10 Common Korean Slang Words You Can Learn in No Time
Slang that originate from social media and internet language, especially among the younger generation (10 to 20-year-olds), are a big deal in Korean culture. If you are learning the language through any formal means like textbooks or taking classes, you may find a pretty big discrepancy between the language you will learn there, and what is being used among your friends. However, you no longer need to fear for any more socially-awkward situations coming from speaking in an overly polite tone when you texting your friends. Here are 10 Korean slang words that are common among texting and the social media universe. Master these slang words and your Korean friends will be impressed.
대박 – Daebak (That is crazy!)
대박 originally means ‘a big hit’ or ‘a great success’, but in modern slang, it is used for surprising situations. It can be used as a verb (대박이다) as well as a noun on its own (대박!) and can be used in both positive and negative settings.
“Charlie, I just picked up $50 on the ground on a sidewalk!”
“대박! That is great!”
짱 – Jjang (Awesome)
짱 means ‘awesome’ or ‘the best’, and it can be used as an adjective or as an affix. As an adjective, you would use this slang to describe someone or something is the best.
“You are 짱”
As an affix, you would use 짱 behind different nouns to make them superlative.
몸짱 (Mome jjang) – The best body.
얼(굴)짱 (Ul-jjang)- The best/prettiest face.
Note that in different settings 짱 can carry different meanings such as being mad or describing someone as a boss.
“아 완전 짱나! (Ah, Wanjun jjang na!)” – I am so mad/angry.
“Brian is the 짱 of this school” – Brian is the boss of this school.
헐 – Hul (No way, Oh my gosh)
You say 헐 as an exclamatory expression when you hear anything unbelievable or unexpected. 헐 originally described frustrated or dumbfounded feelings but nowadays it can be used both in both positive and negative settings.
“Hey you are never going to believe this! My boyfriend just dumped me and got back together with his ex!”
“헐? That is crazy.”
잼 – Jem (Fun)
잼 is short for 재미 which means ‘fun’. 재미 is originally a noun but in its shortened form it is commonly used as an affix for other words. For example, you can put it with the word ‘no’ and make it ‘no잼 (노잼)’, which means ‘no(t) fun’. If you put it with another slang term, 꿀 (khool;originally means ‘honey’ but informally means ‘amazing’), it becomes 꿀잼, which means ‘amazingly fun’.
Notice how 잼 sounds very similar to the word ‘Jam’ which is the same in Korean as well. You will find a lot of puns with this word.
핵 – Heck (Very much)
핵 originally means ‘nuclear’ as in ‘nuclear energy/power’. As a slang and a prefix it means ‘very much’. If you put 핵 in front of any adjective, it emphasizes the intensity of the word. For example, remember the last words we learned, 노잼 (not fun) and 꿀잼 (very fun)? If you put 핵- in front of these words, they become 핵노잼 and 핵꿀잼, which mean ‘not very fun’ or ‘so boring’, and ‘extremely fun’ respectively.
화이팅 or 파이팅 – Hwai-ting or Pai-ting (You can do it!)
화이팅 actually comes from the English word ‘fighting’ (in Korean phonetics there is no ‘f’ sound and instead sounds like ‘p(ㅍ)’ or ‘h(ㅎ)’). 화이팅 is an exclamatory expression that is used to cheer up and wish luck to others, just like ‘You can do it!’, or ‘Best wishes to you!’. 화이팅 started to be used during Korean sports games in the 1960s as a means to cheer up the players. In other words, as a way of saying ‘go fight the other team and bring back victory!’. Now it has become a common slang people say when their friends or family are about to face a big challenge.
뻥 – Ppung (Lie/Joke)
뻥 is a noun that means ‘lie’ or ‘joke’, and has been used a lot in Korean slang for many decades. On its own, it means a false piece of information, i.e. lie. On the other hand, 뻥 can also mean ‘joke’ when combined with other words. It is used in two common formats, ‘뻥이’ (Ppung-i-ya) aka ‘I’m just joking’ and ‘뻥치지마 (Ppung-chi-ji-ma) aka ‘Stop kidding with me’.
치맥 – Chimaek (Chicken and Beer)
Korean people love shortening words for convenience. For example, ‘치맥’ is short for ‘치킨+맥주’ (chicken and beer) and are the most popular food pairing you will find in Korea. Fried chicken is a very popular part of Korean cuisine, as it goes well with watching sports games, going to picnics, Sunday family dinners, and any other occasions you would want to share with friends and families. If you are hosting a housewarming party with Korean friends, you now know what to prepare.
ㅠㅠ – Tears
Only used in text messaging, the two vowels of ‘ㅠ put together make an emoticon that translates to ‘I’m crying/I’m sad’. You can also use ‘ㅜㅜ’ in the same sense. Koreans use a slightly different emoticon system compared to English speakers. Koreans tend to use their own alphabet to make facial expressions.
^^ – smiling
ㅇ_ㅇ – surprised
ㅂ< – excited
ㅋㅋ – lol
ㅋ is a Korean consonant that sounds like ‘k’ and is only used in text messages. When you type ‘ㅋㅋ’ it delivers the message that you are finding the conversation/topic very funny (or trying to tell the other person that you are smiling). It is just like saying ‘haha’ or ‘lol’ in English. The more ‘ㅋ’s you put in your message, the funnier you find it. However, if you put one ‘ㅋ’, some people may find this as a cynical, sarcastic laugh.
Learn Korean Slang Words and More with LingQ
With LingQ, you can easily import any Korean text you find online and start studying. LingQ’s main focus is to help you learn new vocabulary through context, using topics you enjoy. For example, if you want to learn Korean slang words, I recommend listening to K-pop or K-rap since the lyrics to these genres have a lot of slang. Find lyrics to a song you like online, import them into LingQ and you’ll automatically have a new lesson to study from. Below, I created a quick study guide using G-Dragon’s song, Untitled, check it out!
LingQ will allow you to study each word and phrase through spaced-repetition and useful activities such as flashcards, dictation and much more.
Julie Yoon has been teaching Korean and English in formal and informal settings for ten years. She has been learning French as a third language.