The Most Common Korean Words & Basic Vocabulary (with Audio)

Common Korean Phrases

Ready for the most common Korean words out there?

Learn this basic Korean vocabulary, and you’ll start to pick up what everyone saying sooner than you think!

After reading this, start looking out for the words in your favorite K-Pop songs, in K-Dramas, at your neighborhood Korean restaurant, from your spouse/significant other, on your next trip to Seoul, or during daily life in Korea.

Riverside area in Seoul with tall buildings in the background for article about the most common Korean words and basic vocabulary

We’ve included audio to help your listening and pronunciation skills. Just click the speaker icon next to each Korean vocabulary word.

Ready for some fun? Let’s do this!

On this page, we’re going to give you a list of the top words that occur the most frequently in Korean. Learn these and you’ll be well on your way!

Picture of a Korean menu for ordering at a cafe

Keep in mind these are only single vocabulary words. If you’re looking for special words or phrases, you might want to go here:

  1. Korean Slang Guide
  2. The Ultimate Korean Numbers Guide
  3. Sentences in Korean
  4. Common Korean Phrases

Note: This article contains Hangul (the Korean alphabet) If you can’t read Hangul yet, you can get a free guide to learn in about 90 minutes here.

Korean Food Words

If you’re planning on learning Korean, then you’re definitely going to want to know some basic Korean food vocabulary. With lots of tasty options and a huge variety, you’ll be happy you did!

If you want to order or ask for any of these items, add a 주세요  (juseyo) to any of these words.

1. 물 (mul) – water

This one is for sure a useful one, as many places in Korea have 정수기 (jeongsugi | water purifier). If you need to ask for water at a restaurant, you can say 물 좀 주세요 (mul jom juseyo).

 

2. 밥 (bap) – rice

The word 밥 (bap) means “rice”, so you can use it for that exact meaning.

Korean instant brown rice Haetban

It’s also used to reference food in general, as in a meal. One of the most common phrases you’ll hear in Korea is “밥 먹었어요?” (bap meogeosseoyo | did you eat?). In this case, the 밥 (bap) means “food”, not specifically rice.

 

3. 커피 (keopi) – coffee

Challenge: Walk down any street in Seoul, and see how many cafes you find in 5 minutes.

You’ll likely need both hands for counting on your fingers–and maybe a few toes!

Cup of coffee in a mug at Dal.komm Coffee in Seoul

Cafe culture is huge here, and you’ll for sure hear the word 커피 (koepi) plenty. Thankfully, since it’s a Konglish word, it’s really similar to “coffee” in English, making it easy to understand.

 

4. 맥주 (maekju) – beer

If you’ve been out on a hot day in Seoul, then you may want to quench your thirst with an ice cold 맥주 (maekju | beer). Korea has a big drinking culture, so this vocabulary word will for sure come in handy.

Cass Terra Hite Extra Cold Max Korean Beer

One of the most popular culinary combos these days is 치맥 (chimaek), which is chicken (치킨 | chikin) + beer (맥주 | maekju). Combine the first syllables from chicken (킨 | chikin) and beer (주 | maekju), and you get 치맥 (chimaek)!

 

Korean Family & Relationship Words

These are fantastic words to learn to help you understand everyday conversations. For sure you’ll need these if you’re going to meet and talk to Koreans!

You’ll also hear them often in K-Dramas and K-Pop lyrics. Get to recognize them in your favorite shows and movies–or just listen for them in regular conversations.

They’re sure to show up, and you’ll be one-step closer to understanding the language!

5.  친구 (chingu) – friend

The word 친구 (chingu) means “friend”, but only same-age friend. If someone you know is a different age, then you would want to use the correct title.

 

6. 가족 (gajok) – family

This one is a piece of cake, 가족 (gajok) is family. This one will come up often, so best to make sure you know how to talk about your family in Korean.

 

7. 아빠 (appa) – dad

You can use 아빠 (appa) which is similar to “dad”. You can also use the slightly more respectful/formal 아버지 (abeoji), which is similar to saying “father”.

 

8. 엄마 (eomma) – mom

Just like “mom”, there are two versions you’ll commonly hear for “mom”.

You can use 엄마 (eomma) for “mom”, or  어머니 (eomeoni) for “mother”. Change them up if you want, but make sure to tell Mom how much you care!

 

9. 남자 친구 (namja chingu) – boyfriend

No doubt you’ll hear this one in everyday life in Korea.

This one is easy, just put together together the words for  “man” (남자 | namja) + “friend” (친구 | chingu), and you’ve got “boyfriend”.

Let’s just hope it’s not a 남사친! ㅋㅋ

 

10. 여자 친구 (yeoja chingu) – girlfriend

This one is also popular, so definitely make sure you learn both 여자 (yeoja) and 친구 (chingu).

Put them together, and you’ve got 여자친구 (여자친구 | girlfriend)!

Trying to meet one? Get out there and find one today.

 

11. 결혼 (gyeolhon) – marriage

After you and your 여자친구 (yeoja chingu) or 남자친구 (namja chingu) decide to 약혼 (yakon | engagement), the next step is 결혼 (gyeolhon)!

