Khmer Words for Women-Sacred Terms from Cambodian History

Khmer Words for Women-Sacred Terms from Cambodian History
Lost Goddesses by Trudy Jacobsen

This article is based on research presented by Trudy Jacobsen in her book “Lost Goddesses: The Denial of Female Power in the History of Cambodia“.

Lost Goddesses” traces the trajectory of female influence in Cambodia from ancient to modern times. Immediately following her Preface, Dr. Jacobsen opened the book with a Glossary. The vocabulary that a society uses is an important indicator of values, priorities and beliefs. It therefore struck me as a practical, original and brilliant idea to first introduce the female-related terms that her investigation would include.

The list below includes Khmer, Pali, French and Sanskrit terms with English meanings. With the author’s kind permission, I extracted this list from the complete glossary that appears in “Lost Goddesses“. I have also augmented her list with a sampling of additional terms from the online Khmer-English dictionary at the Southeast Asian Language Library. I regret any mistakes or errors in my attempts to transliterate some of the additional terms. Note that this list is by no means exhaustive, nor is it a complete list of female related words in Khmer…but the words below are certainly explore some fascinating social, political and spiritual concepts.

Article by Kent Davis Khmer Words for Women-Sacred Terms from Cambodian History

Khmer Words About Women Khmer Words for Women-Sacred Terms from Cambodian History

