Useful Korean Slang: Trendy Words and Shortened Words
By Ryana Ali
Disclaimer: I’m not a native Korean. These are words I’ve encountered as I have been studying the language throughout the past 5 or 6 years. These are also words I personally think are useful, and you’re not obligated to use them if you don’t think you’ll have a use for them!
Like any other language, Korean has words that are used colloquially. There are 유행어 (yu-haeng-eo - trendy words) and 줄임말 (ju-rim-mal - shortened words).
There are probably words that you have seen in other blog posts, Reddit posts, and Korean language sites, such as 대박 (dae-bak), 헐 (heol), and 아이고 (a-i-go). In this post, we’ll go over some of these words to help you better understand colloquial Korean!
왠지: For Some Reason
Translation: He’s a blockhead, but for some reason, he’s cool… (Author’s Note: Please don’t use 등신 in everyday speech)
You might have heard people say this in Korean shows, whether dramas or variety programs. 왠지 (waen-ji) is the shortened form of 왜 인지 (wae in-ji). If we break this down further -
왜 = why, but this can indicate that there’s a reason for an action
인지 = 이다 (i-da) + ㄴ지 (-n-ji)
이다 = to be
-ㄴ지 = a grammar point that can indicate certainty or uncertainty, depending on the context of the situation; in this case, it indicates uncertainty
If you put it all together, then 왜 인지 means “For some reason, it is (a particular way).”
Koreans will shorten this phrase to 왠지 and use it to indicate that some action/event happened for some reason, unknown to them (whoever is speaking). The phrase gives more of a specific nuance that’s like “(I don’t know why, but) for some reason, this happened.”
개이득: Oh, What Luck!
I believe that this phrase is used mostly among people in their 20s or late teens. 개이득 (gae-i-deug) is also a word that can be broken down to understand it’s meaning-
개 = typically means dog, but can also be used to mean absurd, wild, or crazily
이득 = benefit, profit
Altogether, 개이득 means “crazy benefit”, “wild profit”, or something of that nature. However, this translation is slightly awkward, so a better way to translate it would be to say “Oh, what luck!” or “It’s my lucky day!” or “I got lucky!”
You can use this phrase when a situation unexpectedly turns in your favor or when you receive a huge opportunity that you didn’t think you would obtain. For example, if you were looking forward to buying a new game console and on the day you were going, the console happens to be on sale for 50% off, that would be 완전 개이득!
완전 (wan-jeon) means “totally”, and it can be used before 개이득 to emphasize your excitement! The difference between 완전 개이득 and just 개이득 is like the difference between “It’s totally my lucky day!” versus just “It’s my lucky day!”
시차: Time Difference
If you speak with people not from your country/state (depending on where you live), conversations about time zones are bound to come up. That’s why 시차 (shi-cha) is such a useful word to know-
시간 (shi-gan) = time
차이 (cha-i) = difference
시간차이 → 시차 = time difference
And that’s really all there. You might have also heard about it from BTS’ Jungkook, as the Korean title for his song “My Time” is “시차". In that song, he talks about his time from his trainee days to his current idol/celebrity/music artist status and tries to capture the feeling of the difference in time and how he’s changed from then until now.
An interesting thing to note is that sometimes, people, even some Koreans, will confuse 시차 and 시간대 (shi-gan-dae), which means time zone. Sometimes people will ask about your 시차 when they mean your 시간대, so it’s important to keep this in mind to make sure you answer properly.
For those of you who can read 한글 (Han-geul - the Korean alphabet), you might have an idea of what the word is just based on the title. For those who can’t, no worries, because after reading this, you’ll definitely be able to understand.
As you know, the way to say “Hello” in Korean is 안녕하세요 (an-nyeong-ha-se-yo). Korean characters consist of one vowel and up to three consonants, but the character must start with a consonant. In the case of 안녕하세요, ㅇ, ㄴ, ㅎ, and ㅅ are all consonants.
Therefore, ㅇㄴㅎㅅㅇ represents 안녕하세요 because it uses all of the first consonants in the order of 안녕하세요. You could consider this as more of an acronym than 유행어 or 줄임말.
Sometimes people (usually younger) will also say 안냐세요 (an-nya-se-yo) as a form of slang - and also because it’s faster to type than 안녕하세요. You’ll probably see more variations of typing 안녕하세요 as you text more people who speak Korean.
People may also turn other words into acronyms. For example, 보고싶어 (bo-go-shi-peo), which means “I miss you”, may also be typed as ㅂㄱㅅㅍ as a trendier way of speaking/typing. Notice that the last syllable starts with ㅇ and not ㅍ, yet the acronym uses ㅍ. This is based on Korean pronunciation rules, which are complicated to understand at times, but to simplify, 싶어 is pronounced like 시퍼, so ㅍ is used to better show the pronunciation of the word.
답정너: Only Saying What You Want to Hear
Translation (*this indicates internal dialogue*):
Top Right - Kim Daeri! We have a weekly meeting, get over here, get over here…
Daeri - *Ah, I have to start working now…* Uh..yes (I’ll be right there)!
You’ve probably run into people only willing to agree to someone’s viewpoints or just tell someone what they want to hear in response to a specific question. Sometimes we call these people good friends, sometimes brownnosers, sometimes “yes men”. Either way, 답정너 (dab-jeong-neo) is a 줄임말 that refers to this specific situation and comes from the following phrase, which we will break down-
답은 정해져 있고 너는 대답만 하면 돼
(dab-eun jeong-hae-jyeo id-go neo-neun dae-dam-man ha-myeon dwae)
답 = answer
정하다 (jeong-ha-da) = to decide
-아/어/여지다 (-a/eo/yeo-ji-da) = a grammar point that means “to become”; can only attach to what we call verbs and adjectives
-아/어/여 있다(-a/eo/yeo id-dda) = a grammar point that indicates being in a continuous state after being affected by a past action; can only attach to what we call verbs and adjectives
-고 (-go) = and
Altogether, the first part of the phrase means “I’ve already decided the answer, and…” or “The answer has already been decided, and…”
너 = you (note that this is informal speech and can only be used with people close to you)
대답 = reply
-만 = only
하면 돼 = 하다 + -면 되다
하다 (ha-da) = to do (something), to make (something)
-면 되다 (-myeon dwae-da) = a grammar point that means one should do something or one has permission to do something, can attach to what we call verbs and adjectives
Altogether, the second half roughly translates to “You can only reply”, “You should only reply”, or “All you have to do is reply” (“have to” is used here more loosely, so it has the feeling of “you should do this to get a specific outcome”).
When you put two halves to make the whole, the entire phrase means “The answer has already been decided, and all you have to do is reply” or “I’ve already decided the answer, and you can only reply”, presumably with the answer that the speaker wants to hear.
Again, you can use this phrase, but more commonly its acronym, to refer to situations in which someone is only telling somebody else words and phrases that they want to hear. It can also be used to refer to people who fish for compliments and only want to hear good things about themselves.
It depends on the situation, but usually, the phrase is used among friends and as a joke (Kim, 2015), so it’s not usually insulting (unless the specific individual you are talking to has a problem with it). However, since it’s informal language, it’s important NOT to use this phrase with people who are older than you, in higher positions than you, or not as close to you.
Do you think you’ll use any of these words or phrases? Which one is your favorite? I personally find myself using 시차 a lot, and I think 답정너 is really interesting.
Let me know in the comments, and be on the lookout for a part 2 of more slang/colloquialisms!
Kim, J. U. (2015, July 16). 답정너. italki. https://www.italki.com/post/exercise-581811?hl=ko.