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What if we told you that even if you’ve never studied Korean a day in your life, you already know plenty of Korean words!
How is this possible? Perhaps you were a Korean scholar in your past life? Or maybe your roommate has been secretly teaching you in your sleep.
While those may be possibilities, the more likely scenario is because of a good friend of ours—Konglish!
Read on and get all the details below.
Here’s a free PDF list of Konglish you can download and refer to when you need it.
Let’s get to it!
- 1 What is Konglish?
- 2 Konglish vs. Loanwords
- 3 A Note on Pronunciation
- 4 Konglish Words
- 5 How to Use Konglish Words
What is Konglish?
Kong—WHAT?! Maybe you’ve never heard of this term before.
Konglish (콩글리쉬) is the Korean version of English words.
For some words that weren’t in the traditional Korean language, Korean people simply took the English word and sounded it out in Hangeul (the Korean alphabet).
Other Konglish words are made from a combination of Korean and/or English words that are not used in English-speaking countries.
This brings us to the distinction between loanwords and true Konglish words.
Konglish vs. Loanwords
Korean words derived from English fall into one of two categories: 1) Loanwords and 2) Konglish Words.
If the meaning of the word or phrase is the same as it is in English, they are loanwords. Some common loanwords also come from the Japanese and German languages.
These words are easier for even native speakers of English to understand because the pronunciation is easily recognizable and the meaning of the word remains the same. Therefore, even without knowing Korean, you may be able to understand these words.
Below we’ll look at some examples. Click on the audio to hear the pronunciation of the words. Look for a yellow speaker icon followed by the word, and click on the yellow speaker. Here’s an example:
|Loan Word (한국어)||Actual English Translation|
If the meaning of the word or phrases changes from its meaning in English, we refer to them as Konglish words. If you have studied Japanese, you may notice some similarities.
For native speakers of English, these can be more difficult to understand. Without studying the meanings, in some cases, it would be hard to understand what Koreans are referring to—even though they are derived from English! Depending on the context, you may be able to decipher the meanings, but still, they require a little learning.
Words and phrases borrowed from English or other languages are often shortened if Koreans feel they are too long, and these shortened words account for a large number of Konglish words.
Also, sometimes Konglish words add morphemes or combine English words to create new words. In many cases, the word takes on a Korean meaning that is exclusive to Korean speakers and native English speakers may not be able to comprehend its meaning.
|Konglish Word (한국어)||Meaning in Korean|
|버버리 (beobeori)||trench coat|
A Note on Pronunciation
There is one thing you need to take into account when reading both loanwords and Konglish words, and that is pronunciation.
Since we’re sounding out English words in Korean, the words may sometimes sound slightly different than the standard English pronunciation. Some will sound identical, and some will sound a bit different to you.
Pronounced exactly like the English word
Pronounced similar to “orange”. However, there is an extra syllable in the Korean version. Therefore, the pronunciation sounds like “o-ren-ji”
Yikes! You may be wondering: “How do I know when the pronunciation is slightly different than English?” Great question!
If you’re looking at the word in Hangeul, then you just follow that pronunciation. If you can’t read the Korean alphabet, then learn the Hangeul fast and easy here.
The other great thing about learning these words is that Koreans will be impressed with your pronunciation!
They are used to hearing Korean learners saying “orange”.
So, if you kick things off with the pronunciation “o-ren-ji”, you already get bonus points! Koreans will recognize your language skills, so you will get more Korean speaking opportunities if you want them. Stepping up as King of Konglish reaps many benefits!
Let’s get our feet wet by going through the most commonly used Konglish vocabulary words. Then we’ll go to the full list.
80/20 Konglish Word List
Now we’re going to cover some of the most frequently used Konglish words. These words follow the “80/20 Principle”, which states that “20% of vocabulary is used 80% of the time.”
While we’ll cover the comprehensive list of Konglish words below, use these 25 to get started with. These are commonly used Konglish words that you should put most of your focus on in the beginning in order to save time and avoid overwhelm. These are the words you want to refer to often.
We’re sure you’re excited to get rolling, so let’s get you started with 25 of the most frequently used Konglish words!
|Konglish Word (한국어)||Actual English Translation|
|collared dress shirt|
|나이트 (naiteu)||night club|
|Sprite (soft drink)|
|핫도그 (hatdogeu)||corn dog|
|더치페이 (deochipei)||Dutch treat|
|원룸 (wollum)||bachelor apartment|
|원샷 (wonsyat)||bottom's up|
|on the house/free of charge|
Comprehensive List of Konglish Words
If you’re loving the Konglish vocabulary so far, and want to up your skills, then we’ve got a full list for you right here!
|Konglish Word (한국어)||Actual English Translation|
|텔레비 프로 (tellebi peuro)||television program|
|레미콘 (remikon)||ready-mix concrete truck|
|white out (correctional liquid)|
|pool (billiards game)|
|plaster/pain relief patch|
|크림 파스타 (keurim paseuta)||pasta with cream sauce|
|오므라이스 (omeuraiseu)||omelette with rice filling|
|펑크 (peongkeu)||puncture (flat tire)|
|레포츠 (repocheu)||leisure sports|
|글래머 (geullaemeo)||a voluptuous woman|
|백 댄서 (baek daenseo)||backup dancer|
|백 뮤식 (baek myusik)||background music|
|백 보컬 (baek bokeol)||backing vocals|
|에로 (ero)||erotic movie|
|오에이치피 (oeichipi)||overhead projector|
|트로트 (teuroteu)||foxtrot (music genre)|
|트랜스 (teuraenseu)||transformer (power)|
|underwear (male or female)|
|미싱 (mising)||sewing machine|
How to Use Konglish Words
Now that you’ve got these Konglish words in your vocabulary arsenal, it’s time to put them to use!
Konglish in Everyday Life
The next time you go into a convenience store or supermarket in South Korea, you can ask for one of the items. Even if you don’t understand Korean yet, that’s fine. Usually, you can guess from the context of the situation when someone is asking if you’re looking for something.
Once you hear a question-like sentence, it’s time to spring into action with your newfound Konglish knowledge!
Remember, it’s key to practice the pronunciation of these words. Some of the words sound similar to the English pronunciation, but some are quite different. If you are traveling to or living in South Korea, then you have chances to build up your skills every day.
The sooner you can get in the groove of pronouncing words like a Korean, the better you’ll be understood. The more you are understood, the more motivated you’ll be to learn the language!
Reading and Writing Konglish
You can also get to know these words better by looking out for them as you go about your day. When you’re out shopping or doing errands, try to spot the Hangeul for the words you learned today. Writing them will also be good practice!
Although it may be tempting to use the Romanized version of a word (“menu” instead of “메뉴”), it’s better to get in the habit of writing the Hangeul. You’ll learn faster and South Korea will become a more familiar place much quicker!
It’s exciting to know that it’s possible to learn Korean quickly if you focus on the right parts of the language, and make it FUN.
What your favorite Konglish word? Let us know in the comments below!