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We’re going to show you how to make a Korean name for yourself.
There are lots of ways to do this, and we’re going to tell you all about South Korean names. Take a look at the 6 methods below, and choose the one that you like best!
If you’re looking for a professionally chosen name that fits your personality then be sure to check out our Korean Naming Service.
- 1 All About Korean Names
- 2 How do Korean Names Work?
- 3 Great Methods for Making a Name
- 3.1 Method 1: Write My Name in Korean
- 3.2 Method 2: Use a Korean Name Generator
- 3.3 Method 3: Choose From a List of Names
- 3.4 Method 4: Choose a Name That Sounds Like My Own Name
- 3.5 Method 5: Pick A Korean Name With Special Meaning
- 3.6 Method 6: Get A Korean Name Chosen By Professionals
- 4 I Need Help Writing My Name in Korean!
- 5 Wrap Up
Also, we’ve created a free PDF version of this post to take with you on the go. So you’ve got no excuse to not think of the perfect name!
All About Korean Names
What’s in a name? Well, in South Korea — a name can mean quite a bit actually!
Many South Korean parents will spend a lot of time and money to come up with the perfect name for their child. It’s not just about choosing a name that will make their child popular. They believe that names can determine their destiny. Almost all Korean names have a deeper meaning through hanja (Chinese characters), but more on that later.
With a child’s future on the line, it’s important to come up with a good name, and not necessarily a name that’s just popular.
If you’re not used to pronouncing Korean names it’s best to brush up on that before diving in with a name of your own!
As an expat living or traveling in South Korea (or even living in your home country and interacting with Koreans), it’s easy to notice a barrier at times due to cultural differences. Not to mention that many foreigners can have names that are very difficult to pronounce for Koreans.
Having a native-sounding name is a great way to break the ice and get started on the right foot. It adds just a little extra layer of comfort and Koreans will have fun calling you by your new name. These names sound familiar to them, so it’s a convenient way to get closer!
While it can be tough to come up with the perfect name, we’re going to help point you in the right direction so that choosing a name becomes much easier.
How do Korean Names Work?
Kim Yuna (김연아)
Lee Min-ho (이민호)
Bae Yong-joon (배용준)
As you can see, most names have three syllables.
There are some names with more and some names with less, but the large majority of names have three.
You should try to stick with a three-syllable name as well when coming up with a name for yourself. It’ll make it much easier for your Korean friends and acquaintances that way.
In South Korea, it’s proper for the family name to be written first. So the first syllable you see is the family name. By far the most common family names are 김 (Kim), 이 (Lee) and 박 (Park).
The second part is the given name. The name above is 김 민수 (Kim Min-su).
Here are some more fun facts about names in South Korea. You can use them to help you choose your own name, or to impress your friends with your knowledge of Korea!
- Family names are usually one syllable. However, sometimes there are two syllable family names, but they are rare. Some examples are 사공 (Sa-gong) and 남궁 (Nam-gung)
- There are about 250 family names in South Korea. The most common family names 김 (Kim), 최 (Choi), 이 (Lee), 박 (Park) make up over half of all family names in Korea
- Almost all names have a Hanja spelling, that is using Chinese characters. You can see this in Sino-Korean names such as Eun (은 / 恩 = kind) or Hyeon (현 / 賢 = virtuous). Hanja adds an additional aspect to the meaning behind a name.
- The same given name is usually not passed down from generation to generation (i.e. from father to son, mother to daughter)
- It’s popular for parents to name their kids with the same first syllable if the genders are the same, i.e. 지우 (Ji-yoo) and 지훈 (Ji-hoon), 유진 (Yu-jin) and 유림 (Yu-rim)
- Although the first names (given name) of Koreans are typically two syllables, it is possible to have one-syllable names for example 삭 (Park) and three-syllable names, like 빛나리 (Bit-nari). These are infrequent in South Korea though
Great Methods for Making a Name
We’ve come up with six methods you can use to make your very own Korean name.
Take a look through, try out the different methods, and hopefully, you’ll come out with a name you can start introducing yourself with starting tomorrow! Or just look at all the interesting names in Korea.
It’s going to be lots of fun.
Let’s get started!
