Whether you’re a new or long-term K-drama fan, you need to know some essential Korean terms to better understand your favorite dramas. Even with subtitles, some terms don’t have direct translations into other languages and are most often just spelled out phonetically by the subtitlers or skipped over. Learn the following essential K-drama terms and you’ll soon sound like a Hallyu expert!
aegyo (EH-GYO) — Term that is used for the act of making a cute face and trying to act cute and adorable. For some reason, this seems to be a sought-after skill or personality trait by some drama men in the women they date!
aigoo (I-E-GO) — An expression of exasperation or frustration much like “Seriously?!” or “My goodness!”
ajussi (AH-JUH-SHEE) — Generic term for “man” or “mister.” Just like “ajumma,” this term usually refers to an older man and wouldn’t be used on young men or male students (unless it’s a child calling the person).
chaebol (JEH-BOHR) — Heir (son or daughter) of a wealthy elite family who runs a national or international conglomerate business. There seems to be a ton of these people in Korea, if you were to believe K-dramas, and they’re all very good-looking and moody!
|Some of our favorite drama chaebols include Ji Sung in ‘Kill Me, Heal Me,’ Choi Jin Hyuk and Lee Min Ho in ‘Heirs’ and So Ji Sub in ‘Master’s Sun’|
daebak (DEH-BOK) — An expression of amazement or surprise that could be equated to “Wow” or “No way!” Drama characters usually lower their voice an octave when saying this word!
dong-seng (DOHNG-SENG) — “Younger brother.” This term can be used to express a close relationship with someone younger even if that person is not biologically related.
Fighting! (be sure to pronounce the T very strongly as in FIE-TING!) — A standalone word that is usually said very loudly while accompanied by a held-up fist, this word is used to encourage someone to do well before they face a tough situation or go into a lion’s den.
Gyung-bae! (GYUNG-BEH) — This word is a prerequisite for people to say before drinking alcohol at an after-hours drink-fest. It means “Cheers!” If you don’t say it before you down a shot of soju in a K-drama, it’s usually because you’re all alone and feeling sorry for yourself that you don’t have anyone to make a toast with!
heol (HURRR) — An expression of surprise much like “daebak” but more along the lines of “OMG.” It’s also recommended that you deepen your voice for maximum effect when saying this word.
hyung (make sure to pronounce both the H and Y and rhyme with “sung”) — A term that means “older brother” when a younger boy or man is referring to another boy or man who is older. It can be used for anyone that is a close friend and doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re biologically related.
jjang (JONG with a hard J sound) — A term that means “the best” or “the greatest.”
|The cool dance moves of the popular K-pop boy band INFINITE|
|Yo Na (played by Ji Sung, top) finds her ‘oppa’ (played by Park Seo Joon) in ‘Kill Me, Heal Me’|
|Jun Ji Hyun makes eating ramen look refined in ‘My Love From the Star’|
sageuk (SAH-GUK) — A Korean historical drama, usually set in the Chosun Dynasty, when the people spoke in a type of Korean that’s hard for even Korean people to understand. In most sageuks, there’s usually a king or crown prince who is trying to keep from being overthrown.
|Some of our favorite sageuks include ‘The King’s Face’ (top) and ‘Secret Door’|
unnie (UN-NEE) — The term for “older sister” that a girl or woman calls someone older. This term is used to refer to someone older who may not necessarily be biologically related to show a close relationship.
Is there a commonly used K-drama word that you think we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments!