Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. ?
When you meet someone new for the first time, the topic of your family is bound to come up. So it’s best to learn how to talk about your family in Korean!
This might be even more important to learn in Korean than in English because Korean has a lot of formalities when it comes to talking about family.
For instance, in English, both older and younger siblings are “brother” and “sister.” But in Korean, there are different words depending on if they’re older or younger, married or unmarried.
Not only that, there are different terms for your dad’s side of the family and your mom’s — even if they’re the same role, like “grandmother” or “uncle”.
But don’t worry. It’s not bad once you get the hang of it, and we’re going to break it all down in this lesson on Korean family terms.
To get started, here’s a quick list of the most important words for family members in Korean:
- Family: 가족 (gajok)
- Dad: 아빠 (appa)
- Father: 아버지 (abeoji)
- Mom: 엄마 (eomma)
- Mother: 어머니 (eomeoni)
- Parents: 부모님 (bumonim)
- Older brother (for females): 오빠 (oppa)
- Older sister (for females): 언니 (eonni)
- Older brother (for males): 형 (hyeong)
- Older sister (for males): 누나 (nuna)
- Younger brother: 남동생 (namdongsaeng)
- Younger sister: 여동생 (yeodongsaeng)
- Grandmother: 할머님 (halmeonim)
- Grandfather: 할아버님 (harabeonim)
“Family” in Korean
The word for “family” in Korean is 가족 (gajok).
You may often be asked something like 가족이 몇 명입니까? (gajok-i myeot myeong-imnikka), which means “How many people are in your family?” in formal speech. Although be aware the formality and sentence-ending may change!
This is a good time to practice your Korean numbers and answer with: 우리 가족은 네 명입니다 (uri gajok-eun ne myeong-imnida) which is the formal way to say “We’re a family of four.”
Korea is influenced by Confucianism, just like Chinese and Japanese culture. What that means is, the family is often seen as a unit, and each person’s individual actions reflect on the whole family unit.
Because of this, great emphasis is placed on following a certain path. Family members are expected to maintain respect and represent the family well at all times. It’s also extremely important to show older family members respect and reverence.
This means that Korean people call most family members by their honorific titles rather than their names.
So, like how you would use Korean surnames with honorifics to show respect, you would also use honorifics to show respect to your family.
For instance, in English, you’d probably call your older brother by his first name. But in Korean, you would call him 형 (hyeong or hyung depending on romanization) if you’re a guy or 오빠 (oppa) if you’re a girl. That’s his title — “older brother” — not his name.
Parents in Korean
In English, there are formal and informal ways to refer to your parents. You can say “father” to be formal, or “dad” to be casual. The same is true in Korean:
- “Dad” in Korean: 아빠 (appa)
- “Father” in Korean: 아버지 (abeoji)
- “Mom” in Korean: 엄마 (eomma)
- “Mother” in Korean: 어머니 (eomeoni)
- “Parents” in Korean: 부모님 (bumonim)
If you’ve ever watched Korean dramas, I’m sure you’ve heard these words quite often. One thing you’ll notice though is it’s much more common to call your dad 아버지 (abeoji) (showing more respect) but to call your mom 엄마 (eomma).
This goes back to the hierarchical nature of Korean society, and the father being the head of the household.
It’s okay to be a bit more casual and close with your mom, but keep things a bit formal with your dad. This also, of course, depends on the dad’s personality and household standards, though.
Siblings in Korean
Now here’s where you have to start thinking about age and gender a bit more. If you’re a woman, you’ll call your siblings by different terms than your brother would. And it also depends on if your sibling is older or younger than you.
So, let’s first look at what women would call their older siblings in Korean:
- Older brother in Korean: 오빠 (oppa)
- Older sister in Korean: 언니 (eonni)
And now what guys would call their siblings in Korean:
- Older brother: 형 (hyeong)
- Older sister: 누나 (nuna)
For younger siblings, the word is the same regardless of your gender:
- Younger brother: 남동생 (namdongsaeng)
- Younger sister: 여동생 (yeodongsaeng)
You could also use 동생 (dongsaeng), which means “younger sibling”.
