An A to Z of Korean English (Konglish) expressions

UPDATE: List now much expanded and polished up, including more listing of when it is the same in other languages. I’ve also since done a list of common errors for Korean speakers, worksheets for Koreans that deal with some of these problems, and lists of similarities between Konglish and Janglish and differences between Konglish and Janglish.

PDF version of the list for easy printing: KonglishList

Like “Japanese English”, “Korean English” is often used not to refer to a variety of English (like Singlish or Indian English) but to the use of English in the Korean language, including some words and expressions that were created in Korea from English and other European roots and don’t exist outside Korea. As I am using this meaning of “Konglish”, the expressions below are neither wrong English nor a variety of English but simply a category of Korean vocabulary similar to “French” expressions like “cul de sac” in English. The reasons for including them on a blog about English teaching are:
1. Korean people speaking English sometimes think they are used in other countries, and so they are an important source for error correction (in a recent Pre-Intermediate class of mine doing The Alibi Game, almost all the vocabulary mistakes were ones that were in this list), as long as it doesn’t make the students paranoid about using the vast majority of English phrases in Korean that have more or less the same meaning
2. It’s the one part of the Korean language that is interesting and accessible to people who will never even come here, including people who are teaching Korean students in other countries
3. This list took me hours, and until I manage to work out how to make some fun worksheets out of this, putting them on the blog makes me feel it wasn’t a complete waste of time…

Sorry about the uncharacteristically serious intro, but I was accused of being a racist (!) for doing a similar list of Japanese English, and have only just got over the trauma of that enough to do this with a new language and to use that list to label ones that are the same in Japanese (as well as other languages in the few cases I know) below:

accel – accelerator – same in Japanese

accent – word stress (rather than local way of speaking) – same in Japanese

accessory – includes jewellery – same in Japanese

acryl (short for acrylic) – any kind of hard plastic – same in Japanese

aerobic – aerobics – same in Japanese

aerosol – with silent r – same in Japanese

after service – after sales service – same in Japanese

aftershave lotion – aftershave

agit (short for “agitating point) – a revolutionary meeting point/ café – same in Japanese

agree! – I agree

AIDS – sometimes used when we would use HIV

alcohol – with silent h – same in Japanese and some other languages

alkali – with a short last vowel sound – same in Japanese and some other languages

all ri (from “all right”) – only used when backing up a car – same in Japanese

Allergie (with a hard g sound, from German) – allergy – same in Japanese

alumi – aluminium – same in Japanese

ama – amateur – same in Japanese

American coffee – weak coffee, the opposite of espresso – same in Japanese, and “Americano” is used in Italian for the same thing

antenna – antenna/ (satellite) dish

apart (pronounced “apartu”) – apartment building/ block of flats

Arbeit (from the German for “work”) – part-time/ casual job – same in Japanese

AS (short for “after service”) – after sales service

Asia with a short first vowel sound – same in Japanese

auto race – motor racing – same in Japanese

auto-bi (from “automatic” plus “bike”, pronounced “auto bye”) – motorbike – same in Japanese

avec (from the French for “with) –couple – same in Japanese (though rare)

back – connection (to politicians etc)

back mirror – rear view mirror – same in Japanese

back music – background music – apparently the same in Japanese, but never heard anyone use it

back number – number on the back of your sports shirt

ball pen – ballpoint (pen)/ biro – same in Japanese

band – band aid/ (sticky) plaster

bargain sale – sales – same in Japanese

baton touch – passing the baton – same in Japanese

Belgie (with a hard g, from French) – Belgium – same in Japanese

belt conveyor – conveyor belt – same in Japanese

best dresser – best dressed woman or man – same in Japanese

beta – with an e sound rather ee for the first vowel – same in Japanese

bodyline – figure

boiler – heating

bond – super glue

boy – porter – same in Japanese

brassiere – (rather than bra, which is almost always used in English)

Burberry – trench coat

caller ring – caller ID

camping car – camper van – same in Japanese

can – canned, as in “can coffee” – same in Japanese

cash corner – ATM/ cash machine – mainly a written form, as in Japanese

casher – cashier/ bank clerk – same in Japanese

cassette radio – radio cassette recorder

castella (from Portuguese) – a kind of sponge cake – same in Japanese

catch ball – playing catch – same in Japanese

catchphrase – motto/ advertising slogan – same in Japanese

catharsis – with a t sound for th, from Greek – same in Japanese

cauliflower – with a short a for the first vowel sound – same in Japanese

CC – campus couple

centi – centimetre – same in Japanese

cereal – breakfast cereal only, not the staple foods – same in Japanese

CF (from “commercial film”) – television advert/ commercial

chorus – choir – same in Japanese

Christ – with a short vowel sound – same in Japanese

Christmas – Christmas Day, rather than the whole festive period – same in Japanese

