Last Updated on
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. Use it on your search for 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 Korean 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 Korean name. The family doesn’t necessarily choose a name because it’s popular, but will often choose one that means something in Korean.
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 a visitor 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 Korean cultural differences. Not to mention that many foreigners can have names that are very difficult to pronounce for Koreans.
Having a native-sounding Korean 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 Korean 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 Korean 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 in Korean have three syllables.
There are some names with more than three syllables and some names with less than three syllables. However, 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 in Korean 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 Korean 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!
- Korean 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 Korean 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. Hanja is the word used to describe Chinese characters in Korean and is an important part of the language. 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 in Korean.
- The same Korean given name is usually not passed down from generation to generation (i.e. from father to son, mother to daughter)
- It’s popular for Korean 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 in Korean. For example, you may see one-syllable names like 박 (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 (the Korean Alphabet) 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 in Korean, 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 Korean 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 spelled like this:
This comes out to sound 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 in Korean (if you have a common name).
If you know any Korean 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 Korean name generator applications and websites out there that can help you come up with a Korean name of your own.
Some of these Korean name generators use your real name to help create similar-sounding Korean names. There are some Korean name generators that use your birthday to create your Korean name. Others seem to come up with a name at random — when you refresh the page, you’ve got a completely different name!
We don’t strongly recommend using Korean name generators because of the reasons above. The Korean name from the generator 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 Korean name that suits you. Or at the very least, it could be a good starting point for getting a name in Korean if you’re stuck.
For example, maybe you get a Korean first name you like but the Korean family name sounds strange to you. You could simply customize it yourself by swapping out the family name and putting in a common family name in Korea of your choice.
Here are a few Korean name generators that can be fun to play around with:
Method 3: Choose From a List of Names
Maybe choosing random names with the click of a button is not for you. Not to worry, there are other ways to continue your search!
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 Korean actor. You can start to get ideas for some names from them!
For example here is a list of the members from the popular Korean 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 Korean 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 Korean 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 Korean baby names, just 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 Korean 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 Korean last name that sounds similar to their given name in English! One member of our program named Joe chose the family name 조 (Cho) 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 Korean 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 Korean native, try asking them to help you come up with a name that has a special meaning in Korea.
Don’t have native-speaking friends? There are easy ways to make friends whether you’re in South Korea or outside of South 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 in Korean that is the best match for you.
If you have any other recommendations for Korean naming methods, 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 Korean 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 | hangeul) 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 in Korean.
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.
With your new name in hand, you’re ready to get fully immersed in Korean culture!
Happy Korean naming!
Image Credit: Bigstock