And a few more important Korean words you should know:
- Siblings: 형제 자매 (hyeongje jamae)
- Brothers: 형제 (hyeongje)
- Sisters: 자매 (jamae)
So, you can see “siblings” directly translates as “brothers and sisters” in English!
One last note here: It’s common to hear some of these terms used with friends or even a boyfriend or girlfriend nowadays. It’s especially common to call your boyfriend (or the guy you like) 오빠 (oppa) to be cute and flirty.
If Your Sibling is Married…
If your sibling is married, there are a few more words you might need to know.
If you’re close with your sibling and sibling-in-law, you can simply call them by the same terms you would as if they’re your immediate family. In fact, siblings-in-law now count as your immediate family.
But if you’re not close with them and want to be more formal, you can use these terms:
Women would use:
- Older brother’s wife: 새언니 (sae-eon-ni)
- Younger brother’s wife: 올케 (olke)
- Older sister’s husband: 형부 (hyeong-bu)
- Younger sister’s husband: 제부 (je-bu)
Men would use:
- Older brother’s wife: 형수 (hyeong-su)
- Younger brother’s wife: 제수씨 (je-su-ssi)
- Older sister’s husband: 매형 (mae-hyeong)
- Younger sister’s husband: 매제 (mae-je)
Grandparents in Korean
To talk to or about your grandparents in Korean, you would say:
- Grandparents: 조부모님 (jobumonim)
- Grandmother: 할머님 (halmeonim)
- Grandma: 할머니 (halmeoni)
- Grandfather: 할아버님 (harabeonim)
- Grandpa: 할아버지 (harabeoji)
Adding 님 (nim) to the end makes it a bit more formal, but both versions are acceptable to call your grandparents.
Also, while grandparents are often not considered part of the nuclear family unit in the West, they are considered immediate family in Korea.
Spouses and Kids in Korean
When you’re talking to your spouses, you’ll normally call them by a cute nickname. Something like:
- Honey: 여보 (yeobo)
- Sweetheart: 애인 (aein)
- Cutie: 귀요미 (kiyomi)
…And also 오빠 (oppa) as we already mentioned, which is most common for men.
But if you’re talking to someone else about your spouse, it’s best to call them by their title:
- Husband: 남편 (napyeon)
- Wife: 아내 (anae)
If you’re not married yet, here’s how you talk about the person you’re dating:
- Boyfriend: 남자친구 (namjachingu)
- Girlfriend: 여자친구 (yeojachingu)
- Fiancé (male): 약혼자 (yakhonja)
- Fiancée (female): 약혼녀 (yakhonnyeo)
If you’re married (or going to be) to someone who’s Korean, then you’ll need to know how to refer to your in-laws.
They would be…
- Father-in-law (husband’s dad): 시아버지 (siabeoji)
- Father-in-law (wife’s dad): 장인 (jang-in)
- Mother-in-law (husband’s mom): 시어머니 (shieomeoni)
- Mother-in-law (wife’s mom): 장모님 (jangmonim)
- In-laws: 사돈 (sadon)
These are more common though when talking about your in-laws to others. When talking to them, you can call them “dad” and “mom” — 아버지 (abeoji) and 어머니 (eomeoni), respectively.
As for your other in-laws, it gets quite complicated depending on who’s married and who’s not, who’s older and who’s younger. Even whether they’re on the husband or wife’s side.
You could learn all of those words, too, but chances are you’d only use them on very rare occasions. Instead, you could get by calling them the normal terms for “brother” or “sister”, as you would with mom and dad. When in doubt, you can ask what they’d prefer to be called.
Extended Family in Korean
In Korean, you can refer to your extended family as 대가족 (daegajok) or “large family”.
What you call someone in this category depends on if they’re related to your mom or your dad. So we’ll divide this up into two groups: maternal extended family, and paternal extended family.
A few that are the same regardless of which side of the family:
- Nephew: 조카 (joka)
- Niece: 조카딸 (jokattal)
- Cousin: 사촌 (sachon)
- Grandson/grandchild: 손자 (sonja)
- Granddaughter: 손녀 (sonnyeo)
Maternal Extended Family
If talking about your mom’s side of the family, use these terms:
- Aunt in Korean: 이모 (imo)
- Uncle in Korean: 외숙부 (oesukbu)
- Aunt’s husband: 이모부 (imobu)
- Uncle’s wife: 외숙모 (oesukmo)
- Mom’s side of the family: 외가 (oega)
Paternal Extended Family
Next, your dad’s side. Things get more complicated here as well, especially for the men on your dad’s side of the family. This is because of the social hierarchy in society, but also within a family.
- Uncle (younger, unmarried): 삼촌 (samchon)
- Uncle (younger, married): 작은아빠 (jageunappa)
- Uncle (older, unmarried or married): 큰아빠 (keunappa)
- Aunt: 고모 (gomo)
- Younger uncle’s wife: 작은엄마 (jageuneomma)
- Older uncle’s wife: 큰엄마 (keuneomma)
- Aunt’s husband: 고모부 (gomobu)
- Dad’s side of the family: 친가 (chinga)
All in the Family in Korean
And there you have it! Yes, it’s a lot of family names to show respect. But unless you marry into a Korean family, you won’t use these often except for immediate family names.
Really, you’ll probably hear the rest in Korean TV shows more than anything else.
So focus on the 80/20 rule of vocabulary and learn the ones most relevant to you!
Now that you’ve mastered family in Korean, learn how to talk about love in Korean or work on practical Korean phrases for your first conversations.
Content Writer, Fluent in 3 Months
Caitlin is a copywriter, content strategist, and language learner. Besides languages, her passions are fitness, books, and Star Wars. Connect with her: Twitter | LinkedIn
Speaks: English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish
View all posts by Caitlin Sacasas
What is the saying for family in Korean? ›
This is the Korean word for family. If you want to say “my family” you can say 나의 가족 (naui gajok).
Formal “Father” in Korean
The formal way to say “father” in Korean is 아버님 (abeonim).
Another example would be calling your older cousin 사촌언니/누나/형/오빠 (sibling titles). In Korea, cousins are considered siblings too and you would use the same titles to address your cousins as you would for your siblings.Why do Koreans say their family name first? ›
The family name (or 'surname') is inherited patrilineally from one's father and shared with other siblings. It always comes before the given name and is usually a single syllable/character.How do Koreans actually introduce themselves? ›
Annyeonghaseyo (안녕하세요) is used to introduce oneself in Korean in both formal and semiformal contexts. In formal situations, another form can also be used, namely cheoeum boepgesseumnida (처음 뵙겠습니다), which literally means “see you for the first time”.What does jal ga yo mean in Korean? ›
잘 자요 • (jal jayo) good night.What does mi sook mean in Korean? ›
The name Mi-Suk is primarily a female name of Korean origin that means Charming, Beautiful.What are famous Korean sayings? ›
- “At the end of hardship comes happiness.” ...
- “It's dark under the lamp.” ...
- “A widower knows a widow's sorrow.” ...
- “Clothes are wings.” ...
- “It's better to get beaten by the whip first.” ...
- ” Even monkeys fall from trees.” ...
- “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” ...
- “What looks good tastes good.”
8. Omo / Omona. Omo / Omona / 어머 / 어머나: “Oh no!” or “Oh my gosh!”What does Jamsimanyo mean in Korean? ›
잠시만요. ― Jamsimanyo. ― Wait a minute.
