Konglish: The Ultimate List in 2020

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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!

What is Konglish?

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

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

Korean English Konglish

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).

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. It’s an easy way to start speaking Korean

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.

Loanwords

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:

Konglish Words

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. 

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 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
vomit
comedian
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.

Let’s take a look at the words for “menu” and “orange” (for “orange” the fruit and the color):

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. 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!

Konglish Words

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!

Can't read Korean yet? Click here to learn for free in about 60 minutes!
Konglish Word (한국어)Actual English Translation
air conditioner
apartment
centimeter
remote control
collared dress shirt
self service
night club
notebook
health club
dress
bandage/Band-Aid
desk lamp
Sprite (soft drink)
window shopping
corn dog
Dutch treat
mechanical pencil
sale/promotion
bachelor apartment
bottom's up
scarf
cell phone
electrical outlet
on the house/free of charge
signature
What does the Korean term 서비스 (seobiseu) mean in English?

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
plastic wrap
television
television program
lamination
commercial film
ready-mix concrete truck
white out (correctional liquid)
screwdriver
pool (billiards game)
paper clip
plaster/pain relief patch
crayon
crayon/pastel
pasta with cream sauce
magic marker
omelette with rice filling
puncture (flat tire)
leisure sports
a voluptuous woman
backup dancer
background music
backing vocals
convertible
erotic movie
perm
demonstration/protest
documentary
homepage
overhead projector
foxtrot (music genre)
transformer (power)
checkered pattern
physical condition
blind date
motorcycle
underwear (male or female)
cheating
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. Use them combined with some common Korean words or survival phases like hello and thank you.

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!

    16 replies to "Konglish: The Ultimate List in 2020"

    • Avatar for Llio Llio

      Why is 잘생겼다 spelt with a double-S consonant at the third character(gyo)

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Lilo! Please check this link (www.90daykorean.com/korean-grammar/#korean-verb-tenses) for Korean grammar! The double-S consonant at the bottom makes a sentence past tense. “생기다” means “to grow or to form”, so “생겼어요” would mean “grew or formed” and “잘생겼어요” would be “formed well = handsome”. ^^

    • Avatar for Amidat Amidat

      woah this was really helpful I think I like those kongish words.And I like the word keup it is easy to pronounce.

    • Avatar for Emerald Emerald

      Thanks for this article, I used it for a fun bit of 한글 and pronunciation practice, hiding the columns to guess the Konglish word. Having a lot of fun as a beginner Korean learner! 🙂

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