Here is a list of some (not all) essential Korean words and phrases you’re likely to hear when watching K-dramas as well as common terms used throughout dramaland

Abeoji: father; more formal than the casual appa (dad)

Aegyo: acting excessively cute, childish or innocent to charm someone

Agasshi: young unmarried woman; can also refer to the unmarried senior female in a prominent family or your husband’s unmarried younger sister

Aigoo: term used to express despair or disappointment; sometimes used to express surprise

Ajusshi: middle-aged man; it is used to refer to any man who is older that you, esp. if the man is a stranger

Ajumma: middle-aged or married woman

Ajumoni: more formal version of ajumma

Aniyo: no (formal)

Anni: no (informal)

Annyeong: lit. “Peace.”; hello (informal) or goodbye (informal)

Annyeong haseyo: hello (more formal)

Annyeonghi gaseyo: lit. “Please go well.”; goodbye; used when you are staying

Annyeonghi gyeseyo: lit. “Please stay well.”; goodbye; used when you are leaving

Anti (or antifan): a particularly virulent and vocal fan who strongly (and often obsessively) dislikes or hates an actor, singer or Kpop group

Appa: dad; casual term for father as opposed to the formal abeoji

Assa: exclamatory phrase used to express excitement or enthusiasm

Banchan: side dishes

Banmal: informal speech; used either when (1) the parties are the same age, or (2) by someone who is older or more senior than you (such as your boss or a more senior employee at work even if he or she is younger than you), or (3) when the parties are familiar with each other (such as a couple in which one partner is older but they agree to use banmal)

Bromance: close platonic relationship between two men

Candy (or Candy girl): a poor but usually cheerful, optimistic and hardworking character who will eventually meet a wealthy man to care for and help her; originated with a character named Candy in the 1975 manga Candy Candy  by Kyoko Mizuki

CF: commercial

Chaebol: wealthy member of a family conglomerate

Chagiya: “darling” or “honey”; term of endearment usually used between dating couples

Chal ga: lit. “Go well.”; goodbye

Chal jja: lit. “Sleep well.”; good night

Cheongmal: really, correct, right, for real

Chigum: now

Chimaek: chicken + maekchu (beer)

Chincha: really, for real, Are you for real?, or I’m being serious.

Chingu: friend

Chosonghamnida: sorry (formal)

Chugeullae (also Chugeulso): “Do you want to die?”

Chukha (also Chukhahamnida): congratulations, as in “saengil chukhahamnida” (happy birthday)

Chuwahae: I like you; usually used as a substitute for saranghae (I love you)

Daebak: awesome, great, excellent, the best; used as an adjective, adverb or noun to express pleasure, surprise, admiration, or enthusiasm for something you like a lot

Daepyonim: president or CEO of a company or business

Dongsaeng: a younger sibling or cousin; also used to refer to any person younger than you with whom you have a close relationship

Eomeoni: mother; more formal than the casual eomma (mom)

Eomma: mom; casual term for mother as opposed to the formal eomeoni

Fangirl (also Fanboy): someone passionately obsessed with a particular actor, singer, model, Kpop group or other entertainer; also used as a verb, i.e. fangirling (or fanboying) when you are in the midst of spazzing out over your favorite entertainer

Fighting! (or Hwaiting!): a phrase used to mean “Good luck!” “Go for it!” or “You can do it!”; usually prefaced by the words “aja aja”

Hallyu: “the Korean Wave”; refers to the spread and increased popularity of Korean pop culture around the world

Halmeoni: lit. “grandmother” but it can be used to refer to any elderly woman

Hanbok: traditional Korean dress

Hangul: Korean script

Harabeoji: lit “grandfather” but it can be used to refer to any elderly man

Hoobae: a fellow student, work colleague or member of your profession who is younger than you are

Hyung: lit. “older brother”; males use the word to refer to an older male with whom they are close, incl. an older brother, an older cousin or other family member, an older friend, or the leader of a gang or other (often illegal) organization

Hyungnim: formal version of hyung

Jimjilbang: Korean spa/bath house

Jjang: the best; in Korean high schools, at least according to the dramas, there is usually one jjang or head student among each sex, usually the best fighter, the top student, or the student with the most money and/or power

Jondaemal: formal or polite speech; honorifics added to the language when speaking to adults, anyone older than you, anyone more senior than you (such as at work or within your profession), strangers, or casual acquaintances

Kamsahamnida: thank you very much

Kimchi: spicy pickled vegetable, most commonly made with cabbage, cucumbers or radish

Kol (or call): “yes” or “I accept”; used to answer in the affirmative or express enthusiastic agreement when someone proposes an activity or participating in an event

Komapseumnida: thank you (formal)

Komawo: thank you (casual)

Kumbae!: cheers!