Chrom (with a short vowel sound, from German) – chrome – same in Japanese

cider – a soft drink similar to 7 Up, with no connection to apples – same in Japanese

claim – complaint (demand for refund etc) – same in Japanese

classic – classical (music) – same in Japanese and some other languages

clip – paperclip – same in Japanese

cloak – cloakroom – same in Japanese

close – closed – same in Japanese

clover – clubs on playing cards – I seem to remember that it is the equivalent word in Spanish playing cards too, and maybe some other Romance languages

coating – laminating

cocaine with an ai sound instead of ei, like the spelling – same in Japanese and quite a few other languages

cocktail – with short a for the first vowel sound – same in Japanese

cola – the normal short form for Coca Cola (usually “Coke” in English) – same in Japanese and some other languages

combi – blazer and trousers

condo – time share apartment

confess – tell someone you are attracted to them

consent (perhaps from “concentric plug”) – electrical outlet/ socket – same in Japanese

conte (from French) – a kind of story – same in Japanese

corn beef – corned beef – same in Japanese (though “corned beef” is seen too)

croissant – with a for the final vowel sound – same in Japanese

croquis (from French) – sketch – same in Japanese

cunning – cheating in an exam – same in Japanese

curry (with an e for the final vowel sound) – old British-style curry sauce – same in Japanese

cutline – cut off point

CVS – convenience store (perhaps only a written form)

date – only romantic meaning, not day/ month/ year – same in Japanese

DB – database

DC – discount

depart – department store – same in Japanese

dessert – a hot drink (generally coffee) after a meal

dessin for a sketch, from French

dia for diamond

digi came/ di ca – short for digital camera – “digi came” in Japanese

DM for junk mail, from “direct mail”

dock – a medical check up (from docking a ship) – same in Japanese

docu – short for documentary

doek for clogs, from Dutch

domino game – dominoes

double jacket – double breasted jacket – same in Japanese

doz – dozen. Also a spoken form, as it is in Japanese

drama – soap opera – same in Japanese

driver – screwdriver – same in Japanese

dry flower – dried flowers (same in Japanese)

dunk shoot – a dunk/ dunk shot – same in Japanese

Dutch pay – going Dutch/ splitting the bill

eco (with a short e sound) – ecological – same in Japanese

Ego – with a short e sound, from German – same in Japanese

engineer – also used for technician

enquete (from French) – questionnaire/ survey – same in Japanese

ero – short for erotic – same in Japanese

ex – extract (for cooking) – same in Japanese

eye shopping – window shopping

fancy – fancy stationery

fighting – a cheer meaning “victory!” or “come on!” – same in Japanese

fine play – fair play

flash – flashlight/ (electric) torch

form – an affected manner

four ball – billiards – same in Japanese

free-size – one size fits all – same in Japanese

freeter (from free + arbeiter, originally from the German word for “work”) – a slacker – same in Japanese

free-ticket – all day ticket – same in Japanese

freewriter – freelance writer – same in Japanese

full course – three course meal – same in Japanese

gagman – comedian

game room – amusement arcade

gargle – mouthwash

gas bombe (from German) – gas cylinder – same in Japanese

gate – only airport meaning – same in Japanese

gate ball – a kind of croquet – same in Japanese

Gaze (with final e pronounced, from German) – (medical) gauze – same in Japanese

Genom (with a hard g sound, from German) – genome – same in Japanese

girl hunt – going on the pull – same in Japanese

glamour – buxom (woman)

goal in – a goal (scored) – same in Japanese

goggle – goggles – same in Japanese

golden ball – sudden death

golden pants – cords/ corduroy trousers

golden time – prime time – “golden hour” in Japanese

gom (from Dutch) – rubber – same in Japanese

gom boat – a rubber dinghy – same in Japanese

gown – dressing gown – same in Japanese

ground – (school) playground – same in Japanese

Group Sound – 1960s pop rock – “Group Sounds” in Japanese

guard man – security guard – same in Japanese

Guinness Book – Guinness Book of Records –same in Japanese

gyps (from German for “gypsum”) – (plaster) cast – same in Japanese

hair pin – hair clip – same in Japanese

ham egg – ham and eggs – same in Japanese

hammer – sledge hammer

hand phone – mobile phone/ cell phone – similar to German “handy phone”

handi – (golf) handicap – same in Japanese

handle – handlebars/ steering wheel – same in Japanese

happy end – happy ending – same in Japanese

heading shoot – header towards goal– same in Japanese

headphone – headphones – same in Japanese

health – health club

health centre – fitness centre – same in Japanese

hearing – listening comprehension – same in Japanese, and apparently a typical Chinese thing to say too