What does Kukki mean in Korean? ›
/kuki/ cookie. countable noun. A cookie is a piece of computer software which enables a website you have visited to recognize you if you visit it again.What does Joka mean in Korean? ›
조카 (joka): nephew, niece.Is it OK to date your cousin in Korea? ›
East Asia. In the Far East, South Korea is especially restrictive with bans on marriage out to third cousins, with all couples having the same surname and region of origin having been prohibited from marrying until 1997. Taiwan and North Korea also prohibit first-cousin marriage.Is it disrespectful to call a Korean by their first name? ›
It is generally considered rude to address people by their given names in Korean culture. This is particularly the case when dealing with adults or one's elders. It is acceptable to call someone by his or her given name if he or she is the same age as the speaker.How do Koreans show respect? ›
Koreans bow to those senior to them both as a greeting and a show of respect. The junior person initiates the bow, bending from the waist to an angle of between 30 and 45 degrees from vertical. A less accentuated bow is returned as acknowledgment from the more senior person.Why do Koreans hiss when talking? ›
Previous studies have shown that Korean speakers produce more frequent hisses when addressing status superiors. This suggests a politeness-related function, particularly given the importance of marking social distance towards elders and superiors in Korean culture.Do Koreans kiss when dating? ›
Public displays of affection (PDA) is a sin most Korean couples commit. While you should keep the steamy make-out sessions private, PDA tends to happen on the norm in Korean dating culture. Holding hands, giving a peck, or even a kiss is a usual sight.What does Go Shi Po mean in Korean? ›
Informal “I Miss You” in Korean
보고 싶어 (bogo sipeo) The informal version of “I miss you” in Korean is 보고 싶어 (bogo sipeo).
The term in question was coined in a 2016 concert by one of the group members, V (Kim Taehyung). He explained that borahae, meaning “I Purple You", signifies “I'll love you till the end of days," since purple (violet) is the color at the end of the rainbow band.What does Ku Ma Wo mean in Korean? ›
“Thank you” (informal) – 고마워 (gomawo) “Thank you very much” (formal) – 대단히 감사합니다 (daedanhi gamsahamnida)
What is Bora Hae in Korean? ›
"Borahae" is a newly coined term that began at a BTS fan meeting on November 13, 2016, when BTS member V (Kim Taehyung) said, "Borahae means to trust the other person until the end and love each other for a long time like purple, the last colour of a rainbow.What does Mo Hae mean in Korean? ›
1. 뭐 해? (mwo hae) To say, “What are you doing?” in Korean informally, you can drop the 요 (yo) and say 뭐 해? (mwo hae) instead.What does Jee Hae mean in Korean? ›
"wisdom", or different depending on Hanja. Other names. Alternative spelling. Jee-hye, Ji-hae, Jee-hae, Ji-hay, Jee-hay.What do Koreans say when they're annoyed? ›
The phrase “짜증나다 (Jjajeungnada)” is a unique Korean word that English doesn't have. It is used to express the feeling of being annoyed and irritated by someone. The word/ expression “Ya 야” is the most common Korean word or expression that you might hear when they are annoyed.What do Koreans say when they are mad? ›
It is written as 알았어, so its Korean romanization is also often written as “arasseo.” This is an informal way of saying “okay” or “I know” in Korean.What does Jinja mean in Korean? ›
진짜 • (jinjja) really; actually.What does OMO Ottoke mean? ›
Ottoke means “WHAT SHOULD I DO?”What is Nekoya Korean? ›
"Nekkoya (Pick Me)" (Korean: 내꺼야 (Pick Me); RR: Naekkeoya (Pick Me); The word 'Naekkeoya' translates to 'You're mine' in Korean ) is a song performed by the contestants of the competition show Produce 48 and serves as the show's theme song.What is jibal in Korean? ›
What does “jebal” mean? This is another word that means “please” in Korean is 제발 (je-bal). It is used when pleading or begging for something or making a strong request.
What is Animnida? ›
This expression translates to “no” in formal Korean. Korean's usual spoken response to “thank you” is “no.”
