How to Say ‘Happy Birthday’ in Korean

Last Updated on May 7, 2021 by 90 Day Korean
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One day that is special for everyone is his or her birthday. It’s an important day to celebrate, so make sure you mark your calendars. This goes for Koreans, too!

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Maybe you have some Korean friends or a Korean significant other. Or you might be taking a trip to Korea soon, and want to make a good impression during your visit by studying this vocabulary. Then you’ll definitely want to know the words for “happy birthday” in Korean.

But how do we say “Happy Birthday” in Korean? There are a few different ways, and you can also use the happy birthday verb for other situations. It’s quite useful!

Looking to get some singing practice? Well, you’re in luck then. Not only will we explain that phrase, but we’ll also teach you the famous Happy Birthday song--in Korean! We’re also including our gift to you of a FREE PDF version of this lesson you can take with you on the go. Check it out below:

Let’s get to it.

How to Say HAPPY BIRTHDAY in Korean | 90 Day Korean


“Happy Birthday” in Korean Explanation

First, let’s start with the word “birthday” itself. “Birthday” is one of those special Korean words that have an honorific version of the word, which is used when talking to people about a generation (or more) older than you.

Some other nouns with this honorific form include “age”, and “house”. Some verbs with an honorific form include “to exist”, “to eat”, and “to sleep”. These are keywords to know if you want to learn to speak Korean

 Happy Birthday in Korean Explanation

The regular word for birthday is 생일 (saengil). You can use this word when referring to your own birthday. You can also use it when referring to the birthday of somebody who is of a similar or younger age to yourself.

However, if you want to refer to the birthday of somebody who is a lot older than you then you should use the word 생신 (saengsin) instead. You would likely use this version of “birthday” with people such as your grandparents or older relatives.

We’ll give you the different formal levels to pronounce it below in the 한글 (Hangeul), the Korean alphabet, with romanization. But if you can’t read the Korean alphabet yet, it’d be a massive boost to your Korean learning if you did. It’s easy to learn so why not give it a try?

Formal ‘Happy Birthday’ in Korean

1. How to Say Happy birthday in Korean formal

You can use this phrase when saying “happy birthday” to people who are much older than you. It uses the formal word for birthday.

The verb here is 축하하다 (chukahada), which means “to celebrate” or “to congratulate”. It’s combined with the verb 드리다 (deurida), which is the formal version of “to give”. You would use this version of happy birthday in Korean to show a lot of respect for the person you’re saying it to. You might use this with your grandparents or your professor at your university.

You can use a less formal version (such as the standard or informal version) of “happy birthday” if it’s someone that is close to you and/or younger than you.

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Standard “Happy Birthday” in Korean

1. (saengil chukahamnida)How to Say Happy birthday in Korean standard


These are two set phrases and can be used on most occasions. They are also the versions of “happy birthday” that appear on birthday cards. The first version of the Korean “happy birthday” song (below).

The two versions are similar, except that the 합니다 (hamnida) version is slightly more formal.

The word 축하합니다 (chukahamnida) in 생일 축하합니다 (saengil chukahamnida) means “to congratulate”. You can say this word on its own if you want to congratulate somebody on achieving something. If you only want to learn one way of how to say “happy birthday” in Korean, then learn this phrase.

Informal “Happy Birthday” in Korean

1. How to Say Happy birthday in Korean informal

You can use this when saying “happy birthday” to very close friends of a similar age. It’s very similar to 생일 축하해요 (saengnil chukahaeyo), except the final ‘요 (yo)’ is dropped at the end. This makes it much more informal. Use it wisely!

Some examples of people you might use this version of the phrase with would be close friends, young children, spouses, or your siblings. Even though it’s informal, there is some benefit in using this ‘happy birthday’ phrase appropriately. It shows a degree of closeness that you wouldn’t get with the other more formal versions.

Birthdays in Korea

Birthdays in Korea

Usually, on people’s birthdays, their friends or co-workers will buy them a birthday cake. The cake is then eaten as a group.

When buying a cake in Korea, you will often be asked how many candles 양초 (yangcho) you need. These candles, along with some matches, will be placed inside the cake’s box.

People often eat seaweed soup 미역국 (miyeokguk) on their birthday as this is a food that mothers often eat during pregnancy in Korea.

In the past, infant mortality was very high in Korea, so traditionally, a child’s first birthday is very important. Parents will throw a huge party, called a 돌잔치 (doljanchi) on this day. They will invite lots of people. If you live in Korea, you might end up being invited to such a party.

How to Sing “Happy Birthday” in Korean

How to Sing Happy Birthday in Korean

This follows the same tune as “happy birthday” in English and is very easy to learn:

♩ ♪ ♫

생일 축하합니다 

생일 축하합니다 

사랑하는 (insert name) 씨

생일 축하합니다

♪ ♫


saengil chukahamnida

saengil chukahamnida

saranghaneun (insert name) ssi

saengil chukahamnida


Now that you know how to say AND sing “happy birthday” in Korean, why not write a birthday greeting too? Creating one will be easier if you learn about the Korean sentence structure. Now, it’s time to go out and celebrate!

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

    53 replies to "How to Say ‘Happy Birthday’ in Korean"

    • Avatar for Laurent Laurent

      In that song, ‘saranghaneun’ means love, right? Is it okay to sing that to my friend, without making the person misunderstand the meaning?

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Laurent! When you use “사랑하는” in front of someone’s name, it means “dear ~”. It’s okay to say it to your friend. ^^

    • Avatar for minari minari

      Is it ok that instead of ____ ssi, I will just replace it by saying the first name? Because i am greeting someone younger.

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Minari! You should call that person “name + 씨” at the beginning even if that person is younger than you! After you get close to each other, you can ask if it’s okay to call him/her by his/her name. ^^

      • Avatar for Shruthi Shruthi

        I don’t know
        But maybe you can add
        It means younger sibling
        Or I guess you can add uri(우리) it means our and you can add the name
        It will be
        Saranghaneun uri ( name)

        • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

          You can use 동생, it is a term used to call younger sibling. 사랑하는 우리 [name] can be used as well, it means “my dear [name]” in English.

    • Avatar for saelang saelang

      is is necessary to add ssi after the name of the person?

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Saelang! If you are close to that person, you don’t have to add ssi after the name. ^^

      • Avatar for Tavishi Tavishi

        ssi Is a syllable used to show respect for a person ,if a person’s name is Hong ya chul so if you call him out by that itself it sounds kinda rude but if you call him Hong ya chul ssi it sounds more respectful and polite . however it is not necessary to use it . among friends it is common to not use ssi . just use it when you’re taking to some person elder to you.

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