Language reflects a culture and vice versa. Just like the Korean and American cultures are different, so are their languages. Let’s take a look at seven cute Korean words that don’t exist in English!

1. 정 (Jung)

noun

The special, compassionate feeling of caring for people and things.

“The old lady who lives in my building has a lot of jung. She hands me home-cooked snacks every now and then.”

synonyms: compassion, care, affection, love, attachment


2. 눈치 (Noonchi)

noun

The art of navigating the unspoken words in communicating with others. Nonverbal.

“My dad doesn’t have noonchi. He butts into my room every five minutes when I bring over a friend.

synonyms: hint, notice


3. 존댓말 (Jon Dae Mal)

noun

Formal speech using special honorific words and sentence endings. The informal speech is 반말 (banmal).

“Use jon dae mal to the elders and people you meet for the first time.”

Click here for more info on honorifics usage.


4. 대박 (Daebak)

noun

An exclamation that means a success or pleasant surprise.

Daebak, it’s a great find!”

adverb

Used for emphasis.

synonyms: great, exceptional, extraordinary


5. 멍 (Mung)

noun

The state of being lost in thoughts.

The speechless, zoned-out, eye-glazed-over, “ehhhh” type of expression that you’d find on the face of every student forced to sit through a difficult lecture, according to Archana of Shining Korean.

Running Man’s Song Ji Hyo was nicknamed Mung Ji Hyo because she zoned out so often.”

synonym: daydreaming, zoning out


6. 스킨십 (Skinship)

verb

To touch someone.

noun

The act of touching between two people, from rubbing one’s skin on the other to kissing. Can be sexual or non-sexual. Konglish.

“I loved Park Bo Gum and Kim Yoo Jung’s skinship in Moonlight Drawn by Clouds.”

synonyms: intimacy, closeness, PDA


7. 부담 (Budam)

verb

To burden someone with an emotional baggage either voluntarily or unknowingly. You give or take someone budam.

“I don’t mean to give you budam, honey, but do you want to have dinner with my parents on Friday?”

noun

A behavior or string of words that is carried to excess to the point where the others feel overwhelmed.

synonyms: burden, emotional baggage, overdoing


Lastly, there's 메롱 (maerong), which is an onomatopoeia for blowing raspberries or simply sticking your tongue out!


If you’ve been meaning to learn Korean, today is the best time to start. Today, Duolingo launched a free Korean course for English speakers for iOS and Android. Over 200,000 people had been waiting to learn Korean on Duolingo. This course is by far the second most requested on the language-learning platform following Japanese. Duolingo hopes this new course will help us better appreciate our favorite K-dramas and eventually watch them without subtitles!

COMING SOON

Hospital Ship

Starring Ha Ji Won and Kang Min Hyuk

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Any other Korean words you’d like to add? What about cool words in other languages with no equivalent in English? Please let us know below!

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