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“Family” in Korean: Talking About Your Family in Korean

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When you meet someone new for the first time, the topic of your family is bound to come up. So it’s best to learn how to talk about your family in Korean!

This might be even more important to learn in Korean than in English because Korean has a lot of formalities when it comes to talking about family.

For instance, in English, both older and younger siblings are “brother” and “sister.” But in Korean, there are different words depending on if they’re older or younger, married or unmarried.

Not only that, there are different terms for your dad’s side of the family and your mom’s — even if they’re the same role, like “grandmother” or “uncle”.

But don’t worry. It’s not bad once you get the hang of it, and we’re going to break it all down in this lesson on Korean family terms.

To get started, here’s a quick list of the most important words for family members in Korean:

  • Family: 가족 (gajok)
  • Dad: 아빠 (appa)
  • Father: 아버지 (abeoji)
  • Mom: 엄마 (eomma)
  • Mother: 어머니 (eomeoni)
  • Parents: 부모님 (bumonim)
  • Older brother (for females): 오빠 (oppa)
  • Older sister (for females): 언니 (eonni)
  • Older brother (for males): 형 (hyeong)
  • Older sister (for males): 누나 (nuna)
  • Younger brother: 남동생 (namdongsaeng)
  • Younger sister: 여동생 (yeodongsaeng)
  • Grandmother: 할머님 (halmeonim)
  • Grandfather: 할아버님 (harabeonim)

“Family” in Korean

The word for “family” in Korean is 가족 (gajok).

You may often be asked something like 가족이 몇 명입니까? (gajok-i myeot myeong-imnikka), which means “How many people are in your family?” in formal speech. Although be aware the formality and sentence-ending may change!

This is a good time to practice your Korean numbers and answer with: 우리 가족은 네 명입니다 (uri gajok-eun ne myeong-imnida) which is the formal way to say “We’re a family of four.”

Korea is influenced by Confucianism, just like Chinese and Japanese culture. What that means is, the family is often seen as a unit, and each person’s individual actions reflect on the whole family unit.

Because of this, great emphasis is placed on following a certain path. Family members are expected to maintain respect and represent the family well at all times. It’s also extremely important to show older family members respect and reverence.

This means that Korean people call most family members by their honorific titles rather than their names.

So, like how you would use Korean surnames with honorifics to show respect, you would also use honorifics to show respect to your family.

For instance, in English, you’d probably call your older brother by his first name. But in Korean, you would call him 형 (hyeong or hyung depending on romanization) if you’re a guy or 오빠 (oppa) if you’re a girl. That’s his title — “older brother” — not his name.

Parents in Korean

In English, there are formal and informal ways to refer to your parents. You can say “father” to be formal, or “dad” to be casual. The same is true in Korean:

  • “Dad” in Korean: 아빠 (appa)
  • “Father” in Korean: 아버지 (abeoji)
  • “Mom” in Korean: 엄마 (eomma)
  • “Mother” in Korean: 어머니 (eomeoni)
  • “Parents” in Korean: 부모님 (bumonim)

If you’ve ever watched Korean dramas, I’m sure you’ve heard these words quite often. One thing you’ll notice though is it’s much more common to call your dad 아버지 (abeoji) (showing more respect) but to call your mom 엄마 (eomma).

This goes back to the hierarchical nature of Korean society, and the father being the head of the household.

It’s okay to be a bit more casual and close with your mom, but keep things a bit formal with your dad. This also, of course, depends on the dad’s personality and household standards, though.

Siblings in Korean

Now here’s where you have to start thinking about age and gender a bit more. If you’re a woman, you’ll call your siblings by different terms than your brother would. And it also depends on if your sibling is older or younger than you.

So, let’s first look at what women would call their older siblings in Korean:

  • Older brother in Korean: 오빠 (oppa)
  • Older sister in Korean: 언니 (eonni)

And now what guys would call their siblings in Korean:

  • Older brother: 형 (hyeong)
  • Older sister: 누나 (nuna)

For younger siblings, the word is the same regardless of your gender:

  • Younger brother: 남동생 (namdongsaeng)
  • Younger sister: 여동생 (yeodongsaeng)

You could also use 동생 (dongsaeng), which means “younger sibling”.

And a few more important Korean words you should know:

  • Siblings: 형제 자매 (hyeongje jamae)
  • Brothers: 형제 (hyeongje)
  • Sisters: 자매 (jamae)

So, you can see “siblings” directly translates as “brothers and sisters” in English!

One last note here: It’s common to hear some of these terms used with friends or even a boyfriend or girlfriend nowadays. It’s especially common to call your boyfriend (or the guy you like) 오빠 (oppa) to be cute and flirty.

If Your Sibling is Married…

If your sibling is married, there are a few more words you might need to know.

If you’re close with your sibling and sibling-in-law, you can simply call them by the same terms you would as if they’re your immediate family. In fact, siblings-in-law now count as your immediate family.