heart – only shape, not body part – same in Japanese

heli (short for “helicopter”) – chopper – same in Japanese

high teens – late teens – same in Japanese

high vision – HDTV – same in Japanese

hiking – cycling

hip – buttocks – same in Japanese

hitchhike – hitchhiking

hof (from German) – a bar or pub

homep – homepage or webpages more generally

homo for homosexual not necessarily disparaging

Hormon (from German) – tripe – same in Japanese

hot dog/ American dog – corn dog

Hotchkiss (from a brand name)- stapler – same in Japanese

humorous – with no h sound – same in Japanese

humour – with no h sound – same in Japanese and some other languages

Hysterie (from German) – hysteria – same in Japanese

ice bar – ice lolly/ popsicle

ice coffee – iced coffee – same in Japanese

ice skate – ice skate(s)/ ice skating – same in Japanese

ice tea – iced tea – same in Japanese

Ideologie (with a hard g sound, from German) – ideology – same in Japanese

idol – a kind of pop singer – same in Japanese

illustra – illustration – same in Japanese

infla (from “inflation”, but the longer word in never used and rarely understood) – inflation/ price rises – same in Japanese

infra – infrastructure – same in Japanese

intelli – intelligentsia – same in Japanese

interphone – intercom – same in Japanese

ion – with a short first vowel sound – same in Japanese and some toher languages

Italia (from Italian) – Italy – same in Japanese

jacque (from Portuguese) – a kind of waistcoat – same in Japanese (pronounced chokki)

Jordan – with y as the first sound – same in Japanese and some other languages

jumper – a kind of jacket (rather than a sweater, which exists as a separate word and concept) – same in Japanese

kilo – both kilogrammes and kilometres –same in Japanese

king car (short for king card) – cream of the crop

klaxon – car horn – same in Japanese

knife – a dinner knife only – same in Japanese

L size – large sized clothing – same in Japanese

le-ports – leisure sports

letter (from Dutch) – a kind of sticker/ label – same in Japanese

life work – life’s work – same in Japanese

lift – ski lift only, not elevator

light coke – diet coke

line – managerial staff – same in Japanese

liner – lining (of a coat)

live café – live music venue – “live house” in Japanese

LL size – extra large (XL) clothing – same in Japanese

long leg – long legged

loss time – injury time (in sports) – same in Japanese

lotion – moisturizing lotion

love call – screaming at a celebrity you love – same in Japanese

LT – leadership training

Lumpen – Lumpen Proleteriat – same in Japanese

M size – medium (clothes) – same in Japanese

macaroni – sometimes used for a range of pastas – same in Japanese and some other languages

MacGyver knife (from the American TV series) – Swiss Army knife

mach – with an h sound instead of a k, from German – same in Japanese

magic – magic marker/ permanent marker – same in Japanese

mama boy – Oedipus complex/ mama’s boy

man to man – one to one/ private lesson – same in Japanese

mania (with a short a sound) – an enthusiast – same in Japanese

manicure – nail polish (a manicure is “nail care”) – same in Japanese

mansion – luxury apartment – similar in Japanese, but the standard word for any high rise apartment building

margarine with a hard g

marker pen – (board) marker

marmot (from Dutch) – guinea pig – same in Japanese

mass comm – mass communications – same in Japanese

mass game – group calisthenics – same in Japanese

medias (from Spanish) – knitted goods – same in Japanese

meeting – blind date

melodrama – romantic drama (of whatever level of overacting)

member ID – username (on the internet)

memo – a note (rather than a memorandum) – same in Japanese

mens – menstruation – same in Japanese

menu – today’s special (it also has the same meaning as in English of a list of things to eat, although there is also an alternative Korean word for that)

mes (from Dutch) – scalpel – same in Japanese

micro – with i instead of ai as the first vowel sound – same in Japanese and many other languages

middle bar – dash (as in email addresses)

mira (from Portuguese) – (Egyptian etc) mummy – same in Japanese

misa – (Catholic) mass – same in Japanese

mission – transmission

monitor – someone taking part in market research – same in Japanese

morning call – wake-up call –same in Japanese

motel – love hotel

MT (short for membership training) – team bonding sessions

muffler – winter scarf – same in Japanese

mug cup – mug – same in Japanese

name card – business card

name value – brand value – same in Japanese

NATO – with a short a insted of ei – same in Japanese and many other languages

necktie – tie – same in Japanese

necktie pin – tie clip – same in Japanese

Neurose (from German) – neurosis – same in Japanese

night – nightclub – same in Japanese

nihilist – with a short first vowel sound – same in Japanese

nipper – nippers (a kind of wire cutters) – same in Japanese

nish – short for varnish – same in Japanese

no touch – no connection/ non-contact – same in Japanese

nonsense – with a as the first vowel sound – same in Japanese

note – notebook – same in Japanese

oasis – with a short a sound rather an ei sound as the second sound – same in Japanese and some other languages

oboe – with the e pronounced – same in Japanese

OD – owner driver

office tel (short for office hotel) – a modern apartment building that can be used for both accommodation and small businesses

oil – petrol

oil bank – gas station

old miss – old maid –the same in Japanese, but very outdated

Olympic – The Olympics

omu rice – from “omelette rice”, as it is the one filled with the other – same in Japanese

one piece – a dress – same in Japanese

one room – studio apartment – similar in Japanese (“one room mansion”)

one shot – “bottoms up”/ “down in one”

open car – convertible/ cabriolet – same in Japanese

opener – corkscrew, can opener etc.