a prefix indicating that something is bad
adthipul a supernatural energy manifested in spirits and practitioners of magic
akyeay chastum elderly women of the palace
anuj khshatri “young queen”
ap witch
arhat a person who is very spiritually advanced
Bhagavati one of the names of Lakshmi
bhariya wife
anuj bhariya lesser or younger wife
jao bhariya stolen wife
nea nea bhariya wife through unusual circumstances
patoe kan bhariya wife whose father has refused his consent
satru bhariya enemy wife
sroengkar bhariya (minor) wife of the king in the Middle Period
tean resey bhariya wife through charity
bhikkhuni ordained nun
Bodhisattva a person with sufficient merit to enter Nirvana; a Buddha-in-waiting
bonne femme good woman, good wife
boppha 1. flower2. term of endearment, dear, darling
boppha veatay menstruating, menstruating women
brai female spirits, ghosts of dead women
araks brai wild spirits, inclined toward evil
brai krala plerng ghosts of women who died in childbirth
brai kramom ghosts of women who died as virgins
cbpab law; code of conduct
cpbab chah ‘old cbpab written before c. 1790
cbpab thmei ‘new cbpab’, written after c. 1790
chen-t’an defloration ceremony observed by Zhou Daguan in the late thirteenth century
daun chi Buddhist nun
devadasi (female) slave of the gods; temple slave
devadhītā Pali term for nymph, goddess, female divinity or angel, daughter of a god
devata guardian spirit, often found at temple doors and archways
encongayment term used to refer to temporary marriages between the French and local women in their colonies
guha womb; inner sanctum of a temple complex
Heemeaheem Hemavata, the Indian goddess Uma
huyen quart Vietnamese title meaning ‘princess’
hyang title meaning ‘princess’ in early Cambodia
jamdev title meaning ‘Lady’; female equivalent ofoknha
joal m’lap ‘entering the shade’; ceremony marking the entrance of girls into womanhood
kaev hva title of the Middle Period
kaakay a female crow
Kaki the name of the main character in a popular Cambodian folktale about a beautiful, but unfaithful woman
kalyaanay 1. a beautiful woman2. to be exquisite, lovely, attractive (of women)
kamplang 1. to be charming, fascinating, delightful, attractive, shapely2. beautiful charming women
kamratan an title meaning ‘Holy, revered’
kamraten jagat ‘holy, revered god’
kang chao title given to women of the palace
kanlong kamraten an title given to deceased women of the royal family during the Angkor period; also a cult devolving upon these women
kanlong theat widow observing propriety
kantuel type of earring formerly worn by Cambodian women, now only worn by dancers
kanyaa 1. young woman, girl, unmarried girl, miss2. September – the sixth month of the Cambodian solar calendar, but the ninth month of the Western calendar (i.e. Virgo, the virgin)
kantai woman, women
keareanee wife, woman (poetic use)
khloh, khlon title or reference to elite rank
khunpreah moneang title given to women of the palace; denotes rank over others
k’mouch ghost
koan child, children
koan kroach fetus that has been smoked over a ritual fire, worn as a talisman of protection
kolthida a daughter of a respectable family, young woman
Kraak the name of a malevolent spirit of a corrupt old woman who was in charge of preparing food for the royal family and monks in temples near the royal palace during the reign of King Monivong, 1927-1941
krangam to be attractive, of unusual beauty
kramom virgin
krasean 1. the price of a woman as determined by her age in ancient Khmer civil law, bride price2. very small handwriting; calligraphic style
krup leakkhana ‘full of [good] qualities or virtues’
ku early Cambodian term meaning ‘woman’; also an honorific for non-elite women, including slaves
kuladhītā Pali term for a daughter of a respectable family, young woman
kumtiev 1. title given to the wives of high government officials holding the rank of minister, ambassador or higher2. title given by the king to a married woman
Lakshmi Sanskrit term for Vishnu’s wife, goddess of beauty
Leaksmay Vishnu’s wife, goddess of beauty; deities who give luck and wealth; luck; health; progress; prosperity; good personality; peace, calm, tranquility
matra-vamsa matrilineal family
m’dey doeum ‘original mother’, goddess who was one’s mother in a previous life
me ‘mother’; also polite way to refer to a married woman
me kha title given to wives who had been slaves
me kong head of group
me sa ‘White lady’; very powerful female spirit
me vat head of wat (Buddhist temple)
meba ancestral spirits, usually in the female line
meba p’dteah ancestral spirits dwelling in the house
mekala belt (according to Tandart, specifically a metal leaf used to hide the sexual parts of a young girl)
Mekala name of the goddess of the sea
metis term of the colonial period used to refer to children of mixed parentage wherein one parent was European
mise en valeur term used to legitimate the French colonial presence
mission civilisatrice the perceived responsibility countries of the French in modernizing the and peoples it colonized
mit neary ‘female comrade’
mit p’dai ‘comrade husband’
mit prapuan ‘comrade wife’
mohat person indentured to serve the royal family
neak people, person
neak che deung ‘people who know knowledge’; group of secular elite patronized by the French
neak khlon ‘people of the khlon
neak ta ancestor spirits
neang 1. Miss, title given to young women2. young woman3. the queen in chess
neang chi Buddhist nun
Neang kmav 1. Black Lady, epithet for the goddess Kali2. witch[with different prefixes]3. type of bush that grows in dense forests with medicinal roots used to treat digestive ailments (Microtopis discolor)4. type of tree with medicinal roots used to treat kidney ailments
nintrie teipii Nidra (Indian goddess of sleep)
pangcapit kalyaanay a woman who possesses the five beauties (beauty of hair, lips, teeth, skin and age)
prapuon wife
prapuon jerng ‘end’ or ‘last’ wife; wife of third rank
prapuon kandal ‘middle’ wife; wife of second rank; also called prapuon stoeu
prapuon mecak ‘bought wife’; wife of third rank; also called prapuon touch
prapuon thom ‘big’ or ‘principal’ wife; wife of first rank
Preah ‘holy’; prefix to royal or divine titles
Preah ek khsatri ‘first princess’; elder sister of the king
Preah moneang title of a rank of royal wife
Preah neang kaam teep goddess of love
Preah snang lesser wife of the king
purohita religious official
quan chua Vietnamese title given to Queen Ang Mei(r. 1835-1840, 1844-184?)
raks supernatural being; demon
Ramakerti, Reamker Cambodian version of the Ramayana
sakti female aspect of Brahmanical gods; female power
sampeah kmouch ceremony of saluting the ancestors’ wherein a couple who have offended the meba ask for forgiveness
sampot traditional skirt made from patterned silk or cotton
sampuor a fruit used by women to wash their hair in the Middle period
Saraswat, Saraswati 1. Brahma’s wife, goddess of eloquence2. name of a sacred river in India, generally considered the Indus3. a charming girl
Saytaa, saytaa 1. Sita, Rama’s wife in the Ramayana, originally a goddess of agriculture2. plowed earth3. a kind of alcoholic drink
Sati ‘Virtue’; practice of wives killing themselves by immolation at their husbands’ funeral pyres
sauchey class of female servants in the palace; also a name given to prostitutes in the colonial period
setthi manus human rights
smir women who turn into tiger-like creatures when smeared with a certain oil
snang assistants who interpret the words of mediums; lesser wives of the king
som kanleng to ritually request permission of the earth goddess to use a specifically delimited plot of land
sothie goddess
srah artificial lakes, part of temple complexes
srei woman, female
srei aht leakkhana ‘woman with no qualities or virtues’
srei kouch ‘broken women’; women who have had sex; prostitutes
srei krup leakkhana ‘woman full of qualities or virtues’
srei luok khluen ‘woman who sells herself, prostitute
srei neak leng ‘woman who gambles’
srei rijoh rilenh ‘wriggly woman’; prostitute
stridhana property and goods belonging to a wife
tai woman; female slave
teepea thida, teep thida nymph, goddess, female divinity or angel, daughter of a god
teipii goddess, princess (official wife of a prince)
ten title denoting elite (female) status
thmup male witch, sorcerer
vangchie sterile woman or sterile female bird
veathuu a newlywed woman, bride still under the observation of her in-laws
viputstray goddess, female angel
vienii 1. words, sound, language2. woman who speaks pleasantly3. epithet of the Indian goddess Saraswati
vierunii 1. alcohol, liquor2. woman possessed by the devil3. derived from Varuni, the Hindu goddess of wine and intoxication; consort of Varuna
vrah kamratan an ‘the holiest holy’; title given to royal and divine persons
yaks, yaksini supernatural being; demon
yeay ‘grandmother’; elderly woman

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