Method 1: Write My Name in Korean
The first method you can use to make a name is not to make one at all! You can simply take your name and translate it into Korean based on the way it sounds. This is one of the most popular methods. If you’ll be in South Korea for a longer period, you’ll notice that official documents will do this with foreigner’s names. Doing this is often an important step for new residents beginning their life in Korea.
While this isn’t a Korean name per se, it is a first step you can take to make it easier for Koreans to pronounce and read your name. It makes them more comfortable trying to say your name and that means they’re happier to talk with you!
There are many situations when knowing your name’s spelling in Hangeul will come in handy so you should always study that first.
If you don’t know the Korean characters, we can teach them to you fast with this post on the Hangeul (also spelled as Hangul).
When writing your name, it all comes down to vowel sounds. It’s important to sound out your name just right!
When you do this, sometimes an English name with only a few letters can be a bit long in Korean. It can make for some pretty interesting looking names when you see them in Korea!
Let’s take the English name “Michael” for example. First, we need to sound it out.
Break down the name into its component syllables.
For the first syllable, we need to think which characters could make that ‘long i’ sound. No single Hangul character has that sound on its own.
How about 아 (ah) + 이 (i)? That sounds right. Let’s add in the “m” sound in front of the ㅏand we’ll be good to go!
First part: 마이 (Mai)
Now let’s focus on the second syllable. If you sound it out, it sounds more like “keul.”
As you may have learned from the 90 Minute Challenge, the character that makes the “k” sound is ㅋ. It looks like a key! Let’s use that one.
The final step is to add in the “eul” sound. That’s easy! The Hangul character that makes the “eu” sound is ㅡ and the “l” ending we can make with ㄹ. Let’s stack them together.
Second part: 클 (keul)
There we have it, we’re all finished! We ended up with our name:
This comes out to sounding like “mai-keul“. Sometimes you’ll have to approximate the closest sound for your name.
Let’s take a look at some more common English names in South Korea as examples:
|Joseph (조셉)||Jenny (제니)|
|Peter (피터)||Amanda (아만다)|
|Tom (톰)||Sarah (사라)|
|Steve (스티브)||Angela (앤젤라)|
Go ahead and give it a try yourself! Break your English name into syllables. Work on deconstructing your name piece by piece.
There are also lists online that may have your name written out, that is if you have a common name.
If you know any native-speakers you can also check your spelling with them. Even if your name isn’t common enough to be on a list, it may already be established in Korean and you don’t even know it!
Method 2: Use a Korean Name Generator
There are some applications and websites out there that can help you come up with a name of your own for Korea.
Some use your real name to help generate similar-sounding Korean names, while some use your birthday. Others seem to come up with a name at random — when you refresh the page, you’ve got a completely different name!
Those are the main reasons we recommend against using this method. It doesn’t necessarily have a deeper meaning to you. It just generates a common name.
However, you never know — you might just get a great-sounding name that suits you or at the very least, it could be a good starting point if you’re stuck.
For example, maybe you get a first name you like but the family name sounds strange to you. You could simply customize it yourself by swapping out the family name and putting in a family name from Korea of your choice.
Here are a few apps that can be fun to play around with:
Method 3: Choose From a List of Names
Choosing random names with the click of a button not for you?
When Koreans choose English names, they often choose the names of English-speaking stars that they admire.
Maybe you have a favorite K-pop star or actor. You can start to get ideas for some names from them!
For example here is a list of the members from the popular idol groups BTS (male) and BlackPink (female):
|민윤기 (슈가)||Min Yoon-gi (Suga)|
|정호석 (제이홉)||Jung Ho-seok (J-Hope)|
|김태형 (뷔)||Kim Tae-hyung (V)|
|박채영 (로제)||Park Chae-young (Rosé)|
Of course, you probably don’t want to take their full names including family name (imagine meeting a Korean who introduced himself as “Tom Cruise!”), but you could easily switch out the surname to one of your choosing. As you may have noticed, many Korean names are gender-specific. While there are some names that are unisex, most names can be considered more masculine or feminine depending on how they’re made up. Using a list is a good way to get a sense of common names at the moment.
Boy Names in South Korea
If you’re looking for male names, here is a list of the most popular ones from 2018 and 2017 in Korea:
Girl Names in South Korea
Here is another list of the most popular female names from 2018 and 2017 in Korea:
South Korean Family Names
Family names are not as many, or as varied, in South Korea as those you’ll find in other countries. The father’s surname is passed down to their children. However, interestingly enough, their wives often keep their surname.