orgel (from Dutch) – music box – same in Japanese

ove – overly sensitive

overeat – vomit (rather than eat too much)

pan (from Portuguese) – bread/ pastry – same in Japanese and many other languages

panties – both men’s and women’s underwear (rather than just women’s)

panty stocking – tights/ panty hose – same in Japanese

pench (from French) – pincers – same in Japanese

perma (from “permanent wave”) – perm – same in Japanese

Philippine – The Philippines – same in Japanese

pierce – piercings – same in Japanese

pierrot (from French) – clown – same in Japanese

pill – only means the contraceptive pill, not tablets more generally – same in Japanese

piment (from French) – a small green pepper – same in Japanese

pine juice – pineapple juice – same in Japanese

pint (from Dutch) – (camera) focus

pitcher – a large glass that you drink from rather than a jug you pour from

plier – pliers

plug – electric plug only, not in sink

plus alpha – something extra – same in Japanese

pocket ball – pool (as a Korean billiard table doesn’t have pockets)

pot – hot water dispenser – same in Japanese

profile – with an i sound rather than ai for the second vowel – same in Japanese

propose – ask your date if they would like to “go steady” with you

punc – (tyre) puncture – same in Japanese

quiz – word puzzle

rabbi – with a short i sound – same in Japanese

range food – microwave meals (as range means cooker/ oven) – same in Japanese

remo con – remote control/ zapper – same in Japanese

rent car – hire car/ rentacar

repo writer (from reportage writer, with u as the first vowel sound) – a kind of reporter – same in Japanese

res – resort hotel

restaurant (from French) – with a silent final letter – same in Japanese

revival – cover version

ribbon – bow – same in Japanese

rinse – conditioner – same in Japanese, although the word “conditioner” is becoming fashionable

road show – movie previews – same in Japanese

roll coaster – roller coaster

Roma (from Italian) – Rome

Rontgen (from German) – X ray – same in Japanese

room salon – hostess bar

rosario (from Portuguese) – rosary – same in Japanese

Rossiya (from Russian) – Russia – same in Japanese

rotary – a roundabout – same in Japanese

royal milk tea – tea made entirely with hot milk, as if it were hot chocolate – same in Japanese

running shirt – a kind of vest – same in Japanese

S line – hourglass figure/ curvy

S size – small (clothing) – same in Japanese

sabotage – “go slow” (type of industrial action) – same in Japanese

sack – backpack

sadist – with a sound rather than ei – same in Japanese and some other languages

salaryman – an office worker (in any country) – same in Japanese

sales point – selling point/ USP – same in Japanese

sand – sandwich – same in Japanese

sauna – with ow sound like cow – same in Japanese and many other languages

scarf – headscarf only, not winter scarf (which is “muffler”) – same in Japanese

scenario writer – screenwriter – same in Japanese

schop (from Dutch) – a kind of shovel – same in Japanese

scrap – newspaper cuttings/ clippings – same in Japanese

selca (from self camera) – the act of taking photos of yourself or home video/ amateur video (according to my different sources)

self – self service

serenade – with last e pronounced, from German – same in Japanese

service – free of charge/ on the house – same in Japanese

sexy – a loose woman

SF – science fiction/ sci fi – same in Japanese

sharp – mechanical pencil – similar in Japanese (“sharp pen”, short for “sharp pencil”)

short leg – short-legged

short pants – shorts – sometimes used in Japanese

shutter man – a man who is financially dependent on his wife

sign – signature/ autograph – same in Japanese

sign pen – a kind of felt tip pen – same in Japanese

silhouette – also used for outline more generally – same in Japanese

silver town – retirement community

single – single breasted suit – same in Japanese

ski – ski(s)/ skiing – same in Japanese

skin scuba – scuba-diving

skinship – bodily contact, e.g. cuddles – same in Japanese

slacks – women’s trousers – same in Japanese

sofa – a sofa or armchair – same in Japanese

soft cream – soft ice cream (like Mr Whippy) – same in Japanese

speaker – loudspeaker

spo-lex- sports complex

sports dancing – competition ballroom dancing

spuit (from Dutch) – pipette/ dropper – same in Japanese

squall – with no w sound – same in Japanese

stain/ stainless – stainless steel – same in Japanese

stand – lamp – same as Japanese

starting member – founding member – same in Japanese

suite room – hotel suite – same in Japanese

sunglass – sunglasses – same in Japanese

surfing board – surfboard

Sweden – with an e sound – same as Japanese and some other languages

Swiss – Swiss/ Switzerland – same as Japanese

T (from T-shirt) – more general meaning than in English something like “top”

