14 Cool Korean Slang Words & Phrases for Any Situation
A huge thank you to one of our top Korean teachers, Min-Jong, for her valuable contributions to this article!
You’ve been studying Korean for years but you still don’t pass for a local? Don’t sweat it. Most probably, it has nothing to do with your pronunciation or the correctness of your grammar. In fact, what gives you away is most probably the fact that you sound too formal! Sure, you know the names of every member in BTS and Black Pink, but your textbook vocabulary sounds definitely foreign!
If you truly want to speak like a Korean, you need to add a few slang expressions to your repertoire. Using Korean slang shows people that you’re up to date with pop culture and contemporary trends. So, if you want to wow your Korean friends and classmates, drop a few of the hip slang words that we have compiled for you in your next interaction and see them gag!
For every Korean slang expression, we have included the Hangul spelling, Romanisation, and a bit of background information to help you understand why and how Koreans use these terms in casual conversation.
Below, you’ll find a handful of everyday Korean expressions you can use in almost any context. But before you continue, make sure you save our list of great Korean drama filmsfor later.
Are there any young people in your family? Have you ever counted how many times they say the word “awesome” during a regular evening?
While we haven’t, we get the impression that this word is almost as popular in English as daebak is in Korean. Like “awesome”, daebak is an exclamatory word that young people use to say that something (an idea, a movie, a band) is great. This idiom comes from the term daebaknada, which translates as “hitting the jackpot, making big money, being successful”.
Matjeom (맛점) is an abbreviation of the Korean phrase matitneun jeomsim (맛있는 점심), which describes a tasty lunch. How important are “delicious lunches” for young Korean people? Well, let’s just say that they are the cultural equivalent to the American brunch.
Do you want to talk about a delicious dinner instead? Then say matjeo (맛저), which is an abbreviation for matitneun jeonyeok (맛있는 저녁). As you can see, Korean people are as fond of shortening words as English speakers.
Have you ever stopped your friend from wearing an awful dress to a party? If you did, you probably said something like “That’s a big no-no”.
The slang phrase Daetcheunono, which is how Koreans would pronounce “That’s a no-no”, originated in a popular TV show and soon became viral. This is the perfect Korean slang expression if you want to show disapproval at something that a friend has just said or done. (You can also use it if they misquote the lyrics of your favorite K-Pop song!)
If you have at least one friend with whom you can share your deepest (and darkest!) thoughts, you should be able to use this Korean slang word very often.
Let us break it down for you. Solkkamal is a mixture of soljikhi (솔직히) which means “honestly” and kkamal a blend made from kkanoko malhada (까놓고 말하다), which can be translated as “speak your mind.”
So, the next time that you want your Korean friend to “spill the tea”, just tell them to solkkamal. We can’t assure you they’ll be honest, but at least they’ll be surprised.
Have you ever played an adventure game like Wonder Boy? (Yes, I know that’s an oldie, but I’m a bit clueless when it comes to modern stuff!)
In this kind of game, your character levels up as he kills monsters, saves princesses, or avoids hellish fires. “Level 10,000” is the expression you would use for someone who has reached the highest level in a strategy or adventure game (yes, even if they beat you). But you can also use it to praise anyone who’s great at what they do, no matter if it’s bodybuilding, paragliding, or yodeling.
Let’s now look at a few Korean slang words and phrases about love and relationships.
This expression comes from pumjeol, which means “sold out”. This word is in turn derived from pum and jeol (“product” and “gone” respectively).
The term refers to someone who’s just got married, so it’s a pretty awful thing to hear about your Tinder date.
Mildang is a blend of the Korean words for “push” and “pull”, but it has nothing to do with doors (or with the brain freeze you get when you see a push/pull sign and you suddenly forget which is which).
Instead, Korean people use this slang word to address the games people sometimes play when they’re in a relationship, where they may act like they’re madly in love one minute and get cold the next.
Have you ever heard about the friend zone? Wait, how many times? Oh, dear.
Namsachin comes from the word namja, meaning “man”. sa, meaning “person”, and chin, which is short for chingu and means “friend”.
Put all of these together and you get a man who is… well, just a friend. *sighs*
Mossol is short for motae, which means “maternal womb”, and sollo, which means “solo”. Put these together and you get the most depressing Korean slang phrase you will hear in your life: “a woman who has been alone since the day she was born”.
Even though we are the ones teaching you this phrase, we hope you never use it, because it would just be mean!
Short for Simjangi Kungkung, Sim Kung is a combination of “heart” and “and beating sound”. Young Korean people use this expression to refer to that mini-heart attack that you get when you see your crush.
We just hope that your heart skips a bit because of how lovely they look, and not because you’ve seen them walking hand-in-hand with another person.
Finally, let’s focus on a few words that you should be able to recognize should someone spit them at you. Yes, we are talking about Korean swear words.
The equivalent to the F-word, this might be the most common curse word in the Korean language. You can use it to express every negative emotion in the world, whether it is anger, disappointment, or frustration at the fact that your hoeddeok (a sweet syrupy pancake) doesn’t have enough crunch.
Yet another Korean slang phrase that comes with an unrequested vocabulary lesson. This one comes from gae, meaning dog, and sae-ggi, meaning “baby animal”. Put these together, add a bit of drama, and you get something like “bastard” or “son of a b*tch”.
We all have that one friend who never pays for anything. The one that always asks for the most expensive dish on the menu and conveniently forgets their wallet at home every time they go out or shows up empty-handed to friends’ gatherings
Bin-Dae-Sae-Ggi means “bedbug”, which is a dark insect that lives on the blood of other creatures, and we don’t need to explain why it is the right word for tight-fisted people!
If a friend won’t stop talking about a subject you find boring, you can use this Korean curse word to unkindly invite them to shut up. The phrase comes from the verb dad-da which means “to close”, but people use it informally in the same contexts that you would say “shut your mouth!”.
Which of these Korean slang words do you find most amusing? Let us know in the comment box.
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