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What is Konglish?

What if we told you that even if you’ve never studied Korean a day in your life, you already know plenty of 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!

Kong—WHAT?! Maybe you’ve never heard this word before.

Konglish (Korean: 콩글리쉬) is the Korean version of English words. 

Korean English Konglish

For some words that weren’t in the traditional Korean language, Koreans simply took the English word and sounded it out in Hangeul (the Korean alphabet).

This is great news for you as a student of Korean, because you can start saying words in Korean from the get-go without having to pick up a single book.

Other Konglish words are made from a combination of Korean and/or English words which are not used in English-speaking countries.

This brings us to the disctinction between loan words and true Konglish words.

Konglish vs. Loan Words

Korean words derived from English fall into one of two categories:

a) Loan Words

If the meaning of the word or phrase is the same as it is in English, they are loan words.

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.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

Loan Word (한국어) Romanization/Pronunciation Actual English Translation

keop cup


po-keu fork


cho-kol-lit  chocolate


a-i-seu keu-rim  ice cream


kol-la  cola


ju-seu  juice


pi-ja  pizza


bi-ta-min  vitamin


san-deu-wi-chi  sandwich


wa-in wine

b) Konglish Words

If the meaning of the word or phrases changes from its meaning in English, they are Konglish words.

Often, words and phrases that are borrowed from English (and sometimes other languages) are shortened. Slang words in Korean also are often shortened words, but differ from Konglish words.

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 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) How it Sounds Meaning in Korean


overeat  vomit


gag man  comedian


Burberry  trench coat

A Note on Pronunciation 

There is one thing you need to take into account when reading both loan words 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.

Let’s take a look:

메뉴 (menu)

Pronounced exactly like the English word

오렌지 (orange)

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. 

The other great thing about learning these words is that Koreans will be  impressed with your pronunciation!

They are used to hearing visitors and expats 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!

Konglish Words

80/20 Konglish Word List

First, 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.

We’re sure you’re excited to get rolling, so let’s get you started with 25 of the most frequently used Konglish words!

*Can’t read Korean yet? Click here to learn for free in about 60 minutes!

Konglish Word (한국어) How it Sounds Actual English Translation
에어컨  air con air conditioner
아파트  apart  apartment
센티 centi  centimeter
리모컨 remo con  remote control
와이셔츠 Y-shirt collared dress shirt
셀프 self  self service
나이트 night  night club
노트 note  notebook
헬스 health  health club
원피스 one-piece  dress
밴드 band  bandage/Band-Aid
스탠드 stand  desk lamp
사이다 cider Sprite (soft drink)
아이쇼핑 eye shopping  window shopping
핫도그 hot dog  corn dog
더치페이 Dutch pay Dutch treat
샤프 sharp  mechanical pencil
이벤트 event  sale/promotion
원룸 one room bachelor apartment
원샷 one shot bottom's up
머플러 muffler  scarf
핸드폰 handphone  cell phone
콘센트 consent electrical outlet
서비스 service on the house/free of charge
싸인 sign signature


Comprehensive List of Konglish Words

*Can’t read Korean yet? Click here to learn for free in about 60 minutes!

Konglish Word (한국어) How it Sounds Actual English Translation
wrap plastic wrap
텔레비 telebi  television
텔레비 프로 telebi pro television program
코팅 coating  lamination
시에프 CF  commercial film
레미콘 remi con  ready-mix concrete truck
화이트 white white out (correctional liquid)
드라이버 driver screwdriver
포켓볼 pocketball  pool (billiards game)
클립 clip paper clip
파스 pass  plaster/pain relief patch
크레용 crayong  crayon
크레파스 craypas  crayon/pastel
크림 파스타 cream pasta  pasta with cream sauce
매직펜 magic pen  magic marker
오므라이스 ome-rice  omelette with rice filling
펑크 punc  puncture (flat tire)
레포츠 leports leisure sports
글래머 glamor  a voluptuous woman
백 댄서 back dancer  backup dancer
백 뮤식  back music  background music
백 보컬 back vocal  backing vocals
오픈카 open car  convertible
에로 ero erotic movie
파마 pama  perm
데모 demo  demonstration/protest
다큐 docu  documentary
홈피 home-p  homepage
오에이치피 OHP  overhead projector
트로트 trot  foxtrot (music genre)
트랜스 trans  transformer (power)
체크 check  checkered pattern
콘디션 condition physical condition
미팅 meeting blind date
오토바이 autobi motorcycle
팬티 panty underwear (male or female)
커닝 cunning  cheating
미싱 mising  sewing machine
팬티 panty underwear (male or female)

Now that you’ve got these Konglish words in your vocabulary arsenal, it’s time to put them to use!

The next time you go into a convenience store or supermarket, 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 them sound similar to the English pronunciation, but some are quite different.

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!

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 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!