talent – television celebrity – same in Japanese

tank lorry – tanker – same in Japanese

televi game (from “television game”) – video game

terror – terrorism, not fear more generally – same in Japanese

Thema (from German) – theme – same in Japanese

Thema park (from German and English) – theme park – same in Japanese

time up – time’s up – same in Japanese

ting (short for meeting) – a date

tong – tongs – same in Japanese

TP (transparency paper) – transparency (for OHP)

training – sweat suit/ tracksuit

trans – transformer – same in Japanese

trans – transvestite/ transgender

Trauma – with an ow sound, from German – same in Japanese

Trinidad Tobago – Trinidad and Tobago – same in Japanese

trot (from foxtrot) – a kind of Korean music

trump – playing cards (rather than a specific game) – same in Japanese

tube – (swimming) float/ inner tube

turbine – with short i sound rather than ai – same in Japanese

twin bed – twin beds – same in Japanese

underbar – underscore (as in email addresses)

Urethan (from German) – urethane – same in Japanese

vacance (from French) – vacation/ holiday – same in Japanese, but rarely used

Valentine Day – Valentine’s Day – same in Japanese

veludo (from Portuguese) – velvet – same in Japanese

villa – small block of flats

vinyl – any kind of soft plastic, e.g. plastic bags – same in Japanese

vinyl house – green house made from plastic sheeting –same in Japanese

VTR (short for video tape recorder) – VCR

waffle – with a as the first sound – same in Japanese

walker – military boots

Watt – with a as the first sound – same in Japanese

Weiner coffee (from German) – Viennese coffee – same in Japanese

wet – overcoat

white – white out/ Tippex

White Day- a day similar to Valentines where men give gifts rather than women (as in Korea it’s the women who give chocolates)- same expression and system in Japanese

wrap – plastic wrap/ cellophane – similar in Japanese (“saran wrap”)

Y shirt (short for white shirt) – dress shirt/ business shirt – same in Japanese

yacht – any size of boat with a sail – same in Japanese

yeast – with a silent y, sounding like “East” – same in Japanese

yoghurt – drinking/ liquid yoghurt (solid yoghurt is “Yoplait”)

Yoplait – solid yoghurt (“yoghurt” means drinking yoghurt)

zero – with a short e for the first vowel sound – same in Japanese and many other languages

As I don’t actually speak any Korean, I expect there are many things here that Koreans never actually say and maybe a couple of things that native speakers do say in parts of the world I’ve never been to nor taken an interest in (like Yorkshire). Corrections and suggestions for other words and expressions gratefully accepted, as well as suggested sources for more – I had a great dictionary of borrowed words in Japanese, but haven’t managed to find anything similar in Korean yet.

This entry was posted in English as an International Language/ Lingua Franca, Error correction, False friends, Konglish, Linguistics, applied linguistics and SLA, Teaching English in Asia, Teaching English in Japan, Teaching English in Korea, TEFL, TESOL, Vocabulary and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

49 Responses to An A to Z of Korean English (Konglish) expressions

  1. Alex Case says:

    Did my Konglish worksheet today for the first time since I arrived in Korea (I wrote it for an all Korean class in NHN, a Korean software company, in Tokyo), and got this feedback:

    – One (young) student said she’d never heard of “autobi” and always said “motorbike” in Korean
    – Some of them knew it as Americano rather than “American coffee”
    – There was some confusion on whether “back mirror” iis Korean (it is certainly Japanese) and if so whether it would be the rear view mirror inside the car or the wing mirrors

    Haven’t changed the worksheets yet, because in Japan when that happened it sometimes turned out to be just that one student or because they couldn’t recognise the word in Roman script, so feedback still badly needed. Also, if anyone wants my sources please let me know, as they are many (internet and paper), and can’t be bothered writing them out if no one is interested. ITESLJ/ TESL-EJ/ ELT Journal this ain’t…

    The worksheets are on my page for Korean learners here:

  2. Alex Case says:

    More (although some may be repeated):

