Korean Abbreviations

Let’s learn about different kinds of abbreviations and how they’re used in everyday life!

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Abbreviation in Korean is 준말 [jun-mal], but it’s also often referred to as 줄임말 [ju-rim-mal]. In modern Korean, use of abbreviations is extremely common, and similar to other cultures, they’re mostly used by the younger generation, and the use of abbreviations is more common in informal conversations, especially in text messages.

There are two types of abbreviations. One type is where we combine one syllable from each word to form the abbreviation, and the other type is when we combine Hangul letters to form an abbreviation. In this article, we will take a look at some of the most common abbreviations in both types.

Combining syllables

Let’s take a look at 15 of the most common abbreviations where we combine syllables from each word to form abbreviations. These abbreviations can be used in both writing and speech, but they’re generally used in informal settings. Some of these abbreviations will give you an interesting insight into Korean culture.

1. 심쿵 [shim-kung]

심쿵 comes from 심장이 쿵. 심장 means ‘heart’, and 쿵 is an onomatopoeic word and represents the sound of something dropping, and we use 심쿵 to suggest that our hearts have dropped suddenly due to being surprised or excited by something that has happened. So if you saw your favorite K-Drama actor, and you suddenly felt a sudden shock and excitement, you can say ‘나 심쿵했어.’ (I was really surprised.)

2. 버카충 [beo-ka-chung]

버카충 comes from 버스카드충전 and this means ‘charging a bus card’. 버스 means ‘bus’, 카드 means ‘card’, and 충전 means ‘charging’ and we use 버카충 to talk about charging a bus card. When we pronounce this word, 버 is often pronounced as 뻐.

3. 맛점 [mat-jeom]

맛점 comes from 맛있는 점심. 맛있는 means ‘delicious, tasty’, and 점심 means ‘lunch’, so 맛점 refers to delicious lunch. When you want to wish someone to have a delicious lunch, you can say (or text) ‘맛점 하세요!’

4. 솔까말

솔까말 comes from 솔직히 까놓고 말하다. 솔직히 means ‘honestly’, 까놓고 means ‘to speak frankly’, and 말하다 means ‘to speak’, and we use 솔까말 to tell someone that we want to speak honestly with them, that we do not want to deceive them.

5. 안물안궁

안물안궁 comes from 안 물어봤고 안 궁금하다, and this loosely translates to mean ‘I didn’t ask, and I’m not interested’. We use 안물안궁 when someone tells us something and we have no interest in what they’re saying. When we say 안물안궁, we are kind of telling them ‘stop telling me what you’re saying’.

6. 마상

마상 comes from 마음의 상처 and it kind of means ‘heartbreak’ or ‘pain in one’s heart’, so we use this abbreviation to talk about things that break our hearts, but in a casual way. So if you get a haircut and your friend says your hair looks awful, you can say ‘마상 주지 마’ (Don’t give me a heartache’.

7. 꾸안꾸

꾸안꾸 comes from the phrase 꾸민 듯 안 꾸민 듯. This phrase loosely translates to mean ‘kind of dressed up, but also not dressed up’ and we use this phrase to talk about how someone looks as if they’re dressed up, but also not dressed up, meaning that the person has a beautiful natural look.

8. 갑분싸

갑분싸 comes from the phrase 갑자기 분위기 싸해지다. This phrase means ‘for the mood to suddenly become cold’, and we use this phrase when the mood within a certain setting changes and becomes cold. This change in mood could be because of what someone said, or what someone did, but when the mood suddenly becomes cold, we can use this phrase 갑분싸.

9. 케바케

Use of English is very common in Korean, and we sometimes shorten English phrases in Korean. A good example of this is 케바케, which comes from the phrase ‘case by case’. Just like the meaning of the English phrase, we use 케바케 to talk about how things are different for each situation, and that we should look at things ‘case by case’.

10. 워라벨

Another abbreviations that comes from English is 워라벨. 워라벨 comes from the English phrase ‘work life balance’, and we use this abbreviation to talk about our work life balance.

11. 구취

구취 is a simple, yet a useful phrase in the modern world. 구취 comes from the phrase 구독 취소, and this phrase means ‘cancel subscription’. With so many subscription we have, if you want to talk about canceling one of your subscriptions, you can use this abbreviation, 구취.

12. 아아

Here’s another abbreviation, which kind of comes from English. In Korean, iced americano is just called 아이스 아메리카노 so we just say the English phrase phonetically in Korean, but instead of using this long name, we use 아아. So if you want an ‘iced americano’, you can just ask for 아아.

13. 취존

취존 comes from the phrase 취향 존중. This phrase means ‘respect one’s preference’, so if someone says ‘I like watching scary movies in the dark’, and you want to say ‘I respect your preference’, you can use this phrase 취존.

14. 마기꾼

마기꾼 comes from the phrase 마스크 사기꾼. This loosely translates as ‘a mask con artist’, and we use this abbreviation to talk about people who are good looking with a mask on, but do not look as good when they don’t have a mask on. This abbreviation took off during the COVID period, but the use of masks during flu season is very common in Korea so I think this abbreviation is here to stay.

