Korean greetings – Various ways to acknowledge someone

In this article, you can find all of the most useful and common Korean greetings, which will help you get started in using Korean faster. After all, many of these are Korean phrases you’ll use in your very first conversation in Korean!

A smiling young girl in pigtails waving

Even if you have no intention of becoming fluent in the Korean language, learning different greetings and other basic dialogue will be of tremendous help during your travels.

Why is it important to learn Korean greetings?

If you have been exploring our lessons for some time now, you may have already come across multiple greetings. Learning the common Korean greetings is one of the first things you will learn in any language. And it’s also one of the most important aspects of learning a language if you want to be able to communicate properly, starting from a basic level.

No matter how fun traveling can be, it can be quite daunting to visit a new country, especially if you are hearing an entirely unfamiliar and new language. It’s not always a guarantee that native Korean speakers you interact with can speak enough English, and especially the street signs may feel like confusing blabber to you.

Unfortunately, we cannot translate those street signs for you right now, but we can ease your arrival in South Korea a little bit with these greetings in Korean.

What are Korean Greetings?

Just like in your mother tongue, Korean greetings are also simple ways to start learning and initiate conversations with both strangers and familiar faces. They can be used in shops and restaurants, and other similar establishments.

They can be used with Korean friends and family, and they can be used when meeting someone new. Some of them are useful for any scenario, while others may be perfect to use in a certain situation.

By greeting a person in Korean, you can not only impress them but also make them feel more at ease. Even if you switch the potential conversation to English right after, knowing how to greet a person in the Korean language is a great show of respect and appreciation towards them.

Common Korean Greetings

Below, you can find all the basic Korean greetings that will be useful to you when you visit South Korea. We’ve included how they’re written in Korean along with the romanization to help you read them easily.

However, we encourage our learners to focus on learning Korean characters as much as possible and not rely on romanization for Korean pronunciation. This will help you accurately learn the proper pronunciation, which is more helpful in the long run. We’ve included the standard, formal and informal ways of saying them. Let’s start!

“Hello” in Korean

Depending on the level of formality required in the situation, there are three ways to say “hello” in Korean: 안녕하십니까 (annyeonghasimnikka), 안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo), and 안녕 (annyeong).

Standard “hello” in Korean

안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo) is the standard version of “hello” in Korean. It’s undoubtedly the most common way to say “hello,” as it is applicable to nearly any situation. Thus, it’s also likely to be the first word you’ll be taught in a Korean class.

You can use 안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo) whenever you walk into a store, when greeting your teacher, or when meeting with someone you know but may not be that close with. You actually can also use this when greeting an unfamiliar person, too, in most cases.

Formal “hello” in Korean

On the other hand, if you want to say “hello” in Korean using its most formal version, you can say 안녕하십니까 (annyeonghasimnikka). You can hear this being used in announcements and speeches, for example. It is also quite often used in Korean news.

This is a great way to say “hello” on your very first meeting with someone and want to show extra respect to them. Especially if the new person is someone who is much older than you or has a higher level of authority, 안녕하십니까 (annyeonghasimnikka) should be used.

For example, if you are about to meet your friend’s parents for the first time, you would want to greet them with 안녕하십니까 (annyeonghasimnikka).

Informal “hello” in Korean

Finally, there’s also hello in casual speech: 안녕 (annyeong). If you are greeting someone who is younger than you or is a close friend, you can drop the formalities and simply say 안녕 (annyeong).

However, you may want to refrain from using casual/informal speech on more formal occasions or around older people in Korea. You can think of 안녕 (annyeong) as a way to say “hi” in Korean.

“Hello” in Korean for phone calls

If you need to say “hello” over the phone when answering a call, you can use the Korean phrase 여보세요 (yeoboseyo) instead.

You can learn more about this by reading our article dedicated to “Hello” in Korean.

“Good Morning” in Korean

There are various ways to say “good morning” to someone, depending on who you are speaking with.

Standard “good morning” in Korean

One way to say “Good morning” in Korean is 좋은아침이에요 (joeunachimieyo). This is the standard way of speaking and is thus appropriate to use in most situations, except when a higher degree of formality is expected. Its literal translation is, “The morning is good.”

Additionally, you can also greet someone in the morning by asking 잘 잤어요? (jal jasseoyo?). This is the Korean equivalent of “Did you sleep well?” and is an incredibly common way for local people in South Korea to greet each other in the morning time.

Formal “good morning” in Korean

However, sometimes, you may need to be more formal when greeting someone in the morning. In this case, you can ask them if they’ve slept well by saying either 잘 주무셨어요? (jal jumusyeosseoyo) or 안녕히 주무셨어요? (annyeonghi jumusyeosseoyo). They both essentially have the same meaning.

