Korean Words that Aren't in the Dictionary


Are all the words that native speakers use grammatically correct? Are all of them in the dictionary? No. Some people say that languages are mirrors of culture and history; new terms are born and old terms disappear as culture and history change. Thus, native speakers don’t just use words found in the dictionary. In Korea, many new terms have been created due to the increase in use of the internet. Also, some Japanese vocabulary from the Japanese colonization period has found its way into the Korean dictionary.

Korean teenagers use the internet a lot, and this trend has created many new terms which are called ‘Internet terms.’ Most Internet terms are longer words formed from abbreviations of several short words. For example, “Um-Chin-A” and “Um-Chin-Ddal” form “Umma Chingoo A deul” (Mom’s friend’s son) and “Umma Chinggo Ddal” (Mom’s friend’s daughter) respectively. In Korea, some mothers compare their own to their friends’ kids in order to motivate them. They do this by saying something like “My friend’s daughter got into Medical school!”, or “My friend’s son got a job at Samsung!” Then the kids will give sarcastic responses like “it seems that all of your friends’ kids are geniuses!” For this reason, whenever an article about a person who seems perfect is posted online, people leave comments saying “you must be the Um-Chin-A (My mom’s friend’s son),” or “Oh! Here is the Um-Chin-Ddal (here is the daughter of my mom’s friend).” A recent example of “Um-Chin-Ddal” (mom’s friend’s daughter) is the famous singer, Lee So Eun. She got an acceptance letter from the prestigious Northwestern Law School in the U.S. Upon this news, people left comments saying “She has a pretty face, perfect figure, sweet voice and is intelligent! What a real Um-Chin-ddal she is!”

Aside from the Internet terms, some Japanese words also represent vocabulary used by native Koreans, even though they are not in the dictionary. Many older Koreans, who lived through the Japanese colonization period, still use Japanese words like “Bentto” (a lunch box) or “Yoji” (a toothpick). The Korean government changed these Japanese words into Korean and promoted them quite successfully. Most of the younger generation do not use those terms anymore, however some Japanese words, especially names of foods, like “Udon” or “Donkkasso”, have become ingrained within Korean society, and are still widely used nowadays.

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