Chincha is a typical korean expression translated as really, meaning surprise.What does bok bok mean in Korean? ›
The word 'BOK' [bok] means 'fortune' in Korean language.What does Gongjunim mean? ›
Gongjunim (공주님) – “Princess”What does Mollayo mean in Korean? ›
“I don't know” in Korean – 몰라요 (mollayo)What is Babe in Korean slang? ›
3. Aegiya – “Baby” / “Babe” If calling someone “sweetheart” or “lover” sounds a little old-fashioned, you can use aegi or aegiya to call someone “baby” or “babe.” This Korean term of endearment suggests an intimate and less formal relationship when referring to your significant other.What does Ji Ho mean in Korean? ›
Origin:Korean. Meaning:Wisdom, knowledge; Fierce. Ji-ho is a gender-neutral name of Korean origin to inspire baby's thirst for knowledge.What does Nugu ya mean in Korean? ›
Nugu is simply a Korean word that means "Who." When used in the phrase "Nugu group," it refers to a K-pop group or K-pop idol unknown or not famous or who hasn't had their first win on music shows yet.What does ji yu mean in Korean? ›
The name Ji-Yu is primarily a female name of Korean origin that means Wise And Rich.Can Kim marry Kim in Korea? ›
Nevertheless, there was long a law in place to forbid marriage between people with the same surname and ancestral paternal origin. In 1997, however, South Korea's Constitutional Court ruled the law unconstitutional, and the civil code was amended in 2005 to forbid only marriage between closely related people.
Is age gap okay in Korea? ›
Age is nothing but a number – at least to these celebrity couples who overcame their large age gap and found true love. An age gap of 12 years is significant in Korean culture because it means that the couple is a full zodiac cycle apart.Is it okay to kiss in Korea? ›
Kissing in public is looked down upon and seen as highly immodest among older individuals in South Korea. This has become less taboo with the current generation of young adults, but is still widely discouraged by elders. Dressing well is important in South Korea; it is considered a sign of respect.How do Koreans introduce each other? ›
Koreans say “안녕하세요 [an nyeong ha seyo]?” while slightly bowing their head when they greet others. “안녕하세요?”is used interchangeably to say “Hi, hello, good morning/afternoon/evening”. You can simply say “안녕?” when you are greeting your friends or a person younger than you.How do Koreans greet family members? ›
The most common way to greet people in South Korea is with a bow. The casual bow is a dip of the head with eyes closed, sometimes accompanied by a slight bend from the waist. This type of greeting is used when informally greeting someone or walking past someone of a higher status.What does Imnida mean in Korean? ›
저는 (jeoneun) is a formal way to say “I am” in English. 살 (sal) means “age” and 입니다 (imnida) means “to be.” For example, if you're twenty-one years old, you say: 저는 스물한살입니다. (jeoneun seumulhansarimnida.)How do Koreans show respect to each other? ›
Respect is exhibited in different ways. Respect should always be shown to those that are older than you. This involves deferring to their opinion, waiting for their input and lowering your gaze if they are an elder. Objects, gifts and food should be offered and received with two hands.
Important: In South Korean communication it's customary to shake hands both in the beginning and at the end of a conversation.It might feel awkward to point out, but there is no room for hugging or cheek kissing in the formal Korean greeting culture!Is it easier to learn Japanese or Korean? ›
Which language is easier to learn– Korean or Japanese? Korean is considered to be much easier than Japanese. There are more letters in the Japanese alphabet than in Korean. Japanese also contains more complicated Chinese characters and difficult grammar.How do Koreans apologize? ›
How do you apologize in Korean? Well, there are two main ways to say “I'm sorry” in Korean: 죄송합니다, joesonghamnida, and 미안해요, mianhaeyo.Why do Koreans have good skin? ›
Skincare is More Important than Makeup
Since ancient times, Koreans have only used natural, harsh-free ingredients for their skincare routines: green tea, “snail slime”, bamboo extracts, propolis, and honey are just some examples of the elements they used and have passed through generations.
What do Korean parents call their daughter? ›
Parents in Korean
“Dad” in Korean: 아빠 (appa) “Father” in Korean: 아버지 (abeoji) “Mom” in Korean: 엄마 (eomma) “Mother” in Korean: 어머니 (eomeoni)
In Korea, it's quite expected that you call your friend's parents 아버님 or 어머님 not like 아버지 or 어머니.