Although in the latter’s case, the implication is more on asking whether someone slept peacefully rather than well. Alternatively, you can also use 좋은 아침th입니다 (joeun achimimnida) in a formal speech in the morning hours.

Informal “good morning” in Korean

Finally, it is also possible to greet someone with “Good morning” in an informal way. If you are greeting a close friend, you can get casual and say 잘 잤어? (jal jasseo) or 좋은 아침 (joeun achim).

You can learn more about this greeting by reading our article dedicated to “Good Morning” in Korean. If you’d like to say “good night” instead, we also have a separate article for “good night” in the Korean language here.

“Welcome” in Korean

There are multiple ways to welcome someone in Korean, for example, when they are visiting your home.

Standard “Welcome” in Korean

You can typically say 어서 오세요 (eoseo oseyo). This is the standard form for saying welcome in Korean, and it is applicable in many different situations.

Formal “Welcome” in Korean

If the situation is more formal, such as if you are arriving for a job interview, the proper phrase used is 어서 오십시오 (eoseo osipsio). As you can see, it uses a more formal grammar pattern for speaking.

Informal “Welcome” in Korean

Also, if you are greeting a close friend or a much younger person in a casual way, you can simply use 어서 와 (eoseo wa). It is the informal version of “welcome,” perfect to use when you are closely bonded with someone.

Uncommon way to say “welcome in Korean”

You may have also heard of the Korean word 환영하다 (hwanyeonghada) as one that means “welcome.”

It is not incorrect, as this is something that you can find in the dictionary. It is also a word that you’ll be taught in your first Korean class, right alongside 안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo). However, this is not actually a common way you’ll hear in use when someone greets you with a “welcome” in Korean.

You can learn more about this by reading our article dedicated to “Welcome” in Korean.

“Nice to Meet You” in Korean

Just like with other greetings in Korean up until now, there are also three ways to say nice to meet you in Korean: 만나서 반갑습니다 (mannaseo bangapseumnida), 만나서 반가워요 (mannaseo bangawoyo), and 만나서 반가워 (mannaseo bangawo).

Standard “Nice to meet you” in Korean

만나서 반가워요 (mannaseo bangawoyo) is the standard way of saying “nice to meet you.”

It’s still under polite speech and can be used in any situation. However, it is recommended to use this mostly in cases where you are speaking to someone of the same age or rank. Otherwise, it’s better to stick to being formal when saying, “nice to meet you.”

Formal “Nice to meet you” in Korean

If you want to say “nice to meet you” in a more formal version, you can use the phrase 만나서 반갑습니다 (mannaseo bangapseumnida). This is great to use when meeting someone for the first time, especially if you are in a business setting.

It is also the perfect form to use when addressing a larger group of Koreans or when meeting someone of a higher rank.

Informal “Nice to meet you” in Korean

Lastly, 만나서 반가워 (mannaseo bangawo) is the informal way to greet somebody with “nice to meet you.” You will likely only use this in situations where you are talking to children upon meeting them for the first time.

You can learn more about this by reading our article dedicated to “Nice to Meet You” in Korean.

“How Are You” in Korean

There are different ways to say “How are you?” in Korean, in different levels of formality, including. If you’d like to learn all the different possible greetings for saying “How are you?” in Korean, we have an article dedicated to How Are You in Korean. Directly below, we will introduce you to three possible ones you can get started on using right away.

Standard “How are you” in Korean

잘 지냈어요? (jal jinaesseoyo) is the standard way of asking, “How are you?”. Or specifically, whether someone has been living well. As a response, you may get a short “yes” or a longer explanation.

If you want to phrase your question as one that might prompt a more detailed answer, switch 잘 (jal) with the question word for “how,” 어떻게 (eotteoke). You can use this with anyone you are not close to, excluding situations where a higher level of formality is expected.

Formal “How are you” in Korean

For a formal question, you may use 잘 지내셨어요? (jal jinaesyeosseoyo). It literally means, “Have you been living well?”. This is also typically answered by a “yes” or “no.” But just like in the standard version, you can replace 잘 (jal) with 어떻게 (eotteoke) if you want a more detailed response.

You can use this question with those of higher status or age than you. However, if you are being asked this question, don’t forget to answer using the standard form of speech rather than formal.

Informal “How are you” in Korean

Finally, 잘 지냈어? (jal jinaesseo) is what you can use when speaking at an informal level. You can use this when greeting a close friend you haven’t seen in a while.

“Have a Nice Day” in Korean

Here are three ways in which you can say “Have a nice day” in Korean: 좋은 하루 보내십시오 (joeun haru bonaesipsio), 좋은 하루 보내세요 (joeun haru bonaeseyo), and 좋은 하루 보내 (joeun haru bonae).

Although other expressions are used more often than “have a nice day,” you will not be wrong or weird for saying this when greeting someone goodbye.