The top 3 common names (Kim, Lee, and Park) are by far the most popular and make up the vast majority of family names in South Korea. Check out this list of popular family names:
|Popular Family Names in South Korea (with frequency)|
|김||Kim||10 million+ people|
|이||Lee||7 million+ people|
|박||Park||4 million+ people|
|최||Choi||2.5 million+ people|
|정||Chung||2 million+ people|
|강||Kang||1 million+ people|
|조||Cho||1 million+ people|
If you need more inspiration, here are more links to lists of common South Korean names you can search through.
The first is just a list of baby names like you often see on the internet for English names. They are romanized, however, so if you see one you like, you will have to change it into 한글 (Hangeul). That’s the fun part!
The second is a list of popular names like the ones above. You can see which names parents choose most often. Maybe this search will turn up one that suits you!
Just make sure you note the gender that name is usually associated with, since that can have an impact on your first impression in South Korea.
Method 4: Choose a Name That Sounds Like My Own Name
Another method for choosing a name in Korea is finding one that sounds like your native name.
This may require some help from a native, but you can make use of the name lists and other resources to try for yourself.
For example, maybe your name is “Kimberly Johnson”. Through the name lists or from the help of a friend, you come up with the following name:
Some people may wish to choose a last name that sounds similar to their given name in English! One student named Joe chose the family name 조 when making his name. He then just chose a modern and cool-sounding first name in Korea.
Method 5: Pick A Korean Name With Special Meaning
This method may also require some assistance from a native friend but it’s a great way to come up with a name that has a story or meaning behind it, versus an arbitrarily chosen name.
Some names in South Korea have special meanings. For example, these common names have the following meanings:
Girl’s name: 은하 galaxy
Girl’s name: 지혜 grace
Boy’s name: 승리 victory
If you know a native, try asking them to help you come up with a name that has a special meaning in Korea.
Many Koreans also care about a name’s meaning in Chinese characters. This means added research, but can help you come up with a great name that is very meaningful.
Remember how we said Korean names usually have three syllables?
Try looking up the meaning of each Hangeul syllable in Chinese characters or have someone assist you. This would help you have a cool backstory for the meaning of your Korean name and what it represents! Remember that most names in South Korea use 한자 (hanja).
Method 6: Get A Korean Name Chosen By Professionals
90 Day Korean has a special paid naming service that will help you get a personalized name that is the best match for you.
If you have any other recommendations for Korean naming services, please let us know in the comments and we’ll add it to this page.
I Need Help Writing My Name in Korean!
Please note: We can only reply to comments that follow all three steps below
If you’d like help with your name, our language coaches will be happy to help in the comments section below!
Please follow these instructions. Be sure to follow each step carefully. After you’ve covered all three steps, add your comment below:
1. We’re all here to study and learn so try your best to translate your name in Korean (한글) first.
If you don’t know the Hangul, you can study the alphabet for free in 1 hour using this lesson. You can practice how to type in Korean here. (Example: If your name is Gina, then type “지나” in the comments)
2. Include the English pronunciation of your name, with dashes between syllables (Example: Gina would be “Jeen-uh”)
3. We will reply and make sure you have the correct way of writing your name
A proper comment might look something like this:
“My name is Gina (Jeen-uh). Is 지나 the correct way to make my name?”
Regardless of which method you choose for coming up with your Korean name, it’s important to get feedback. Having a trusted ally on your side can make all the difference in the world to choosing the right-sounding name. Run your name by any Korean friends you may have or even those with some knowledge of Korea. You can also ask Koreans on your next trip to South Korea, it can be a great conversation starter!
We hope this will help get you off on the right track. Start by writing your English name in Hangeul. Then try coming up with a more native sounding name.
This will be a fantastic starting point and you may wish to stop there.
For those of you that want an authentic-sounding name, however, you can continue and search for other methods. If you have a great idea for getting a Korean name, or a know of some great names in Korea, let us know in the comments below.
With your new name in hand, you’re ready to get fully immersed in your studies. Keep going until you’ve reached all the way to South Korea!
Happy Korean naming!
Image Credit: Bigstock