    • acryl- acrylic
    • aerobic – aerobics – same in Japanese
    • aftershave lotion- aftershave
    • boy – porter – same in Japanese
    • brassiere- (rather than bra, which is almost always used in English)
    • cereal – breakfast cereal only –same in Japanese
    • Christmas – Christmas Day
    • date- only romantic meaning, not day/ month/ year – same in Japanese
    • domino game- dominoes
    • drama – soap opera – same in Japanese (although also say “home drama”, apparently)
    • hand phone – mobile/ cellphone
    • handle – handlebars
    • hitchhike – hitchhiking
    • lotion – moisturizing lotion (a huge thing in Korea, for some reason)
    • misa – (Catholic) mass – same in Japanese
    • motel – love hotel
    • Olympic- Olympics
    • one room – studio apartment – similar in Japanese (“one room mansion”)
    • Philippine – the Philippines
    • punk – puncture
    • rinse – conditioner (and not the verb)
    • sign – signature – same in Japanese
    • tube – inner tube
    • Valentine Day- Valentine’s Day
    • wet – overcoat

  3. Brian Dean says:

    Actually SF is not konglish. People who are seriously into science fiction prefer to call it SF instead of “sci. fi.” SF is used as an abbreviation in wikipedia, see:

    Also see:


  4. Alex Case says:

    Interesting. I wonder if that is how it got into Korean, or if it’s just coincidence. The fact that it is the only short form in Korean (and Japanese) but that sci fi is more common in English would make it different and therefore at least a little Konglish, anyway

  5. Jeremy says:

    SF is used instead of sci-fi because many SF writers prefer to call it speculative fiction. I think there might be a slight difference, like all sci fi is spec fi, but not all spec fi is sci fi, so I just use SF and leave it at that.

    But in Japanese it’s always SF, as I imagine it is in Korean.

  6. Schplook says:

    As I came to ELT from a musical background, I can add a couple of points to clarify the origin of a couple of your examples.

    choir – usually (but not always) a group of singers in a church setting

    chorus – a group of singers

    missa – the Latin origin for the word ‘mass’ – church music (sung mass) such as: “Missa O Magnum Myterium”

  7. Alex Case says:


    As far as I’m aware, missa in Korean means (Catholic) mass rather than just church music.


    Good point about it always being SF in Korean and Japanese, I guess the fact that the full form “science fiction” is (almost?) never used would also be a difference from English

  8. Brian Dean says:

    An example of where a well respected intellectual uses SF where he means Sci. Fi. (and not Speculative Fiction) is PZ Myers in this article.

    Having said that, it’s debatable what is science fiction sometimes. Among serious SF people, Star Wars is not considered science fiction as it contains numerous errors (such as the Kessel run in 12 parsec quote).

    The thing is, if very intelligent native speakers use SF (and I would consider a successful science fiction writer to be an intelligent native speaker) I feel myself hard pressed to justify correcting students by telling them to use Sci. Fi. instead. So am I to correct them on the basis that it is not “common speak”? After all, “common speak” includes words like “ain’t”. If I am supposed to teach based on how the “common man” speaks instead of how the best intellectuals speak, should I teach them to use “ain’t”? In fact, writers like Mark Twain use “ain’t”. If it’s good enough for Mark Twain, it’s good enough for my students right?

  9. Alex Case says:

    Good points. What we correct is a huge question, of which a list like this would I hope be a help but is in no way meant to be a guide- this is simply a complete list of all the Konglish I could find. The questions you then get into are:
    – If a small group of native speakers use a form that happens to be the same as a Konglish form, Japanese form or just typical mistake (e.g. “He done it”, fairly typical where I come from), but the majority of native speakers says that it sounds wrong or even have never even heard it and maybe don’t understand it, should you “correct” or not? If you do, should you explain all that, or just correct
    – Should a native speaker model be relevant to what you correct anyway. If so, which native speaker English/ combination of native speaker Englishes/ simplification of native speaker English(es) should you use, and do you need to explain that process to your students?
    – If you don’t use a native speaker English model, what do you use?
    – Etc

  10. Brian Dean says:

    I personally use a native speaker model. After all, I am a native speaker myself.

    However, I think that as teachers we should endeavor to give students 100% accurate information. For example, my firefox extension tells me that in the last sentence, I misspelled endeavor. It says that I should spell it “endeavour”. Since I tend to make spelling mistakes sometimes I should check it. If I look it up on I see that I spelled it correctly. So, a flag was thrown (i.e. firefox underlined it) so I went to double check it rather than just assume that since I am a native speaker I must therefore be correct.

    As far as “He done it.” that is a good example because I know of native speakers that might actually say something like that. The ones I know that would say something like that though, tend to be uneducated people living in the Appalachian areas of the United States. My standard for saying it’s wrong is, if these same people were to go to a university in that same area (West Virginia State University for example) they would probably be corrected by their English professor. So in the “endeavor” to be 100% accurate, I would tell students that an uneducated person from West Virginia might say that. But that most educated people AS FAR AS I KNOW, would consider it to be wrong.

    I use the same principle for the word “ain’t”. I tell students that they might occasionally encounter that word in a pop song (which is why I might teach it). Or in the writings of Mark Twain (when he is imitating how the common person speaks). But that it is not considered to be correct English in academia.