Standard “Have a nice day” in Korean

좋은 하루 보내세요 (joeun haru bonaeseyo) is the standard version of the greeting. You can use this with just about anyone, and the polite form -세 (-se) inclusion ensures you are not accidentally sounding rude to someone you are not close to.

Formal “Have a nice day” in Korean

좋은 하루 보내십시오 (joeun haru bonaesipsio) is how you say “have a nice day” when being formal. You may say this at the end of a job interview, for example.

Informal “Have a nice day” in Korean

좋은 하루 보내 (joeun haru bonae) is said when you want to be casual and informal. You can use it with your close friends, but it can also be appropriate to use with your classmates.

You can learn more about this by reading our article dedicated to “Have a Nice Day” in Korean.

“Happy Birthday” in Korean

As with the other greetings, there are three ways to wish someone a Happy Birthday in Korean: 생신을 축하드립니다 (saengsineul chukadeurimnida), 생일 축하해요 (saengil chukahaeyo), and 생일 축하해 (saengil chukahae).

Standard “Happy birthday” in Korean

생일 축하해요 (saengil chukahaeyo) is the standard level speech version for the greeting. It can be used in most situations to wish someone a happy birthday.

Formal “Happy birthday” in Korean

생신을 축하드립니다 (saengsineul chukadeurimnida) is the formal way to wish someone a happy birthday. You can use this with people much older than you, such as your parents or grandparents.

Informal “Happy birthday” in Korean

The informal 생일 축하해 (saengil chukahae) is perfect when you are wishing a happy birthday to a close friend or a child.

You can learn more about this by reading our article dedicated to “Happy Birthday” in Korean.

“Congratulations” in Korean

There are 5 different ways to say “congratulations” in Korean, most of which are used in formal settings.

We’ll show you the most common way to say it in this video below:

CONGRATULATIONS in Korean - Here’s How To Say It

Standard “Congratulations” in Korean

The most common way to express “congratulations” in Korean is 축하해요 (chukahaeyo). This is the standard form of speech used in less formal but polite situations, such as with acquaintances and colleagues, or when you want to be friendly but still polite.

Another way to say it is 축하드려요 (chukhadeuryeoyo). This is a polite and formal version, but slightly less formal than 축하드립니다 (chukadeurimnida). It is suitable for respectful but less formal interactions, such as with elders, bosses, or someone you respect, but in a more casual setting.

Formal “Congratulations” in Korean

축하드립니다 (chukadeurimnida) is a very formal and respectful way to congratulate someone. It is used in very formal settings or when addressing someone of much higher status, such as elders, superiors, or in formal speeches.

Another formal way to say it is 축하합니다 (chukhahamnida). This is commonly used in general formal contexts, such as formal gatherings, official events, or when addressing someone you don’t know well.

Informal “Congratulations” in Korean

Lastly, 축하해 (chukhahae) is used for informal and casual situation. You can use it with friends, peers, or people younger than you.

“Long Time No See” in Korean

Here is how you can say “long time no see” in Korean: 오랜만이에요 (oraenmanieyo) and 오랜만이야 (oraenmaniya).

Standard “Long time no see” in Korean

There is no formal speech version of this greeting. The standard version 오랜만이에요 (oraenmanieyo) is applicable in most situations.

Informal “Long time no see” in Korean

And, of course, you can be informal with your close friends and Koreans younger than you, in which case you would use 오랜만이야 (oraenmaniya).

You can learn more about the greeting by reading our article dedicated to Long Time No See in Korean.

“Please Look After Me” in Korean

잘부탁드립니다 (jalbutakdeurimnida) is the way to say “please look after me” in Korean.

This is a Korean greeting that is perhaps quite unique to Korean culture. It can be said at the start of a presentation or after introducing yourself in a school or work setting. You may also hear idols and other Korean celebrities say this a lot.

Essentially it can be seen to translate as “please treat me well” or “please be nice to me.”

South Korean Greetings for the holidays

Here you can find greetings specifically fit for situations where you celebrate some type of holiday.

“Happy New Year” in Korean

You can wish someone “Happy New Year” in Korean by saying 새해 복 많이 받으십시오 (saehae bok mani badeusipsio), 새해 복 많이 받으세요 (saehae bok mani badeuseyo) and 새해 복 많이 받아 (saehae bok mani bada), depending on which level of formality is required.

This can be used both during the global New Year’s Night and on the Lunar New Year.

Standard “Happy New Year” in Korean

새해 복 많이 받으세요 (saehae bok mani badeuseyo) is the standard form for saying Happy New Year. It is appropriate to use in most situations.

