Learn and Master Korean Vocabulary

Learn the most essential Korean vocabulary to help you speak Korean!

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By Keehwan Kim · February 29, 2024 · 10 minute read

Learning Korean vocabulary may be the most important thing you can do to improve your ability to speak Korean. After all, you can only understand what others are saying if you have enough vocabulary knowledge. So learning and developing Korean vocabulary knowledge is an absolute must for all Korean learners.

In this article, we’ll go over the most basic Korean vocabulary words so that you are able to speak Korean and understand what others are saying.

Korean nouns

Korean nouns work just like English nouns. We use nouns to refer to people, things, concepts and places. There are, of course, thousands of different nouns, but let’s learn some of the most common nouns in Korean. Each table below shows how to write and say nouns related to a topic from everyday life.

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Basic terms for people in Korean

Korean Pronunciation English
사람 [sa-ram] Person
남자 [nam-ja] Man
여자 [yeo-ja] Woman
어른 [eo-reun] Adult
아이 [a-i] Child
선생님 [seon-saeng-nim] Teacher
학생 [hak-saeng] student
친구 [chin-gu] Friend
여자 친구 [yeo-ja-chin-gu] Girlfriend
남자 친구 [nam-ja-chin-gu] Boyfriend

Family terms in Korean

Korean Pronunciation English
부모님 [bu-mo-nim] parents
어머니 [eo-meo-ni] mother
아버지 [a-beo-ji] father
엄마 [eom-ma] mom
아빠 [a-ppa] dad
아내 [a-nae] wife
남편 [nam-pyeon] husband
아들 [a-deul] son
[ttal] daughter

Everyday objects in Korean

Korean Pronunciation English
가방 [ga-bang] bag
핸드폰 [haen-deu-pon] cell phone
열쇠 [yeol-soe] key
지갑 [ji-gap] wallet
티비 [ti-bi] TV
컴퓨터 [keom-pyu-teo] computer
노트북 [no-teu-buk] laptop
[chaek] book
[pen] pen
종이 [jong-i] paper

Forms of transportation in Korean

Korean Pronunciation English
자동차 [ja-dong-cha] car
지하철 [ji-ha-cheol] metro, subway
기차 [gi-cha] train
버스 [beo-seu] bus
택시 [taek-si] taxi
비행기 [bi-haeng-gi] airplane
자전거 [ja-jeon-geo] bicycle
[yeok] station
기차역 [gi-cha-yeok] train station
공항 [gong-hang] airport

Important concepts in Korean

Korean Pronunciation English
사랑 [sa-rang] love
희망 [hi-mang] hope
자신감 [ja-shin-gam] confidence
슬픔 [seul-peum] sadness
행복 [haeng-bok] happiness
[un] luck
성격 [seong-gyeok] personality

Places around town in Korean

Korean Pronunciation English
[jip] house, home
학교 [hak-gyo] school
회사 [hoe-sa] company, workplace
공원 [gong-won] park
백화점 [baek-hwa-jeom] department store
식당 [shik-dang] restaurant
카페 [ka-pe] cafe
학원 [hag-won] educational academy
헬스장 [hel-seu-jang] gym
마트 [ma-teu] supermarket

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Korean verbs

Like the nouns, Korean verbs work in the same way as English verbs. We can use verbs to describe actions and states. The tables below show some of the more common verbs in Korean. (Check out our article on Korean verb conjugation to learn how to conjugate as well!)

Common action verbs in Korean

Korean Pronunciation English
하다 [ha-da] to do
주다 [ju-da] to give
받다 [bat-da] to receive
가다 [ga-da] to go
오다 [o-da] to come
먹다 [meok-da] to eat
마시다 [ma-shi-da] to drink
자다 [ja-da] to sleep
일어나다 [i-reo-na-da] to get up
만나다 [man-na-da] to meet

Common stative verbs in Korean

korean Pronunciation English
생각하다 [saeng-gak-ha-da] to think
좋아하다 [jo-a-ha-da] to like
싫어하다 [si-reo-ha-da] to hate
알다 [al-da] to know
느끼다 [neu-kki-da] to feel
이해하다 [i-hae-ha-da to understand
기대하다 [gi-dae-ha-da] to expect
동의하다 [dong-ui-ha-da] to agree
상상하다 [sang-sang-ha-da] to imagine
기억하다 [gi-eok-ha-da] to remember

