBN 0-7425-1739-X.
  9. ^ Khmer Institute
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-05. Retrieved 2011-06-26. 
  11. ^ "What Language Does He Speak? Asian Last Name Guide" (PDF). (Subscription required (help)).