15. 별다줄

별다줄 comes from the phrase 별걸 다 줄이네. This phrase loosely translates to mean ‘wow, you’ll abbreviate anything’. In modern Korean, shortening words and using abbreviations have become extremely common - so common that new abbreviations are being formed all the time. So when we come across new abbreviations, we might say this abbreviation (별다줄) to suggest that ‘wow, people will abbreviate anything’ - the irony of having an abbreviation to talk about abbreviations is not lost on us Koreans. 🙂

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Combining Hangul syllables

When we form abbreviations by combining Hangul letters, the letters in the abbreviation represent the sounds from the syllables in the word. For example, the word for thank you in Korean is 감사, so to abbreviate this word, we combine the initial consonant letters in each syllable and make ㄱㅅ. Abbreviations made up of Hangul letters are only used in text messages, or when people write comments online.

1. ㅎㅇ

ㅎㅇ comes from the English word ‘hi’. If we write ‘hi’ in Korean, it would be 하이, so we use ㅎㅇ as a hello.

2. ㅂㅂ

ㅂㅂ comes from the English phrase ‘bye bye’. If we write ‘bye bye’ in Korean, it would be 바이 바이, so we take ㅂㅂ from the syllables 바바 to say ‘bye bye’.

3. ㄱㅅ

As explained already, ㄱㅅ comes from the word 감사 which means thank you, so we use ㄱㅅ to say ‘thank you’.

4. ㅊㅋ

ㅊㅋ comes from the word 축하, which means congratulations. However, the initial consonants in the word 축하 are ㅊㅎ, but we use ㅊㅋ because when we pronounce 축하, we pronounce it as 추카. So the abbreviated form of 축하 is ㅊㅋ.

5. ㅈㅅ

ㅈㅅ comes from the word 죄송, which means sorry, so we use ㅈㅅ when we want to apologize to someone.

6. ㅅㄱ

ㅅㄱ comes from the word 수고. 수고 or its adjective form 수고하다 has a lot of different uses in Korean. It literally means a lot of work, or to put in a lot of effort, and we can use this word to tell someone that they did a good job, or to express our appreciation for someone’s hard work, so depending on the context ㅅㄱ can be used in different ways.

7. ㅁㄹ

ㅁㄹ comes from the word 몰라, which means ‘I don’t know’, so we use ㅁㄹ to say ‘I don’t know’.

8. ㅇㅋ

ㅇㅋ is another word that comes from an English word, and this time it’s ‘OK’. ‘OK’ written in Korean is 오케이, so we use ㅇㅋ to say that something is OK, that something is fine.

9. ㅜㅜ

ㅜㅜ does not come from any word, and the letters ㅜㅜ actually represent the visual image of someone crying, with tears running down the face. So if you want to express sadness in a text message, you can type ㅜㅜ. Also, to express even greater feeling of sadness, you can type ㅠㅠ, and the vowel letters show two streams of tears running down someone’s face.

10. ㅋㅋㅋ

We use ㅋㅋㅋ to express laughter. In Korea, we often think of the sound of laughter as 크크크 [keu keu keu], so we use ㅋㅋㅋ to say that we are laughing or that something is funny. It’s similar to ‘lol’ in English.

11. ㅎㅎㅎ

Similar to ㅋㅋㅋ, we use ㅎㅎㅎ to express laughter. It’s similar to the English ‘hahaha’, and since the sound of ‘h’ is expressed with the letter ‘ㅎ’, we can use ㅎㅎㅎ to express laughter.

12. ㅍㅎㅎ

ㅍㅎㅎ is not too different from ㅎㅎㅎ, but instead of a simple ‘hahaha’, ㅍㅎㅎ means ‘puhaha’, and we use ㅍㅎㅎ to express a big laughter. So when ㅎㅎㅎ just isn’t enough to express how funny something is, we use ㅍㅎㅎ.

13. ㅇㅇ

ㅇㅇ is a casual ‘yes’. The formal ‘yes’ in Korean is either 예, or 네, but to say ‘yes’ casually, we say 응. So when we say ㅇㅇ, we are kind of saying 응응 (yes, yes).

14. ㄴㄴ

This is another abbreviation that comes from an English word, and ㄴㄴ means ‘no’. ‘No’ written in Korean is 노, so we write ㄴㄴ to mean 노노 (no, no).

15. ㄱㄱ

The final abbreviation also comes from an English word, and we use ㄱㄱ to mean ‘let’s go’. ‘Go’ written in Korean is 고, so we write ㄱㄱ to means 고고 (go, go), as in ‘let’s go!’

Conclusion

Use of abbreviations and shortened phrases is extremely common in Korea, and there are new ones being formed all the time and it can be difficult to keep up with the latest words being formed by the younger generation. While many have their origins in Korean, some have their origins in English, such as 워라벨 (work life balance), so you sometimes have to think outside the box to workout what the abbreviation means.

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