Prepare the 청첩장 (cheongcheopjang | wedding invitations), count the 축의금 (축의금 | congratulatory gift money), and we’ll see you at the 결혼식장 (결혼식장 | wedding hall)!

 

12. 남편 (nampyeon) – husband

As you talk and hear about family, be prepared to use the word 남편 (nampyeon).  You might hear the phrase 우리 남편 (uri nampyeon | our husband). While the direct translation is “our husband”, it actually means “my husband”.

The word 우리(uri | we, our) is used quite commonly to talk about things that belong to the whole group, such as 우리 나라 (uri nara | our country), 우리 집 (uri jip | our house), and 우리 아내 (uri anae | our wife).

 

13. 아내 (anae) – wife

If you’re hearing the word 남편 (nampyeon), then 아내 (anae) is likely coming next!

Another commonly used vocabulary word for “wife” is 부인 (buin). You can use the two interchangeably.

 

Korean Basic Conversation Words

This is the most common vocabulary you’re going to hear in everyday discussions and chats.

Learn these key vocabulary, and you’ll start to get the gist of what’s you hear in conversations, songs, movies, and dramas right away!

14. 집 (jip) – house

This is a fun one! If you want to know an easy way to remember 집 (jip), think of the vehicle brand Jeep. 집 (jip ) sounds just like Jeep, so you can imagine that there is a Jeep parked in front of your 집 (jip)!

Memorize Korean Nouns Jeep

 

15. 화장실 (hwajangsil) – bathroom

Make sure you learn this word early on, especially if you’ll be traveling around in Korea. This is the common word for bathroom or restroom, so you can use it whenever you need to excuse yourself.

You can get some bonus vocabulary out of this one. 화장 (hwajang) means “makeup”, and 실 (sil) is an ending for “room”, so you can think of 화장실 (hwajangsil) as the “makeup room”.

Make yourself up, and look amazing!

 

16. 나라 (nara) – country

If you visit Korea, no doubt people will ask country you are from. Therefore, make sure you know the word 나라 (nara). Now that you can recognize this key word, also make sure you can answer!

Type your country name into the Naver Korean Dictionary, and practice saying it in Korean. You’re all set for your first conversation!

 

17. 직업 (jigeop) – job

After country (나라 | nara), one of the most common questions you’ll hear is related to your job.

Listen for this word, and be prepared to answer with your job title. If you’re a student, you can say 학생 (haksaeng).

 

18. 사람 (saram) – person

You can use this word along with 나라 (nara | country) to talk about where people are from. This word will for sure come up in conversation, so it’s a great one to listen for.

 

19. 왼쪽 (oenjjok) – left

This one is especially useful when you’re giving directions, especially when riding in a taxi. Remember that the second syllable starts with a ㅉ(jj) sound, so put some power behind it!

 

20. 오른쪽 (oreunjjok) – right

The twin sister to 왼쪽 (oenjjok). You’ll be using these more than you think!

 

21. 네 (ne) – yes

This is the polite and standard way of saying “yes” in Korean. You’ll also hear 예 (ye), which is the same as 네 (ne). Occasionally you’ll hear a few in a row, like 네, 네, 네 (ne, ne, ne), always a classic!

The informal version of 네 (ne) is 응 (eung). You can stack these one after another (응, 응, 응 | eung, eung, eung) for some extra fun. Use this with anyone you are close with or who are younger than you.

 

22. 아니요 (aniyo) – no

As adventurous as you may be, every now and then you’ve just gotta say “no”! The word  아니요 (aniyo) is the one you’re going to want to keep in your back pocket for just those special occasions.

If you want to refuse someone politely when they’re offering you something, you can us 괜찮아요 (gwaenchanayo). In that case, it would mean “No thanks, I’m ok”.

 

Korean Time Words

Korea is an organized and fast-paced country, and we’re here to keep you on schedule! Use these time words to talk about common events and when they happen.

23. 시간 (sigan) – time

This is a great one to talk about whether or not you have time. And who can blame you, you’ve got a lot going on!

To express this, you can say “I have time” (시간 있어요 | sigan isseoyo) or “I have no time” (시간 없어요 | sigan eopseoyo). Save these to use when you need to organize your appointments.

 

24. 지금 (jigeum) – now

No time like the present, let’s get it done now (지금 | jigeum)!

 

25. 오늘 (oneul) – today

Get your schedule set for the day and talk about plans using this handy word.

If you really want to up your skills, combine it with 시간 (sigan | time) above to talk about whether or not you have free time today.

 

26. 어제 (eoje) – yesterday

You’ve got an interesting life, and you’ll for sure want to tell everyone about it!

Use 어제 (eoje) to talk about what happened yesterday.

 

27. 내일 (naeil) – tomorrow

Big plans coming up? Let your friends know by helping them understand what’s going on 내일 (naeil | tomorrow).

 

Want more goodness to supercharge your Korean language and culture skills? Check out our top resources here!

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