Names of Cambodia

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Cambodia (Kambodia)

The name of Cambodia in the Khmer language is “Kampuchea” (Khmer: ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា; Preah Reachanachâk Kampuchea), which derives from Sanskrit Kambujadeśa (कम्बोजदेश; “land of Kambuja”). It is not unique to the modern kingdom of Cambodia: the same name (i.e. Kamboj/Kambuja) is also found in Burmese and Thai chronicles referring to regions within those kingdoms. In the Indian chronicles the Kambuja were a barbarian (in the sense of non-Indian) people in the area of modern Afghanistan. “The application to Southeast Asia has no ethnic content and does not imply any migration of peoples from the original Kambuja; the most likely explanation is that, when Indian traders and Brahmins came into contact with local populations some two thousand years ago, they gave them the names of regions which, in their view, were similarly marginal and remote: the peoples of Southeast Asia, like the barbarian Kamboja, had no castes, did not observe proper food prohibitions and had different rules for marriage.” An origin-myth recorded in the Baksei Chamkronginscription, dated AD 947, derives Kambuja from Svayambhuva Kamboj, a legendary Indian sage who reached the Indochina peninsula and married a naga princess named Mera, thus uniting the Indian and local races. In this story Kambuja derives from Kambu+ja, and means “descendants of Kambu.”

Preah Reachanachâk Kampuchea means “Kingdom of Cambodia”. Etymologically, its components are: Preah- (“sacred”); -reach- (“king, royal, realm”, from Sanskrit); -ana- (from Pāli āṇā, “authority, command, power”); -châk (from Sanskrit chakra, meaning “wheel”, a symbol of power and rule).

The name used on formal occasions, such as political speeches and news programs, is Prâteh Kampuchea (Khmer: ប្រទេសកម្ពុជា), literally “the Country of Cambodia”. The colloquial name most used by Khmer people is Srok Khmae (Khmer: ស្រុកខ្មែរ), literally “Khmer Land”. Srok is a Mon-Khmer word roughly equal to the Sanskritic prâteh, but less formal.

Official names of Cambodia since independence
NameKhmer NameFrench NameDateNotes
Kingdom of Cambodiaព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជាRoyaume du Cambodge1953 – 1970under the monarchy.
Khmer Republicសាធារណរដ្ឋខ្មែរRépublique Khmère1970 – 1975under the Lon Nol government.
Democratic Kampucheaកម្ពុជាប្រជាធិបតេយ្យKampuchea démocratique1975 – 1979under the Khmer Rouge regime.
People’s Republic of Kampucheaសាធារណរដ្ឋប្រជាមានិតកម្ពុជាRépublique populaire du Kâmpŭchéa1979 – 1989under the rule of the Vietnamese-sponsored government.
State of Cambodiaរដ្ឋកម្ពុជាÉtat du Cambodge1989 – 1993under the United Nations Transitional Authority.
Kingdom of Cambodiaព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជាRoyaume du Cambodge1993 – Presentmonarchy restored.