Formal “Happy New Year” in Korean

새해 복 많이 받으십시오 (saehae bok mani badeusipsio) is the formal way to greet a person with Happy New Year. It is used in greeting cards but also in formal situations and with people you want to be extremely respectful towards, such as your boss or the elderly.

Informal “Happy New Year” in Korean

새해 복 많이 받아 (saehae bok mani bada) is the informal way to greet someone with Happy New Year. You can use it with close friends and those younger than you, such as children.

You can learn more about this by reading our article dedicated to “Happy New Year” in Korean.

Korean Lunar New Year greetings

Here are a few greetings that you can use to wish someone a happy Lunar New Year’s holiday.

설날 잘 즐기세요! (seollal jal jeulgiseyo!)

Enjoy Lunar New Year!

행복한 설날 보내세요! (haengbokhan seollal bonaeseyo!)

Have a happy Lunar New Year!

설날 휴가 잘 보내세요! (seollal hyuga jal bonaeseyo!)

Have a great Lunar New Year’s holiday!

All of these are standard-level greetings, which are appropriate to use in most situations. You can read more about how to celebrate Korean Lunar New Year in our article dedicated to Korean Lunar New Year.

Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) greetings

Here are a few Korean greetings you can use during Chuseok, which is Korean Thanksgiving:

추석 잘 보내세요! (Chuseok jal bonaeseyo!)

Have a Happy Chuseok!

즐거운 한가위 보내세요! (jeulgeoun hangawi bonaeseyo!)

I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

좋은일만 가득하세요! (joeunilman gadeukaseyo!)

I wish you all the best!

즐겁고 행복한 추석 보내시길 바랍니다. (jeulgeopgo haengbokan chuseok bonaesigil baramnida.)

I wish you a happy and enjoyable Chuseok.

가족들과 함께 즐거운 추석 보내세요! (gajokdeulgwa hamkke jeulgeoun chuseok bonaeseyo!)

Have a great Chuseok with your family!

You can read more about how to celebrate Korean Thanksgiving in our article dedicated to Chuseok.

Korean Christmas greetings

The most basic way in which you can greet someone during the Christmas holidays is by saying 메리 크리스마스! (meri keuriseumaseu!). This means wishing someone “Merry Christmas!”. You can also use the following greetings:

휴일 잘 즐기세요! (hyuil jal jeulgiseyo!)

Happy holidays!

행복한 크리스마스 보내세요! (haengbokhan keuriseumaseu bonaeseyo!)

Have a happy Christmas!

즐거운 성탄절 보내시고 새해 복 많이 받으세요! (jeulgeoun seongtanjeol bonaesigo saehae bok mani badeuseyo!)

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Korean greeting gestures

Besides verbal Korean greetings, some gestures are also quite important to express when meeting with someone. For other gestures used in Korea, specifically hand gestures, you can read our article on Korean hand gestures instead.

Korean bow

As you may know, bowing is an important way to greet someone in some cultures, including South Korea. As there are a few different ways to bow, it is crucial to know beforehand what type of bow is expected in each situation. Many of these are accompanied by greeting someone with “hello.”

Two men in suits bowing at each other

Casual bow

This is how you can greet a colleague or a classmate of a similar rank or your superior when you pass them by multiple times over the course of the day. It is barely more than a simple nod and is especially done in places like elevators or public transportation, where there is no room to bow any deeper.

Respectful bow

With this bow, you will bow at most 45 degrees. Here you’ll bow starting from your waist, so don’t only use your neck for it. This is a common greeting that can be done in most greeting situations while seeming respectful enough toward the other person.

In stores and at airports, you may see personnel doing this bow with their hands clasped in front of their waist.

90 Degree Bow

As the name entails, in this bow, you are bending yourself down all the way to 90 degrees. It is done when you want to be incredibly respectful, as well as show obedience and servitude to the person you are bowing to.

Big bows

A big bow is the type of bow where you are kneeling on the floor and bending so that your hands touch the ground or floor in front of you. These types of bows are typically seen during special occasions like Lunar New Year and Thanksgiving, as well as weddings and funerals.

Sometimes, they may be done in front of the elderly, when greeting someone after a long time of not seeing them, or when wanting to show more respect or remorse.

Korean handshake

While handshakes are not as prevalent in Korean culture as they are in Western societies, they do exist. They are more common with men than they are among women and are mostly done in business settings.

What is notable about Korean handshakes is that both hands are used, with one hand supporting the other forearm, and the grip is typically kept soft and light.

Wrap Up

The best thing about these Korean greetings is that they are not difficult to learn. You can use them to speak Korean even if you are otherwise far from being fluent, and with them, you can easily make a Korean person feel really good.

They can also be an excellent starting point in your Korean learning journey. Let us know in the comments if your mother tongue also has similar greetings and what other types of greetings they have!

Perhaps you’d also like to go on to learn more useful Korean phrases next?

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