korean idioms

Words of Wisdom: 10 Well-Known Korean Idioms

korean idioms

Every language has certain expressions that have deeper meanings. When you’re taking Korean lessons, it can be fun to learn these Korean expressions. Here, Paradise Valley, AZ teacher Hannah V. teaches you 10 Korean idioms…

Idioms are both puzzling and interesting, and sometimes even profound. Read on to find out the true meaning behind 10 well-known Korean idioms.

korean idioms

쏜: Shot, 살: Abbreviation of 화살 (arrow), 같이: Like

This Korean phrase means that someone or something is super fast. If someone can run like an arrow, he or she must be really fast!

Example: 그는 쏜살같이 달렸다 “- He ran super fast”.

korean idioms

바람: Wind, 을: Particle for the object, 맞다 Run into / get / get beaten up. 비맞다 Means “get rained on”

Despite the literal translation, this phrase actually means to get stood up (usually on a date).

Example: 그녀는 바람 맞았다  –  “She was stood up”.

korean idioms

고슴도치: Porcupine, 도: Also, 자기: His or her, 새끼: Offspring,  는: Particle for the subject, 예쁘다: Pretty

Note: 새끼 is used for animals’ offspring, so be careful not to use this word if you’re referring to a human baby.

Most parents can probably relate to the true meaning of this Korean idiom: Every parent thinks his or her baby is pretty.

korean idioms

그림의: On a painting, 떡: Korean rice cake

This phrase refers to something that you want but can’t have, usually because you can’t afford it.

Example: 이 롤렉스 시계는 그림의 떡이다 – “I can’t afford this Rolex (but I want it).”

korean idioms

시작: Initiative, 이: Particle for the subject, 반이다: Half

The literal translation for this Korean idiom is pretty close to the real meaning: When you want to accomplish something, taking the initiative is a big step.

korean idioms

눈: Eye(s), 코: Nose, 뜰새: Time to open 없다: Do not have

This Korean expression means that the subject is extremely busy (hence he doesn’t have time to open his eyes and nose).

Example: 나는 눈코 뜰새 없이 바쁘다 – “I am extremely busy”.

korean idioms

바가지: A Korean bowl  쓰다: Put (something) on (head or face)

Note: 쓰다  is only used for clothing that goes on one’s head or face (like a hat or mask).

This phrase actually means to get cheated on a price, to get ripped off, or pay for an overpriced item.

Example: 나는 해변가에서 바가지 썼다 – “I got ripped off at the beach”.

korean idioms

귀: Ear(s), 빠진: Pulled out, 날: Day

This Korean idiom essentially means your birthday (when you were born, you were pushed out of your mother’s womb, including your ears).

Example: 오늘은 귀 빠진날이다 – “today is (my) birthday”.

korean idioms

개천: Stream, 에서: at (in) 용: Dragon, 났다: Was born

This expression refers to someone from a small town with an ordinary background, who has had great success. In Korea, has a positive meaning. When it’s used to refer to a person, it implies that he or she is extremely successful.

korean idioms

혼자서: Oneself, 북: Drum, 치고: play and 장구: Korean double drum 친다: Play

This expression refers to someone who tries to do everything by himself. It has a negative connotation because it implies that that he or she doesn’t care about other peoples’ opinions. It’s difficult to imagine someone actually playing both instruments at the same time because you would need more than two hands.

If someone tries to do this, he or she must like to work alone.

Do any of these Korean idioms remind you of expressions you’ve heard in English? Share them in the comments below.

Want to learn more Korean phrases? Sign up for Korean lessons today! 

Hannah V TakeLessons.com Teacher
Post Author:
 Hannah V.
Hannah is a Korean instructor in Paradise Valley, AZ. A native Korean speaker, she also holds a Master’s degree from the University of Texas in Austin. Learn more about Hannah here!


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