Telling Time In Khmer: #1 Best Guide


Each culture and language has its own distinct way of telling time, often reflecting its history, values, and lifestyle and telling time in Khmer definitely falls under the description “distinct”.

This time, we will explore the fascinating, and sometimes slightly confusing, world of telling time in Khmer, the official language of Cambodia, so you will never be late for a meet-up with friends when you visit.

The Khmer Numerical System

To understand how the current local time is told in Khmer, one must first become familiar with the Khmer numerical system. While it shares some similarities with the Western Arabic numerals, it also possesses its own set of unique symbols. Here are the Khmer numerals from 0 to 10:

One០ – សូន្Sounya
Two១ – មួយMuoy
Three២ – ពីរPii
Four៣ – បីBei
Five៤ – បួនBuon
Six៥ – ប្រាំBrahm
Seven៦ – ប្រាំមួយBrahm Muoy
Eight៧ – ប្រាំពីរBrahm Pii
Nine៨ – ប្រាំបីBrahm Bei
Ten៩ – ប្រាំបួនBrahm Buon

It’s essential to learn these numerals as they form the basis for telling time in Khmer.

Telling Time: The Basics

In Cambodia, there are two main systems for telling time: the 12-hour clock and the 24-hour clock. The 12-hour clock is commonly used in everyday conversations, while the 24-hour clock is more prevalent in official and written contexts.

The 12-Hour Clock

To express time using the 12-hour clock in Khmer, you start with the hour and follow it with the word “គ្រឿង” (kreyung), which means “hour.”

The hours are typically counted from 1 to 12. To specify minutes, you use the word “នាទី” (nea tei), which means “minute,” followed by the number of minutes.

To indicate morning or afternoon, you can add “ព្រឹក” (prek) for morning or “ល្ងាច” (lang) for the afternoon.

Here are a few examples:

It is 8:45 in the morning – Mong trimaan brahm buon nea tei (ម៉ោងត្រីមានប្រាំបួននាទី).

It is 3:58 in the morning – Mong prek brahm bei nea tei (ម៉ោងព្រឹកប្រាំបីនាទី).

The 24-Hour Clock

The 24-hour clock in Khmer is quite straightforward and follows the Western format. You state the hour first, followed by “ម៉ោង” (mong), which means “hour.”

Minutes are indicated by “នាទី” (nea tei), just like in the 12-hour clock.

For example: It is 18:00 (6:00 PM) – Mong 18 nea tei (ម៉ោង ១៨នាទី).


Unique Features Of Khmer Timekeeping

One of the most distinctive aspects of Khmer timekeeping is that the hours start at 1 AM in the morning. This means that midnight is referred to as “ម៉ោងត្រី” (Mong trimaan), which translates to “morning zero.” Thankfully, Cambodia does not observe daylight savings time, so no need to worry about changing the time on your watch between summer time and winter time. Just remember to get the time zone right – Indochina Time, and you are away.

Day And Night

In Khmer, the terms “ព្រឹក” (prek) and “ល្ងាច” (lang) are used to distinguish between morning and afternoon.

Evening is often referred to as “យប់” (yaap), while night is called “យប់យឺត” (yaap yuut).

The Khmer Lunar Calendar

Cambodia follows a lunar calendar, which means that certain religious and traditional events are scheduled throughout the country based on location and lunar phases.

The Khmer New Year, or “Choul Chnam Thmey,” is one such event celebrated according to the lunar calendar.

Cultural Significance Of Time In Cambodia

Telling time in Khmer is not just a practical skill; it is deeply intertwined with Cambodian culture and traditions. Here are a few ways in which time is culturally significant in Cambodia:

Religious Rituals

Time plays a vital role in Buddhist rituals and ceremonies in Cambodia. Monks follow a strict schedule of daily prayers and meditation sessions, all of which are performed at specific times of the day.

Agricultural Life

Cambodia’s agrarian economy relies heavily on the seasons and the passage of time. Farmers and agricultural communities have a deep connection to the rhythm of nature and the changing seasons.

Festivals And Holidays

Cambodian festivals and holidays are often tied to specific times of the year, such as the Water Festival or the Royal Plowing Ceremony.


More Words For Telling Time In Khmer


Challenges And Modernization

While traditional Khmer timekeeping remains deeply rooted in Cambodian culture, the modern world has brought about changes and challenges. The adoption of digital clocks and watches, as well as the 24-hour clock format in many official settings, has led to a shift away from the traditional 12-hour clock in some contexts.

Thankfully, time in East Asia remains a fluid concept. When you visit, you’ll find that being in a hurry is a strange Western trait greeted with raised eyebrows by many of the locals. So next time you find yourself in the Kingdom of Cambodia, take a moment to immerse yourself in the rather relaxed rhythms of Khmer timekeeping and discover the beauty of this unique clock.

Learn More Cambodian With Ling

Learning Khmer during the hours ahead can be a daunting prospect at the current time. Ling is here to help and will have you telling the time like a local in, well, no time at all. Click on the links for Google Play or the App Store, and start your Khmer adventure with Ling app today.

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