    The thing with SF though is, a few native speakers use it. And it’s not like “ain’t” where native speakers use it, but it is considered wrong by academia. SF is an example where a few native speakers use it AND it is used by academia as well as serious science fiction writers (such as Robert Heinlein). So even though the majority of people don’t use it, it is not “wrong”. In the endeavor to be 100% accurate it’s fair to point out that most people don’t know what SF is and that maybe students should repeat it saying “Sci. Fi.” if the person seems confused. Or if you want to make it easier for them, tell them it’s better to say “Sci. Fi.” because more people know what that is.

    I am not 100% sure where SF came from in Korea, but it might have come from a few Koreans noticing that the best science fiction writers use it. I think that finding out what the best people in a native speaking society use, and trying to use it yourself, should be applauded rather than corrected.

  11. Brian Dean says:

    I would also like to point out that lists SF as meaning “science fiction”

    1. science fiction.
    2. sinking fund.

  12. Tony says:

    If the expression is used also in Japan and perhaps in China, can we properly call it Konglish?

    on another point–I wonder if some on the list are more matters of pronunciation or even slang than loanwords that have been reassigned a slightly different context. In this respect, expressions such as “wassup” or “a’riight” used by native speakers are not that different from “all ri.”

  13. Alex Case says:

    I doubt there is an agreed definition of Konglish, so I just picked a random meaning of vocabulary influenced by English (but excluding typical translation from Korean or grammar mistakes that some people include).

    I’m sure “oorai” started that way, but as it is only now used for parking (never as a general synonym of “okay”) and never has the final t, even in writing, I think it is very much Konglish and Japlish now

  14. What an exhaustive list, Alex! I will have much more confidence during my next foray through duty free in Seoul, thanks to you! Thanks to the overlap with Japlish, I feel very nearly bilingual already :)

  15. Brian Dean says:

    The thing is, what is standard English anyway? Are Americans wrong for pronouncing “Peter” as “Peder” whereas the British pronounce it with the “t” it’s spelled with? Are they wrong for spelling a word “color” instead of “colour”? Is “tyre” wrong since it should be spelled “tire”?

    The fact is, we have American English, British English, and Australian English because people from those countries took the language and made it their own. Since America has a different history and culture distinct from Great Britain, isn’t it natural that they would use the language differently?

    Isn’t konglish, japlish, chinglish, and others, attempts by Asians to make English their own?

    I say the reason “cell phone” is standard English whereas “hand phone” is not, has nothing to do with logic. It has everything to do with a whole bunch of people deciding that since they don’t personally say “hand phone” that it must be wrong.

  16. Alex Case says:

    “Isn’t konglish, japlish, chinglish, and others, attempts by Asians to make English their own?”

    No, because unlike Singlish and Indian English, Konglish isn’t a variety of English. It’s a category of Korean vocabulary that is based on English or other European words and therefore students are more likely to transfer from Korean to English than purely Korean or Sino Korean words and expressions. Having taught multilingual classes, I can say for sure that Konglish and Japlish are considerable areas of misunderstanding when Japanese and Koreans try to communicate with people from almost anywhere. There are, however, times when the forms they try to use are more likely to be understood than forms based on native speaker models, e.g. using hand phone when talking to Germans, or using the Korean pron of sauna almost anywhere.

    Most of that is in the intro, but as you’ve been kind enough to visit a few times, it’s understandable that you haven’t be rereading the piece each time.

  17. Brian Dean says:

    “No, because unlike Singlish and Indian English, Konglish isn’t a variety of English.”

    Isn’t the only reason that is the case is that “Konglish” is only spoken by a minority and not taken seriously by “linguists”? Wouldn’t it be true that if 95% of Americans used “hand phone” instead of “cell phone” that “hand phone” would then be considered standard English?

    What about the fact that many Americans don’t understand the British accent? How is that different from Americans not understanding Konglish, or Japlish? What about the fact that many British and Koreans wouldn’t understand me if I refer to someone as a carpetbagger? Does that mean that the word “carpetbagger” is Americanish?

  18. Alex Case says:

    If you still can’t see a difference between Konglish and Singlish (and it’s obviously not number of speakers- if that even has any meaning in this discussion), then I really can’t think of any other way to describe it to you. Would you like to say which linguists you are talking about who don’t take Konglish seriously?

  19. Brian Dean says:

    “If you still can’t see a difference between Konglish and Singlish”

    Answer this, if most Americans referred to that thing you hold in your hand as a “hand phone”, would “hand phone become standard English?

    If you define standard English as what’s in the dictionary, then SF for “science fiction” would be standard English because that’s what the dictionary says it is. So if you think SF is Konglish and not standard English, you must be using some standard other than the dictionary. You could say that you are simply using your own personal standard, but then that wouldn’t be very objective would it?

    “Would you like to say which linguists you are talking about who don’t take Konglish seriously?”

