Aegyo: How to Be Cute in Korean

If you want to add some cuteness and adorability to the way you speak Korean, then aegyo may be the thing you need!

A girl with her hands up in a peace sign, with a cute expression


If you’re a fan of Korean Dramas and K-Pop, you may have heard fans calling on their idols to do aegyo. You may be asking, “what is the meaning of the Korean word aegyo?” 

We’ll explain what it means and what you need to know to up your aegyo game!

We’ve included a FREE PDF version of this lesson that you can take with you on the go. Level up your aegyo moves! Check out our free resource below:

What is aegyo (애교)?

Aegyo (애교) is when a person acts cute or in a childish way despite not being a young child themselves.  

Doing aegyo is a way of acting cute that is popular in Korean culture, especially among K-Pop idols.

Aegyo Meaning

The Korean word 애교 (aegyo ) literally means “behaving cutely.” This can be compared to the English term “cuteness.”  

Aegyo (애교) Pronunciation

The word 애교 (aegyo) is pronounced similarly to “egg-yo.” However, it should sound a bit more like “e-ggyo.”

Why do people use aegyo (애교)?

One reason for using aegyo to act cute is to flirt with a guy or girl you like. Many Koreans find it adorable to see your cute side. 

You can also use it to get something that you want. Aegyo is a great way to show affection to your friends, family, or loved ones and is a fixture of modern culture in South Korea. However, aegyo is not for everyone–we’ll explain why a bit later!

If you are impressed by somebody’s aegyo moves, then you can say 귀여워요 (gwiyeowoyo), which means “cute” in Korean (dictionary form: 귀엽다 | gwiyeopda).

By the way, this article contains Korean words written in Hangul, the Korean alphabet. If you can’t read Hangul, you can learn in just ninety minutes using stories and associations. 

Who uses aegyo?

Korean aegyo is generally about young women making cute gestures, although some men might use it too from time to time.  Some might find that when some men use aegyo, it makes them feel uncomfortable or weirded out. Having that kind of aegyo experience might even cause you to get 닭살 (dakssal | goosebumps)!

Of course, most people don’t use aegyo in an extreme way. In fact, quite a lot of Korean people hate it!

You can often find the more ridiculous examples of aegyo in Korean dramas or comedy shows. Those examples are very different from how people might use them in real life since Korean dramas themselves aren’t a particularly accurate portrayal of Korea in such a way as they are oftentimes exaggerated.

These days, you can see lots of people in the Korean entertainment industry, like K-pop idols and Korean celebrities, using aegyo. And it’s not just among young women but with men, too. In South Korea, you can see aegyo being used in many places. 

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How To Do Aegyo

You can do aegyo by doing different styles of cute displays, such as pouting, using a baby voice, etc. This instantly makes someone adorable or lovable. The purpose of aegyo is to act adorable, especially to get your own way or something you want.

To do aegyo, you should use babyish actions, a cute voice or cute hand gestures, and facial expressions to achieve a desirable result.  These cute displays can immediately light up a room or make people happy. You can demonstrate aegyo cuteness through the way you speak, act, dress, decorate your room, and your overall demeanor.

Here are the specific things that you can do:

Stretching the final vowel of a word

You can use this type of aegyo cuteness if a word ends in a vowel. In this case, the vowel would be stretched to sound cuter (or whiny, depending on your perspective, this guy, in particular, hates it). The word 오빠 (oppa) is a good example of this kind of aegyo. It means “older brother” for those not familiar with 오빠 (Oppa). Girls use it to refer to a guy who is a little bit older than them.

Since lots of guys like being called “Oppa,” using this word in a cute aegyo manner has more effect than other words might. Unfortunately for guys, using aegyo to show cuteness in this way with the word 누나 (Nuna) will not have quite the same effect.

Extra ㅁ’s and ㅇ’s 

One option to spice up your text messages and emails with aegyo is to add the letters “m” or “ng.” Another option is to add extra consonants and wavy line symbols at the end of every word in a vowel. 

Here are a few examples of how aegyo can be used with consonants:

1. Changing 오빠 (oppa) to 오빵 (oppang)

2. Changing 배고파 (baegopa) to 배 고팡 (baegopang)

3. Changing 헬로 (hello) to 헬롱 (hellong)

4. Changing 어디야? (eodiya) to 어디얌? (eodiyam)

Be warned; this can drive you mad if you use a dictionary to translate somebody’s 애교 (aegyo) text messages! 

If you’re looking for a Korean dictionary to help translate some of this aegyo, check these out

The 요 (yo) at the end of many Korean sentences are also often written as 용 (yong) when people are using this sort of aegyo. For example, 뭐해요 (mwohaeyo) may be changed to 뭐해용 (mwohaeyong).

Texting in this manner is not uncommon. Some people also take their aegyo a step further by adding these extra consonants (자음 | jaeum) when speaking as well.

Using basic hand gestures

This expression of aegyo uses their hands to make cute symbols like a heart or “V” sign (The Korean “V,” not the English “V”) in situations outside of having their photograph taken. Sometimes, even ajjoshis (older Korean men) can be seen making the “V” sign on occasions.

Korean aegyo hand gesture
Korean aegyo hand gesture

The hands can also be used to accentuate cuteness in the face by creating mock dimples or a “V” shaped chin. Watch the hand gestures in Gee if you want to learn some new aegyo hand gestures. Pouting is also included in this level of Korean aegyo.

