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Here’s something the Korean textbooks won’t teach you: Korean slang.
Learning Korean slang is essential to understanding everyday speech and casual conversations in Korean, but it’s hard to learn and master. Especially since it’s not traditionally taught in a classroom.
And if you’re learning Korean to understand KPop and Korean TV shows, you’ll hear these phrases all the time.
Plus when you start making Korean friends, you’ll speak more casually and use more slang with each other. So you need to learn them!
Once you start sprinkling these Korean slang terms into your daily speech, you’ll sound more like a Korean pro.
Now, here’s today’s lesson plan:
Table of contents
- Basic Korean Slang Words to Get You Started
- 꿀잼 (kkuljaem) – “Fun” or “Interesting”
- 노잼 (nojaem) – “Not Funny” or “Boring”
- Korean Slang Phrases to Add More Spice to Your Conversations
- Modern Korean Slang Terms
- Cute Korean Slang Words
- Cool Korean Words
- Korean Text and Internet Slang
- Sound Like a Native with Korean Slang
Let’s dive into it!
Basic Korean Slang Words to Get You Started
To get started, let’s look at some common Korean slang words you should know. These are simple and easy to start using, even as a beginner Korean speaker.
Keep in mind though, Korean is a hierarchical language (and society). So you should only use slang with your friends, peers, and those around the same age as you.
대박 (daebak) – “Amazing” or “Awesome”
대박 (daebak) is one of the most common Korean slang terms you’ll hear. It’s like “cool” or “awesome” in English. But it’s also used to mean “wow,” “great,” or “that’s crazy!”
It’s used as an exclamation and can be used for anything amazing or surprising.
헐 (heol) – “OMG” or “WTF”
헐 (heol) means the same as “OMG” or “WTF” in English, and it’s used in the same way. Like 대박 (daebak), it’s an exclamation used whenever something is super shocking.
짱 (jjang) – “Amazing”, “Best” or “Cool”
Another common slang phrase is 짱 (jjang) which is used to describe anything as incredible or cool.
Sometimes it’s paired with other words to make slang phrases like 몸짱 (momjjang), which means someone has a great physique.
애교 (aegyo) – “Cute”
애교 (aegyo) is more a way of dressing and speaking than a slang term itself. But it means “lovely” or “cute.”
Cuteness in Korean has its own culture, where you speak in aegyo with long drawn out syllables and exaggeratedly cute mannerisms.
This is popular among Korean idols especially.
꿀잼 (kkuljaem) – “Fun” or “Interesting”
꿀 (kkul) means “honey” and 잼 (jaem) means “jam”. So, the literal translation is “honey jam.” But the full term means something is fun or interesting.
노잼 (nojaem) – “Not Funny” or “Boring”
The opposite of 꿀잼 (kkuljaem) is 노잼 (nojaem), which means it’s “not the jam” — it’s not fun or funny.
There’s also 썰렁해 (sseolleonghae), which means both “not funny” and “sloppy.”
화이팅! (hwaiting!) – “Fighting!”
Also written 파이팅 (paiting), this phrase is Konglish (a blend of Korean and English).
It means everything from “Give it a good fight!”, “Give it your all!”, “Do your best!”, “Good luck!”, “You can do it!” or “C’mon!”
It’s often used to cheer on friends or your favorite team at sporting events.
극혐 (geukyeom) – “Extreme disgust”
You’ll find so much Korean slang is just the shortening, smushing, and mashing of words together. (Often even a mix of Korean and English words!) This is another example of a phrase getting smushed together.
극혐 (geukyeom) is short for 극한의 혐오 (geukan-ui hyeom-o) which means “extreme hatred.”
So, say this one with close friends or family when you’ve seen something nasty or something that fills you with loathing.
심쿵 (simkung) – “Fangirling”
If you’re a KPop or Hallyu stan — part of the 팬덤 (paendeom, “fandom”) — you know. We all have our 최애 (choeae), our “love” or our “bias.”
For example, I love RM from BTS and Hyun Bin from Crashing Landing on You. And when I see them, I definitely feel 심쿵 (simkung)!