But if you’re not close with them and want to be more formal, you can use these terms:

Women would use:

  • Older brother’s wife: 새언니 (sae-eon-ni)
  • Younger brother’s wife: 올케 (olke)
  • Older sister’s husband: 형부 (hyeong-bu)
  • Younger sister’s husband: 제부 (je-bu)

Men would use:

  • Older brother’s wife: 형수 (hyeong-su)
  • Younger brother’s wife: 제수씨 (je-su-ssi)
  • Older sister’s husband: 매형 (mae-hyeong)
  • Younger sister’s husband: 매제 (mae-je)

Grandparents in Korean

To talk to or about your grandparents in Korean, you would say:

  • Grandparents: 조부모님 (jobumonim)
  • Grandmother: 할머님 (halmeonim)
  • Grandma: 할머니 (halmeoni)
  • Grandfather: 할아버님 (harabeonim)
  • Grandpa: 할아버지 (harabeoji)

Adding 님 (nim) to the end makes it a bit more formal, but both versions are acceptable to call your grandparents.

Also, while grandparents are often not considered part of the nuclear family unit in the West, they are considered immediate family in Korea.

Spouses and Kids in Korean

When you’re talking to your spouses, you’ll normally call them by a cute nickname. Something like:

  • Honey: 여보 (yeobo)
  • Sweetheart: 애인 (aein)
  • Cutie: 귀요미 (kiyomi)

…And also 오빠 (oppa) as we already mentioned, which is most common for men.

But if you’re talking to someone else about your spouse, it’s best to call them by their title:

  • Husband: 남편 (napyeon)
  • Wife: 아내 (anae)

If you’re not married yet, here’s how you talk about the person you’re dating:

  • Boyfriend: 남자친구 (namjachingu)
  • Girlfriend: 여자친구 (yeojachingu)
  • Fiancé (male): 약혼자 (yakhonja)
  • Fiancée (female): 약혼녀 (yakhonnyeo)

The In-Laws

If you’re married (or going to be) to someone who’s Korean, then you’ll need to know how to refer to your in-laws.

They would be…

  • Father-in-law (husband’s dad): 시아버지 (siabeoji)
  • Father-in-law (wife’s dad): 장인 (jang-in)
  • Mother-in-law (husband’s mom): 시어머니 (shieomeoni)
  • Mother-in-law (wife’s mom): 장모님 (jangmonim)
  • In-laws: 사돈 (sadon)

These are more common though when talking about your in-laws to others. When talking to them, you can call them “dad” and “mom” — 아버지 (abeoji) and 어머니 (eomeoni), respectively.

As for your other in-laws, it gets quite complicated depending on who’s married and who’s not, who’s older and who’s younger. Even whether they’re on the husband or wife’s side.

You could learn all of those words, too, but chances are you’d only use them on very rare occasions. Instead, you could get by calling them the normal terms for “brother” or “sister”, as you would with mom and dad. When in doubt, you can ask what they’d prefer to be called.

Extended Family in Korean

In Korean, you can refer to your extended family as 대가족 (daegajok) or “large family”.

What you call someone in this category depends on if they’re related to your mom or your dad. So we’ll divide this up into two groups: maternal extended family, and paternal extended family.

A few that are the same regardless of which side of the family:

  • Nephew: 조카 (joka)
  • Niece: 조카딸 (jokattal)
  • Cousin: 사촌 (sachon)
  • Grandson/grandchild: 손자 (sonja)
  • Granddaughter: 손녀 (sonnyeo)

Maternal Extended Family

If talking about your mom’s side of the family, use these terms:

  • Aunt in Korean: 이모 (imo)
  • Uncle in Korean: 외숙부 (oesukbu)
  • Aunt’s husband: 이모부 (imobu)
  • Uncle’s wife: 외숙모 (oesukmo)
  • Mom’s side of the family: 외가 (oega)

Paternal Extended Family

Next, your dad’s side. Things get more complicated here as well, especially for the men on your dad’s side of the family. This is because of the social hierarchy in society, but also within a family.

  • Uncle (younger, unmarried): 삼촌 (samchon)
  • Uncle (younger, married): 작은아빠 (jageunappa)
  • Uncle (older, unmarried or married): 큰아빠 (keunappa)
  • Aunt: 고모 (gomo)
  • Younger uncle’s wife: 작은엄마 (jageuneomma)
  • Older uncle’s wife: 큰엄마 (keuneomma)
  • Aunt’s husband: 고모부 (gomobu)
  • Dad’s side of the family: 친가 (chinga)

All in the Family in Korean

And there you have it! Yes, it’s a lot of family names to show respect. But unless you marry into a Korean family, you won’t use these often except for immediate family names.

Really, you’ll probably hear the rest in Korean TV shows more than anything else.

So focus on the 80/20 rule of vocabulary and learn the ones most relevant to you!

Now that you’ve mastered family in Korean, learn how to talk about love in Korean or work on practical Korean phrases for your first conversations.

author headshot

Caitlin Sacasas

Content Writer, Fluent in 3 Months

Caitlin is a copywriter, content strategist, and language learner. Besides languages, her passions are fitness, books, and Star Wars. Connect with her: Twitter | LinkedIn

Speaks: English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish

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