Verbs ending in 하다

Many Korean verbs are made up of a noun + 하다 (to do), and we’ve already seen some examples in the table before. For example, the verb ‘to love’ is 사랑하다, and this is made up of the noun 사랑 (love) and the verb 하다 (to do). So when we say 사랑하다, it kind of means ‘to do love,’ and we use 사랑하다 to say “I love something.”

Below is a table with some of the most common verbs that follow this pattern.

Korean verbs ending in 하다

Korean Pronunciation English
운동하다 [un-dong-ha-da] to exercise
공부하다 [gong-bu-ha-da] to study
요리하다 [yo-ri-ha-da] to cook
청소하다 [cheong-so-ha-da] to clean
대화하다 [dae-hwa-ha-da] to talk, converse
결정하다 [gyeol-jeong-ha-da] to decide
도착하다 [do-chak-ha-da] to arrive
출발하다 [chul-bal-ha-da] to set off
숙제하다 [suk-jae-ha-da] to do homework
운전하다 [un-jeon-ha-da] to drive

Korean adjectives

Korean adjectives are unique, as they act like verbs. What that means is that we can conjugate Korean adjectives into different tenses, and in a sentence, they take the same position as verbs do.

Because Korean adjectives function like verbs, they generally include the meaning of the verb ‘to be,’ so a Korean adjective doesn’t just mean ‘big,’ it means ‘to be big.’ However, the main function of Korean adjectives is to modify nouns, so we often refer to Korean adjectives as descriptive verbs.

Let’s learn some of the more common Korean adjectives, shown in the table below.

Common adjectives in Korean

Korean Pronunciation English
크다 [keu-da] to be big
작다 [jak-da] to be small
빠르다 [ppa-reu-da] to be fast
느리다 [neu-ri-da] to be slow
좋다 [jo-ta] to be good
나쁘다 [na-ppeu-da] to be bad
행복하다 [haeng-bok-ha-da] to be happy
슬프다 [seul-peu-da] to be sad
멀다 [meol-da] to be far
가깝다 [ga-kkap-da] to be close

Korean adverbs

We can use Korean adverbs to modify verbs, and many of these adverbs end in 히 or 게. There are also many adverbs we can use to modify adjectives, such as 정말 (really) and 아주 (very). Below are some of the more common adverbs in Korean.

Korean adverbs ending in 히 or 게

Korean Pronunciation English
천천히 [cheon-cheon-hi] slowly
조용히 [jo-yong-hi] quietly
완전히 [wan-jeon-hi] completely
간단히 [gan-dan-hi] simply
특별히 [teuk-byeol-hi] especially
크게 [keu-ge] in a big way
작게 [jak-ge] in a small way
나쁘게 [na-ppeu-ge] badly
좋게 [jo-ke] in a good way
강하게 [gang-ha-ge] strongly

Korean particles

Korean has many particles. Particles mainly function like prepositions (words like ‘in,’ ‘on,’ and ‘at’), or conjunctions (words like ‘and,’ and ‘or’). Particles do not have any meaning on their own, but they help to express certain concepts.

For example, one of the most common particles is 에, and we can use this particle to indicate the destination of movement, similar to the preposition ‘to’ in English.

Many particles have several different uses, so a single particle can be used to say where we are going to but also where we are. This is not different from English prepositions, as they are often used in many different ways also.

Below are some of the more common particles in Korean.