Basically, 심쿵 (simkung) means your heart skips a beat when you see someone cute, or you’re fangirling over an idol crush. It’s a combo of 심장 (simjang, “heart”) and Korean onomatopoeia 쿵 (kung, “thud”).
솔까말 (solkkamal) – “TBH”
솔까말 (solkkamal) means “TBH” or “to be honest” in Korean. It’s short for 솔직히 까놓고 말해서 (soljiki kkanogo malhaeseo) which means “To be honest with you.”
But, 솔까말 (“tbh”), you could just say 솔직히 (soljiki), which means “honestly”.
Korean Slang Phrases to Add More Spice to Your Conversations
Now, time to learn some more slangy phrases you can use to sound cool like the kids these days.
- 오졌다 (ojyeotda) – “It’s lit”
- 쩔어 (jjeoreo) – “Daaaaaaamn” (Yes, drawn out like that. You know what I mean.)
- 실화야 (silhwaya) – “For real?” or “True story”
- 안물안궁 (anmul-angung) – “Didn’t ask, don’t care”
- 포스 있다 (poseu itda) – “to have the Force” or “one with the Force”
- 어떻게 (eotteoke) – “How?”
- 세상에 (sesangae) – “What in the world?!” or “Oh my God!”
- 셀카 (selka) – “Selfie”
- 눈팅 (nunting) – “Lurking” or to read a text or stalk social media without replying or commenting
- 짐 (jim) – “Now” (short for 지금, jigeum)
- 불금 (bulgeum) – “TGIF”, or literally “Burning Friday” or “Golden Friday”
- 맛점 (matjeom) – “Delicious lunch”
Modern Korean Slang Terms
(Here’s looking at you, insperiences!)
There have been quite a lot of new slang terms thanks to the pandemic and life changes as a result. So here are some new ones you may come across:
Korean Face Mask: 마스크 (maseukeu)
Okay, this isn’t slang, but it’s good to know! So there are two types of face masks in Korean. There’s the type you wear to prevent the spread of diseases and sickness. And then there are the sheet face masks you wear for skincare.
If you’re referring to the former, it’s 마스크 (maseukeu), just like in English. But if you’re talking about the skincare mask, it’s 마스크시트 (maseukeu siteu).
Lonely: 쓸쓸 (sseulsseul)
A few new slang terms became more popular recently due to isolation and loneliness. The first is 쓸쓸비용 (sseulsseul biyong) which means “loneliness expense” or to do an activity alone.
Along the same lines, there’s:
- 혼족 (honjok): A person who likes to do things alone
- 혼밥 (honbab): To eat alone
- 혼코노 (honkono) or 혼놀 (honnol): To sing karaoke (noraebang in Korean) alone
- 혼영 (honyeong): Watching a movie alone (usually at the theater)
- 혼행 (honhaeng): Solo travel
- 혼술 (honsool or honsul): To drink alone
The last one you may recognize. “Honsool” was a song by BTS member Suga that came out during the pandemic.
By the way, all those words start with the stem 혼 (hon) which is short for 혼자 (honja), “alone.”
“Insperiences”: 인스피리언스족 (inseupirieonseujok)
Here’s another Konglish term inspired by getting creative at home during our year in quarantine.
인스피리언스 (inseupirieonseu) combines “inside”, “inspired” and “experience” to create a new word: “insperiences”. 족 (jok) means “tribe”, so it means things you do at home with those you’re quarantined with.
Mental Breakdown: 멘붕 (menbung)
The pandemic inspired enough mental breakdowns for many people, so this slang has really taken off. It’s a smush of 멘탈 (mental) for “mental (health)” and 붕괴 (bung-goe) which means “collapse.”
There’s also a similar phrase 이생망 (eesaengmang) which means “I’m done with this life.” You’ll find Koreans use a lot of intense phrases and slang in very dramatic ways, and this is one of them. It basically means you did something super embarrassing or messed up bad.
A lot of phrases like these took off after the mental health drama 사이코지만 괜찮아 (saiko jiman gwaenchanha took off, which literally means “Psycho But It’s Okay.” In English on Netflix, the show is called “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay.”