Wearing Lotte World hairbands outside of Lotte World

Lotte World in Korea is an indoor amusement park near Jamsil Station that is open all year round. Many people have dates there, and it’s a great spot to see aegyo cuteness being used. At Lotte World, a trendy item on sale is animal ear hairbands. They look cute, and you will see lots of people wearing these around Lotte World.

Aegyo hairbands

While wearing this inside, Lotte World is, of course, aegyo too. It is a generally accepted thing to do. After all, you are in a world with fairies and pirates, so why not wear 호피무늬 (hopimunui | leopard print) cat’s ears? Wearing these in public is not a common thing to do but is a sign of extra aegyo.

Full-on body movement

This next level of aegyo is similar to using hand gestures. The difference is that this level of aegyo uses the whole body (including foot stomps and noises to go with the gestures). By this stage, we are definitely entering TV drama aegyo territory, which is an excellent resource for learning Korean, by the way.

At this point, some readers may wish to address these aegyo ways of the people they are around. One way to do this is by using the verb 척하다 (cheokada).  You can use it to say:

gwiyowoon chokhadato pretend to be cute
yeppun chokhadato pretend to be pretty

Using the 뿌잉뿌잉 Hand Gesture

Although this is a hand gesture, it is so closely associated with Korean aegyo. It is the more ridiculous type of aegyo that you see with K Pop idols and on Korean gag shows like this one, so it needs its own level.

There are several long-running jokes on Korean comedy shows that involve actors doing the “ppuing ppuing” aegyo.

Korean Aegyo Sal

Aegyo Sal (애교살) is an ever-growing trend in Korea wherein people would accentuate their puffy eyes as a way to be charming or cute. It comes from the words 애교 (aegyo) and 살 (sal), which means “fat.”

This trend, which originally started in South Korea, is gaining popularity in other places in the world, like Japan and other parts of Asia. 

While some folks would do their hardest to disguise under-eye puffiness, K-Beauty fans are embracing the eyebags with this new trend. In fact, some go as far as having fat injected into their under eyes!

According to this trend, small deposits of fat under your eyes (called “charming fat”) make your eyes pop and consequently would make you more youthful.

Korean Aegyo Song

Everyone has probably heard of the Gwiyomi Song, at least once. It’s an extremely catchy song and is used to express cuteness. The lyrics don’t really mean a lot, but they do make for a very adorable song. 

Gwiyomi Song Lyrics

If you haven’t heard this irresistible tune yet, here’s a snippet:


1더하기1은 귀요미
2더하기2는 귀요미
3더하기3은 귀요미
귀귀 귀요미 귀귀 귀요미
4더하기4도 귀요미
5더하기5도 귀요미
6더하기6은 쪽쪽쪽쪽쪽쪽 귀요미 난 귀요미


1 plus 1 equals Gwiyomi
2 plus 2 equals Gwiyomi
3 plus 3 equals Gwiyomi
4 plus 4 equals Gwiyomi too
5 plus 5 equals Gwiyomi too
6 plus 6 equals chu chu chu chu chu chu Gwiyomi
I’m Gwiyomi

Watch this video to see some cute hand gestures that you can do with this aegyo song. 

She is excited about Korean aegyo

Korean Aegyo Words and Phrases

Here is a summary list of common Korean aegyo phrases and words. We’ll show the comparison between the standard form and the aegyo form. Then, we’ll give you the English meaning.

Standard KoreanAegyoAegyo RomanizationMeaning
오빠 oppangolder brother
배고파 baegopangI'm hungry (informal)
배고파요 baegopayongI'm hungry (standard)
보고싶어요 bogosipeoyongI miss you (standard)
보고싶어 bogopangI miss you (informal)
어디야? eodayam?Where are you? (informal)

If someone’s aegyo is getting on your nerves, then you might want to say:

kwiyowoon chokhaji maseyostop pretending to be cute

For more Korean terms of endearment, go here

If you liked this and want to improve your Korean language skills, then head over then go to our Korean Phrases resource page

If you’d like to express yourself better in Korean, you’ll need a structured course to help you learn Korean efficiently. The 90 Day Korean Membership program helps you achieve your Korean language goals in a short amount of time. You’ll be having 3-minute conversations in Korean in the first 90 days! Check out the 90 Day Korean Membership program here.

Wrap Up

Now that you know the different levels of aegyo, you can more easily recognize these expressions of cuteness when you see them. Of course, most people don’t use a lot of the high levels of aegyo seriously except for on TV or in dramas, but the first few levels are used quite regularly.

Which level of aegyo would you use with your partner, and which levels do you think are unacceptable in public? Let us know in the comments below!

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31 thoughts on “Aegyo: How to Be Cute in Korean”

  1. I should be sleeping but I can’t stop reading your posts, thank you for providing all this info, I’m glad I found your site! I am trying to learn Korean so I’m learning about terms and customs and you have helped me a lot. Thank you!

  2. I think maybe young people can use it, I would be very hesitant. despite many people saying I look younger than my years, I would be nervous about doing so! all the same it’s interesting to read about.

  3. Good explain, but Koreans get annoyed when foreigners use Aigo, it’s a special thing and it only looks good on Koreans, or you will be look like a koreaboo.

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