Common particles in Korean

Korean Pronunciation English
은 or 는 [eun] or [neun] to mark the sentence topic
이 or 가 [i] or [ga] to mark the sentence subject
을 or 를 [eul] or [reul] to mark the object of the verb
[e] to show the time (in, on, at)
to show the location (in, on, at)
to show the destination of movement (to)
에서 [e-seo] to show the location (in, on, at)
to show the origin (from)
로 or 으로 [ro] or [eu-ro] to show direction of movement (toward)
to show the method (by, with)
하고 [ha-go] to show addition (and, with)
부터 [bu-teo] to show the starting point (from)
까지 [kka-ji] to show the end point (until)
에게 or 한테 [e-ge] or [han-te] to show the recipient of an action (to)

Vocabulary and the origins of the Korean language

Over 50% of the Korean language is rooted in Chinese characters, and Chinese characters are called 한자 [han-ja]. Because of these Chinese roots, syllables with a certain meaning are often used in many other words that relate to the meaning of that syllable. For example, the syllable 비 can mean cost or expense, so it’s used in many other words that refer to cost and expenses.

The table below shows words that use the syllable 비 and are related to the meaning of cost.

Korean words related to ‘cost’ or ‘expense’

Korean Pronunciation English
학비 [hak-bi] school tuition
식비 [sik-bi] [sik-bi]
생활비 [saeng-hwal-bi] cost of living
여행비 [yeo-haeng-bi] travel expenses
비용 [bi-yong] cost
결혼 비용 [gyeol-hon bi-yong] wedding expenses
이사 비용 [i-sa bi-yong] moving expenses

So as you can see, all these words use the syllable 비, and each phrase refers to a certain cost or expense depending on the words used with 비.

Similarly, 학 in 학비 (school tuition) means ‘school,’ so this syllable is used in many other words that relate to the meaning of school, such as 학교 (school) and 학생 (student). Also, 식 in 식비 (food expenses) refers to food or a meal, so this syllable is used in many other words that relate to the meaning of food, such as 식당 (restaurant) and 식탁 (dining table).

So as you learn Korean vocabulary, it’s useful to think about the Chinese origin of each syllable. This will help you to remember related words much more easily.


Korean uses a lot of loanwords, and many of them are from English. The use of loanwords is so common that it is important for you to learn them. The main difficulty of learning these loanwords is that you have to pronounce them the way you would pronounce Korean words, so pronunciation can prove to be a little tricky.

Learn some of the most common loanwords from English in the table below.

Common loanwords in Korean

Korean Pronunciation English
[keop] cup
[pen] pen
[tim] team
커피 [keo-pi] coffee
텔레비전 [tel-le-bi-jeon] television
아이스크림 [a-i-seu-keu-rim] ice cream
쇼핑 [shyo-ping] shopping
호텔 [ho-tel] hotel
데이트 [de-i-teu] date (between couples)
셔츠 [shyeo-cheu] shirt


Loanwords are words from other languages which we use in the same way in Korean. The word 펜 in Korean and the word ‘pen’ in English refer to the same writing tool, so 펜 is a loanword.

However, Konglish is different. Konglish refers to the use of English words that are used differently in Korean. Even the word ‘Konglish’ combines Korean and English. Like loanwords, the use of Konglish words is very common in Korean, so learning Konglish words should be an important part of learning Korean vocabulary.

The following table shows some common Konglish words to get you started.

Common 'Konglish' (Korean-English) words

Korean Pronunciation English
핸드폰 [haen-deu-pon] cell phone
오바이트 [o-ba-i-teu] vomit
비주얼 [bi-ju-eol] appearance
셀카 [sel-ka] selfie
스탠드 [seu-taen-deu] desk lamp
아이쇼핑 [a-i-shyo-ping] window shopping
핫도그 [hat-do-geu] corn dog
서비스 [seo-bi-seu] free food or drink
컨디션 [keon-di-shyeon] physical well-being
오픈카 [o-peun-ka] convertible

Wrapping up learning Korean vocabulary

When you learn a new language, one of your first tasks is to learn all the basic vocabulary of that language. In this article, we’ve covered daily Korean vocabulary you can use in everyday life. As you continue to learn Korean vocabulary, remember the tips we’ve shared about how words like verbs and adjectives differ from English words, and also think about how understanding the Chinese origin of Korean words can help you learn and retain new words.

From nouns and verbs to loanwords and Konglish, there is a lot to learn when it comes to Korean vocabulary! But with consistent practice, you’ll be able to steadily build up your vocabulary until you can speak and understand Korean well.

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