Impulse Shopping: 홧김비용 (hwatgimbiyong)
Did life at home cause you to make a lot of impulse purchases? You and a whole lot of others! And so 홧김비용 (hwatgimbiyong) saw a big uptick recently.
홧김 (hwatgim) means “to get hot” as in “angry”, or “in the heat of the moment.” And 비용 (biyong) means “cost” or “damage.” So, it’s the damage done in the heat of the moment… an impulse buy.
There are a couple other related terms to this, too. Like 나심비 (nashimbi) which means “my mental health cost”, or, in other words, a purchase you make to improve your mood. The bi here is short for the same biyong in impulse shopping.
We see it again in 멍청비용 (meongcheong biyong) which means “stupid cost,” where you made a mistake that cost you money.
Cute Korean Slang Words
So I mentioned aegyo already, which is “cute.” These are some aegyo words and cute Korean expressions you can use.
- 배고팡 (baegopang) – “I’m hungry”
- 오빵 (oppang) – An affectionate expression to an older guy you like (it literally means “brother” though)
- 행쇼 (haengsyo) – “Be happy”
- 사줘 (sajwo) – “Buy this for me” (Say it whiny!)
- 약속애요 (yaksokaeyo) – “I promise”
- 내가 귀엽지? (naega gwiyeobji) – “Aren’t I cute?”
- 사랑해요 (saranghaeyo) – “I love you”
- 보고 싶어 (bogo sipeo) – “I miss you”
To sound cute, you’ll want to add the m or ng sound to the end of the word, like you see in oppang.
Side note: 행쇼 (haengsyo) was made popular by idol G-Dragon which he used like “peace out.” You can use this to say goodbye, though.
Cool Korean Words
Want to sound extra cool? Try these Korean words:
- 사차원 (sachawon) – “4D”, “wacky” or “eccentric” (in a good way)
- 치맥 (chimaek) – “Chicken and beer,” the perfect pairing
- 뻥치지마 (ppeongchijima) – “Don’t lie!”
- 존맛 (jonmat) – “F-ing delicious”
- 만렙 (manleb) – “Level 10,000” (or I like to think of it as “It’s over 9,000!”)
- 쪼렙 (jjolep) – “Beginner level” or “noob” (the opposite of 만렙, manleb)
- 간지 (ganji) – “Swag”
- 존맛탱 (jonmattaeng) – “Delicious”
Korean Text and Internet Slang
Text slang can get super confusing in other languages, especially when you start combing English letters and abbreviations with Korean ones. This could honestly be a whole article on its own.
So here’s a starter list of some common ones you may run into:
- 세젤예 (sejelye) – “Prettiest in the world” (usually said in text)
- 누물보 (numulbo) or just ㄴㅁㅂ (n m b) – “Did anyone ask?”
- JMT – Abbreviation for 존맛탱, jonmattaeng, meaning “delicious”
- ~~ – Adds cuteness or lighthearted feeling to a text. It’s considered aegyo or “cute”
- ㅋㅋㅋ (kkk) or ㅎㅎㅎ– “haha” or “lol”
- 091012 – “Study hard”
- ㅇㅋ (o k) – “okay”
- ㄱㅅ (g s) – “ty” or “thanks” (short for 감사합니다, gamsahamnida)
- ㅈㅅ (j s) – “sorry” (short for 죄송합니다, joesonghamnida)
- ㅇㅇ (ng ng) – “yes”
- ㄴㄴ (n n) – “no”
- ㅁㄹ (m l) – “idk” (short for 몰라, molla)
- ㄷㄷ (d d) – “scary”, onomatopoeia for shivering. (short for 덜덜, deoldeol)
- ㅇㄷ (ng d) – “Where r u” or “Where are you?” (short for 어디야, eodiya)
- ㅊㅋㅊㅋ (ch k ch k) – “Congrats!” (short for 축하축하, chukachuka)
- ㅃㅃ (bb bb) – “Bye bye!” (short for 빠이빠이, ppaippai)
Sound Like a Native with Korean Slang
Now that you’ve learned some Korean slang, you’ve got to go out and use it! Try it out with your friends, or practice making sentences by yourself.