Barang (បារាំង) is a Khmer word meaning French. It is often mispronounced like ba-réng. The correct pronunciation is bâ-râng, but pâ-râng is also acceptable. It is thought to be corruption of the word France but this may be a misconception. The term is related to the Thai term farang which has a similar meaning. In the Malay language, barang means “thing”.
The origin of this word is debatable as there are several possibilities. One is that it came from Arabic (faranj) via Malay traders. Another is that it came straight from the French. Since Khmer does not have a letter that represents the Latin F, it is pronounced with a B sound. As with many Khmer words of foreign origin, n’s often change to an ng sound. Such as Aleurmâng (អាឡឺម៉ង់) (German) which comes from the French word Allemand.
In the Khmer language, the term barang has also come to mean a foreigner, particularly one of European ancestry. It is not a demeaning word, but some Khmer speakers might use it in a bad context. The…