Useful Khmer Expressions and Words

Useful Everyday Khmer Expressions and Words

Last updated on December 5th, 2018

No matter what, always keep a smiling face. It is considered very ill-bred not to smile. Everybody has his own share of misery and insurmountable sorrow, so why not keep it inside and try not to wear it on one’s face? Here are a few useful idiomatic expressions that will help you enjoy your stay in the city. We have put down the literal translations as well as our homemade phonetics.

If there is one expression you should learn, it is Sok Sabay, which is used to greet people, ask how they fare, bid goodbye. Literally Sok means peace and Sabay means happiness. There you have it! Peace and happiness favour your path in Phnom Penh, on your way to Angkor! If you feel happy, by all means, do not hesitate to use Sabay profusely in your conversations with the Khmer. Sabay Angkor conveys your happiness in Angkor, but at the same time, evokes better days where hardship was not so common in this city that once was.

Angkor is the heart of Khmer civilisation. The local dialect has a strong twang and is rich with expressions that Phnom Penhers and other central plain folks have difficulties understanding. A stone’s throw from Siem Reap, in the villages of Angkor, a rhythmical pattern emerges in conversations punctuated by references to dop, which typically means the “forest”. Local people proudly call themselves Khmer Angkor.

Basic Khmer

Sok Sabay – Peace and joy (greetings)

Or Kon – Joyful gratefulness (thank you)

Chneh Satruv – Defeat your enemies (farewell)

Som Toh – Grant me forgiveness (sorry)

Baat – Yes (if you are a man/boy)

Chaa – Yes (if you are a woman/girl)

Ort Te – No

Khyom – I/me/my/mine

Srok Khmer – the Land of the Khmer (Cambodia)

Prasat – Temple

Siem Reap – Victory over the Siamese


Civilities and greetings

Khyom Bor Rotay – I am a cart driver (I am a foreigner)

Khyom Barang – I am a white foreigner / French

Sok Sabay Te – Do joy and peace favour you? (How are you?)

Khyom Sok Sabay – Peace and joy favour me (I am fine)

Lok – Master (sir or mister)

Lok Sreign – Mistress (madam or missus)

Neang – Maiden (mademoiselle or miss)

Nga – Maiden (mademoiselle or miss, Khmer Angkor variation)

Komloh – Bachelor (sir or mister for bachelors)

Ba – Bachelor (sir or mister for bachelors, Khmer Angkor variation)


Chit Chat

Laor – Nice, good, pretty, beautiful

Sambom – Extremely

Laor Sambom – Zesty (superlatively nice)

Chnagn – Tasty

Khyom Srolagn – I fancy

Orh Toah – Without limit (Great!)

Thlai – Expensive

Thaok – Cheap


Worst possible insult (use with care!)

Ort Pouch – Without lineage (you are uncouth)


Other useful expressions

Som Chouy – Grant me assistance (Help!)

Noam Khyom Teuv Toot Amerik – Get me to the US Embassy!

Avot Paramano – Nuclear weapon

Srom Anamay – Hygiene sheath (condom)

Mean Loy – I have money

Ort Mean Loy – I have no money

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