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Konglish

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/PronunciationActual English Translation
keopcup
포크po-keufork
초콜릿cho-kol-litchocolate
아이스크림a-i-seu keu-rimice cream
콜라kol-lacola
주스ju-seujuice
피자pi-japizza
비타민bi-ta-minvitamin
샌드위치san-deu-wi-chisandwich
와인wa-inwine

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 SoundsMeaning in Korean
오바이트overeatvomit
개그맨gag mancomedian
버버리Burberrytrench 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!

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Konglish Word (한국어)How it SoundsActual English Translation
에어컨air conair conditioner
아파트apartapartment
센티centicentimeter
리모컨remo conremote control
와이셔츠Y-shirtcollared dress shirt
셀프selfself service
나이트nightnight club
노트notenotebook
헬스healthhealth club
원피스one-piecedress
밴드bandbandage/Band-Aid
스탠드standdesk lamp
사이다ciderSprite (soft drink)
아이쇼핑eye shoppingwindow shopping
핫도그hot dogcorn dog
더치페이Dutch payDutch treat
샤프sharpmechanical pencil
이벤트eventsale/promotion
원룸one roombachelor apartment
원샷one shotbottom's up
머플러mufflerscarf
핸드폰handphonecell phone
콘센트consentelectrical outlet
서비스serviceon the house/free of charge
싸인signsignature

 

Comprehensive List of Konglish Words

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Konglish Word (한국어)How it SoundsActual English Translation
wrapplastic wrap
텔레비telebitelevision
텔레비 프로telebi protelevision program
코팅coatinglamination
시에프CFcommercial film
레미콘remi conready-mix concrete truck
화이트whitewhite out (correctional liquid)
드라이버driverscrewdriver
포켓볼pocketballpool (billiards game)
클립clippaper clip
파스passplaster/pain relief patch
크레용crayongcrayon
크레파스craypascrayon/pastel
크림 파스타cream pastapasta with cream sauce
매직펜magic penmagic marker
오므라이스ome-riceomelette with rice filling
펑크puncpuncture (flat tire)
레포츠leportsleisure sports
글래머glamora voluptuous woman
백 댄서back dancerbackup dancer
백 뮤식back musicbackground music
백 보컬back vocalbacking vocals
오픈카open carconvertible
에로eroerotic movie
파마pamaperm
데모demodemonstration/protest
다큐docudocumentary
홈피home-phomepage
오에이치피OHPoverhead projector
트로트trotfoxtrot (music genre)
트랜스transtransformer (power)
체크checkcheckered pattern
콘디션conditionphysical condition
미팅meetingblind date
오토바이autobimotorcycle
팬티pantyunderwear (male or female)
커닝cunningcheating
미싱misingsewing machine
팬티pantyunderwear (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!