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Note: "Khmer" and "Cambodian"

Author(s): Leng Lim
Reviewer(s): Paularita Seng
Date Authored: April 19, 2002
Date Last Reviewed: April 23, 2008

When seeing or hearing the word "Khmer" such as Khmer New Year, Khmer Community, or Khmer Temple, many people are not familiar with the word and they ask what "Khmer" is?   In practice, the two words, "Khmer" and "Cambodian", can be used to replace each other. For example, one might say Khmer New Year or Cambodian New Year; Khmer People or Cambodian People.  The exception is when talking about "Khmer Rouge" (it is not correct to use the word Cambodian instead of Khmer in this case).  (For information about the Khmer Rouge see: Cambodian Cultural Profile  section on history and politics)

The word "Kampuchea" means a country of Khmer people.  Kampuchea can be translated as "Khmer country". The French call Kampuchea "Le Cambodge"; the Khmer male is called "Le Cambodgien"; and the Khmer female is called "La Cambodgienne".  A bit different from French, the English name for the country is "Cambodia" and the Khmer people are called "Cambodian." However, the full definition of what is Khmer and what is Cambodian remains a large topic of discussion among Khmer or Cambodian intellectuals.