Kwenchana: I’m fine or no thank you

Love shot: two people simultaneously drinking a shot or other alcohol together with their arms intertwined

Maekchu: beer

Makjang: exaggerated and salacious elements or storylines in a drama or movie such as adultery, extreme greed, birth secrets, fatal diseases, or faux-cest (the allusion or appearance of incest)

Maknae: the youngest member of a group, such as a set of siblings, a Kpop group, or a team or department at work

Matseon: a formal blind date; usually arranged by parents or a matchmaker for the purpose of the participants to potentially get married

Mian (or mianhae): sorry (informal)

Michyeosseo: “Are you crazy?”

Mwoh?: what?

Namja: man

Namja-chingu (or nam-chin): boyfriend

-nim: suffix added to a name or relationship title to show respect, e.g. hyungnim

Noble Idiot: someone who sacrifices their own happiness in the belief that their sacrifice will make the person they are sacrificing for happy when in reality the sacrifice only makes the other person more unhappy; noble idiocy is a very (very) common kdrama cliche

Noona (or nuna): lit. “older sister”; males use the word to refer to an older female with whom they are close, incl. an older sister, an older cousin or other family member, an older friend, or girlfriend; it can also be used as a more casual term to refer to a work colleague

Noonim: formal version of noona

Noraebang: karaoke room

Odi: where

Officetel: studio apartment

Omo: a phrase used to express disbelief or shock, sort of like saying “Oh my gosh” or “No he/she didn’t” in English

One shot: downing a shot or a glass of alcohol without stopping

Onje: when

Oppa: lit. “older brother”; females use the word to refer to an older male with whom they are close, incl. an older brother, an older cousin or other family member, an older friend, or a boyfriend

Orenmanida: long time no see

OTP: “One True Pair”; this is the lead couple who will end up together at the end of the drama or movie in spite of the havoc the pairing may wreak on your heart

Otteokae: lit. “how”; used to ask what to do, such as “What do I do?” or “What should we do?” etc.

Pogoshipeo: I miss you

Pojangmacha: tent restaurants that pop up around the city at night

Sageuk: historical Korean drama, usually set during the Joseon era

Sajangnim: president, CEO, or owner of a company or business

Samonim: lit. teacher’s wife; also used to refer to a married woman of high social status, such as the wife of your supervisor at work or the wife of the President of the company where you work

Sarang: love

Saranghae: I love you

Ship (also shippers or shipping): term used to refer to a viewer’s support or hope that a particular couple will end up together by the end of a drama or movie, e.g. the hotly contested shipping of Trash-Oppa vs. Chilbongie in Answer Me 1994 (tvN 2013)

Skinship: physically touching another person, such as kissing or holding hands

Sogaeting: informal blind date; usually arranged by a mutual friend or acquaintance

Soju: distilled rice liquor; usually in a green bottle; most often consumed in a pojanmacha after a hard day at the office or harrowing, depressing experience

Soju bomb: a shot glass of soju dropped into a glass of mekchu (beer)

Somaek: soju + beer

Songsaengnim: lit. “teacher”; used to refer to an actual teacher or as a general polite title for an older acquaintance

Sonnim: customer

-sshi: suffix added to the end of someone’s name to be polite; similar to calling someone Mr., Ms., or Mrs.

Sunbae: lit. “senior”; used to refer to an older classmate or more senior person at work or in your profession

Unni (or eonni): lit “older sister”; females use the word to refer to an older female with whom they are close, incl. an older sister, an older cousin or other family member, an older friend; it can also be used as a more casual term to refer to a work colleague

Wae?: why?

Ya!: hey

Yeobo: “honey,“ “dear” or “darling”; term of endearment usually used between married couples

Yeoboseyo: hello (used when answering the phone)

Yeoja: woman

Yeoja-chingu: girlfriend

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