How to Say ‘Friend’ in Korean

How to Say Friend in Korean

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One of the best parts of learning a new language is all the new friends that you can make. Therefore, it’s an excellent idea to know how to say ‘friend’ in Korean! Once you know this word, you will be able to start talking about your friends in Korean.

Let’s talk about how to say the word ‘friend’ in Korean.

3 women wearing sunglasses are walking along the beach together

The Word ‘Friend’ in Korean

The word for ‘friend’ in Korean is 친구 (chingu). You will hear this word a lot when you are in Korea. However, its usage is a little bit different in Korean than it is in English. This is because Koreans generally only use the word for people of the same age.

Friend in Korean

If somebody is older or younger than you, then they are often referred to as ‘older brother’ or ‘younger brother’. As a result, the words below can also be used to mean ‘friend’ in certain situations:

Someone younger than the speaker동생 (dongsaeng)
A male who is older than the (male) speaker형 (hyeong)
A female who is older than the (male) speaker누나 (nuna)
A male who is older than the (female) speaker오빠 (oppa)
A female who is older than the (female) speaker언니 (eonni)

A Word of Caution About Romanized Korean

Using the Romanized Korean words can be a useful way to pick up a few words. However, it is far easier to memorize words and speak in a way that can be understood if you take the time to learn Hangul, the Korean alphabet. Understanding Hangul can help you notice grammar points and articles, and separate these from vocabulary, making it easier to learn both.

If you want to learn some more essential phrases, check out this article or try our full Korean course.

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Bonus Uses of ‘Friend’ in Korean

While the word 친구 (chingu) only means ‘friend’ in Korean, it is also the building block of the words ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’.

If you want to say ‘boyfriend’ in Korean, you can add the word 남자 (namja) to the word 친구 (chingu) to make the word 남자친구 (namjachingu).

If you want to say ‘girlfriend’ in Korean, you can add the word 여자 (yeoja) to the word 친구 (chingu) to make the word 여자친구 (yeojachingu).


저는 이미 사귀는 남자친구가 있습니다 (jeoneun imi sagwineun namjachinguga itseumnida)

I already have a boyfriend.

저는 이미 사귀는 남자친구가 있어요 (jeoneun imi sagwineun namjachinguga isseoyo)

I already have a boyfriend.

그는 내 친구의 친구야 (geuneun nae chinguui chinguya)

He’s a friend of a friend.

난 우리가 친구라고 생각했어 (nan uriga chingurago saenggakaesseo)

I thought we were friends.

How to Remember the Korean Word 친구 (chingu)

The word 친구 (chingu) is quite easy to remember. You can imagine the first part ‘chin’ as your chin, and the second part ‘gu’ as some goo. If you had some goo on your chin, then wouldn’t your friend let you know?

British readers can also remember the word by imagining the cute penguin from the TV show ‘pingu’. Everybody wants Pingu to be their ‘chingu’.

Now that you know how to say ‘friend’ in Korean, go out there and make some new Korean friends!

Want more Korean phrases? Go to our Korean Phrases Page for a complete list!

    8 replies to "How to Say ‘Friend’ in Korean"

    • Danica

      I saw on Instagram an older girl (2 year age gap) calling her best friend 언니 in the comments. is this acceptable?

      • 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Danica! It’s possible that the younger friend did something grateful, such as giving a gift, to the older one! People say 언니 or 오빠 in a humorous way, too! ^^

    • banuja

      how do you say “they are the best of friends”??
      thank you

      • 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Banuja! You can say “그들은 최고의 친구들이야.” ^^

    • Tee

      I have always been curious about the honorifics and the term chingu in Korean. Suppose someone is in the same class year as you in primary/middle school or even college, but that person started school late so him/her is one year older than you. However, that person is your classmate. In that case, can you call the person your chingu? Do you have to call them hyeonh/nuna/oppa/eonni or can you just call them by their name?

      • 90 Day Korean

        Good question, Tee! In that case, the person is your “동기” (a classmate), not necessarily “친구” (a friend). In Korea, we usually call them 형/누나/오빠/언니 when you have the age gap even if you’re classmates! ^^

    • Brad

      I don’t understand the extent of friendship in Korean language. In the west, you can be 20-30 years older than someone and still be their “friend.”
      I guess we don’t have that in Korean, right?

      I have a female Korean homestay who says I’m neither chingu nor Oppa (she say Oppa is also boyfriend).

      At best, I’m ahjassi??

      • 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Brad! It might take time for you to get close enough for her to consider you 친구 (chingu). Do your best! ^^

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