Music glossary

Here we resume the vocabulary relating to both sound instruments, their playing style and song, through time and space. We have chosen an entry in English so that it can be used by the greatest number. We included Sanskrit vocabularies, old Khmer and their evolution through time, modern Khmer vocabularies and ethnic minorities from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam since the roots were common. Let us forgive in advance the choice of simplified graphs in the case of ethnic minorities, dictated by the disparity of scriptural practices. The transliteration of Old Khmer is based on the Indian system, that of modern Khmer inspired Saveros Lewitz and that of Sanskrit borrowed from the dictionary of Gerard Huet. If the sources of old Khmer are epigraphic, all the credit goes to Saveros Pou and his dictionary of Old Khmer French-English.

Camb.  / Cambodia
11th / Old Khmer of the eleventh century
Md / Khmer Modern
Mi / Middle

p.a. / Pre-angkorian Khmer
Sk. / Sanskrit


Ballet, ballet dancers : rapam, rapaṃ p.a.; peṭaka (multitude, company, group); pedānātaka rpam, pedānātta rpam p.a.

Barrel drum: sagör kreung (Camb.)

Barrel or biconical drum: mṛdaṅga Sk.

Beat: āhan Sk. (a drum, the string of an instrument)
Beat (a drum) : han Sk.; hrād Sk.; taḍ Sk.

Bell: ghaṇṭā Sk. ; kaṇtịṅ Md.; kandung Md.; katyāṅ 10th; kantiṅ 12th; kaṇtiṅ Md.


Celestial or ritual male singer: gāndharva, gandharva [f. gāndharvī] Sk. ; gandharva Kh.9th; gandharvva Kh. p.a.
Conch: śaṅkha Sk. Kh.9-12th; sǎṅkh Md.
Cymbals: tāla, tala Sk. (second meaning: rhythm, measure beaten by hand)
Cymbals (small and thick), crotales: cheṇ Kh.10th; chiṅ Md.
Cymbals player: cmap cheṇ, chmap cheṇ Kh.9th


Drum (generic): sgar Kh.10-14th Md.

Drum player: tmoṅ Kh.9th; thmoṅ, thmaṅ Kh.10th

Drumstick: koṇa Sk.


Fiddle with mouth resonator: köni J’rai (Viêt.); könö, mem kreung (Camb.); köney Tampuan (Camb.)
Fiddle with a gourd resonator
: könö, köney Tampuan (Camb.)

Flute: kluy Kh.10th ; khluy Md.


Gong, cymbals, small cymbals (uncertain translation, could sometimes be the equivalent of cheṇ); tāla Kh.10th tāl Kh.14th; kaṇsatāla Kh. p.a., kaṃsatāla Sk. (idiophone made of bronze or brass)


Harp: viṇā p.a.; saùng-gauk Burmese; t’na Karen (Thailand) ; nade Karen (Myanma) ; talu Katu (Laos) ; pin Md.

Horn: ki, köki êdê (Viêt.)
Hourglass drum: huḍukka, timila Sk.; hūdūka, huduga Kh.10thm


Kettledrum: bherī Sk. (or trumpet)


Lute with three strings(?): trisarī Kh.9th


Monochord stick zither with a single  resonator: kañjaṅ, kañjoṅ p.a. ; kani Oy (Laos); brok Jarai, Kreung

Musician, Music: tantrī, tantrīy Kh.11th; vādya Kh. p.a.; tantrī Md. (orchestral music)
Music: bhleṅ Md.


Celestial orchestra of five musician: pañcāṅgikatūrya Sk.; pañcāṅgikatūryya Kh.13th


Panegyrist: kītakī Kh. p.a.; kīṭaka Sk.

Player of a string  instrument: tmīṅ p.a.; tmiṅ Kh.9th; thmiñ Kh.10th; thmiṅ Kh.10-11th

Play a string plucked instrument: āsphal (of the vīṇā) Sk. (beat, vibrate)
Play a percussion: toṅ K.10th; tuoṅ, dūṅ, thaṅ Md. (We don’t know if there are any differentiated terms for beating with bare hands or with an object).
Pluck the string of a musical instrument: tiṅ Vx.; ṭeñ Md.


Rattle-drum: ḍamaru, ḍamarin Sk.

Reciter, recitation: vāca Kh.10th
Reciter murmuring prayers: jāpātra Kh.14th
Reader, reciter: svat Kh. 10-11th , sṃnvat Kh.11th ; smūt / smoot Md. (to chant in a plaintive mood)
Resonate (drum) : hrād Sk.


Sing: cryaṅ Kh.10th; crīeṅ Md.

Singer: caṃreṅcaṃmreṅcaṃryaṅ Kh. p.a., caṃmryaṅ Kh.10th, caṃryyāṅ Kh.9th, 12th; caṃryyāṅ śikharā (who sings while accompanying by śikharā) Kh.9th; camrīeṅ Md.

Singer of praise: caṃryaṅ stuti, caṃryaṅ stutī, caṃryyaṅ stutī Kh.9th

Song of praise: stuti Kh.9th, stutiy Kh.10th; slutī Sk., My. & Md.Stick (of dancer), raṇamardana Sk.; raṇamarddaṇa ta rmmāṃ (litt. stick of dancer) Kh.11th; raṇamardda Kh.10th

Stick (of drum): koṇa Sk.

Stick zither with two resonators: vīṇā Sk.; kinnara Kh.9-11th

String of a musical instrument: guṇa Sk.


Trumpet: bherī Sk. (or kettledrum)
Trumpet, Trumpet ensemble: tūrya, tūryya Kh.10th, 12th


Word, recitation: vāca Kh.10th; vācā Sk. Md.


Zither? (non identified): śikharā Kh.9-10th, śikhare Kh.11th. However, it could be the crocodile-headed zither known to the Khmers as kropeu.