Aegyo: How to Be Cute in Korean

Last Updated on June 24, 2022 by 90 Day Korean
Two Images of People making Finger Hearts

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

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:

Two Images of People making Finger Hearts

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!

What is aegyo (애교)?

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

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

Aegyo (애교) Pronunciation

The word 애교 (aegyo) is pronounced similar 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 the Hangul, you can learn in just ninety minutes using stories and associations. 

She is excited about Korean aegyo

Who uses aegyo?

Korean aegyo is generally performed by Korean young women, 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 on 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 Kpop idols and celebrities using aegyo 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 by adding 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 the 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 is 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:

KoreanRomanizationMeaning
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 which 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 word 애교 (aegyo) and 살 (sal) which means “fat.”

This trend, which originally started in 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 fats 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:

Korean

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

English:

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. 

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:

KoreanRomanizationMeaning
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.

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!

Photo Credit: Bigstock.com

    31 replies to "Aegyo: How to Be Cute in Korean"

    • Avatar for jinny jinny

      These aren’t really aegyo phrases unless you say them aegyo. They are basic phrases everyone should learn! I’m hungry and where are you are normal to learn!

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        You are right, Jinny! As in the article, adding “ㅇ” at the end of the sentences makes it aegyo. ^^

    • Avatar for Maya Maya

      hi, is -룡 is one of aegyo? and if so on what situation/word that suits to use the -룡? aa for example,
      봤이룡. is it correct?

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Maya! Adding “ㅇ” under the last word will sound like Aegyo! For example, 드라마 봤어요 (I watched TV series) -> 드라마 봤어용 (Aegyo version)! ^^

    • Avatar for Angel2 Angel2

      Can i do aegyo when the guy I like becomes really upset because of me?

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Cute question! It depends on his personality and the reason he’s upset with, Angel! But you could still try it. ^^

    • Avatar for Angel Angel

      Hello, I have got to ask this, do Korean people find the high amount of aeygo on tv annoying? It seems to be on nearly every programme.

    • Avatar for Michael Michael

      ㅋㅋhow can I ask someone to stop doing aegyo??

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi Michael! You can say 애교 그만해요 (Please stop doing aegyo) ^^

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