    I don’t know of any linguists who take Konglish seriously. I’m sure you have studied logic so you know it’s almost impossible to prove a negative (i.e. that there are no …). It is easier to disprove a negative by giving a counter-example.

    Therefore, I can’t prove the statement “There are no linguists who take Konglish seriously.” because it’s a negative statement. If you want to disprove that statement by giving me an example of a linguists who does take Konglish seriously I would be happy to change my view about that in particular.

  20. Alex Case says:

    I get the feeling that you are carrying on an argument that you are having with someone else with me, because nothing you are writing is a response to what I have written, here or anywhere else.

    Let me try and explain what the difference between Singlish and Konglish is one more time.

    Most people who are brought up in English speaking homes in Singapore (not including most English speaking expats) speak a variety of English that is also spoken by their English speaking friends and passed onto their children and their children’s children, based mainly on British English with a large influence by various Chinese languages and a bit of Malay. Whatever the number of speakers, this is a variety of English in the same way as scouse, RP or Eubonics, although a little different as written Singlish and Singlish media is only just emerging.

    As far as I’m aware, there is not a community of speakers of Konglish, meaning a variety of English spoken at home that is influened by Korean and spoken by friends and family and passed onto other generations. If such a thing existed, for example in the Korean community in LA, it would have little connection with or influence on the kind of Konglish you and I are both talking about, in the same way as Spanglish the variety of English spoken by various communities of Latinos in the US has no connection to Spanglish the type of English that Spanish EFL students produce due to the influence of L1.

    Please tell me some of the linguists you have read on Konglish and I’d be very interested to see what their attitude on Konglish is. I’ve only read two linguistics books on Korean, and neither of them even use the term “Konglish”. For Japanese English, I read this

    which if anything takes Japanese English too seriously

  21. Brian Dean says:

    “I get the feeling that you are carrying on an argument that you are having with someone else with me, because nothing you are writing is a response to what I have written, here or anywhere else. ”

    You have not defined “Standard English”.

    See, I come from a mathematics background. In mathematics, we like to clearly define things. For example, a rational number is any number that can be represented as the division of two integers. With that definition, I can say that 3/7 is a rational number whereas the square root of two is not. It’s not too difficult to prove that the square root of two is not a rational number. It’s a little more difficult (but still possible) to prove that pi is not a rational number. Nobody that I am aware of knows whether or not the Feigenbaum constants are rational (although we suspect that they are not).

    But in any case, either a number fits the definition of a rational number or it doesn’t.

    Likewise, if standard English is clearly defined, then either something fits the definition of standard English or it doesn’t. The problem is, I don’t think you or I have stated any clear definition for it.

    “As far as I’m aware, there is not a community of speakers of Konglish, meaning a variety of English spoken at home that is influened by Korean and spoken by friends and family and passed onto other generations”

    Well, most Koreans understand “hand phone”. I don’t know why that WOULD NOT be a community of speakers. As far as being passed onto other generations, the “hand phone” is too new of a phenomena, so it’s an unfair criteria. The phrase “cell phone” would also not be standard English if you are using that criteria since that too has not been passed down onto other generations.

    Another example, a certain large room of the high school I went to (Fort Jennings High School in Ohio) is called an Auditeria (combination of auditorium and cafeteria). The only group of people I am aware of that use that word, are people in the town of Fort Jennings. The people of that town could certainly be considered a “community of speakers” who use English as their common language which they pass onto later generations.

    So would Auditeria be standard English? If not, why not? If not, then what would it be instead? Fort Jenningsish?

    “Please tell me some of the linguists you have read on Konglish”

    I don’t know of any linguists that have done any studies on Konglish. Since part of taking something seriously is for somebody to study it, this doesn’t bode well for the idea that there exists a linguists who takes Konglish seriously. For example, I have not really studied generative grammar seriously (I have looked at it). But I know of linguists who have studied it and take it seriously.

    Anyway, why don’t you try giving me a clear definition on what standard English is. That way, we can test whether or not “hand phone”, “carpetbagger”, “SF”, “auditeria”, or “aoierani” are standard English or not.

  22. Alex Case says:

    I have never even mentioned Standard English, because there is no need to, because Konglish (as I have defined it here) is a part of the Korean language, not of English. To start with, a majority of the phrases come from Japanese.

    “Well, most Koreans understand “hand phone”. I don’t know why that WOULD NOT be a community of speakers. ”

    It is a community of speakers- a community of speakers of Korean, of which Konglish is a part. It was in some way derived from English (or actually quite often other European languages), but is no more part of the English language than any other Korean word, or any other mistake that a Korean might make, related to L1 or not.

    I’m a physicist, btw, and find your mathematics analogy entirely spurious. In fact, this entire exchange is competing for most pointless ever on this blog. Perhaps you’d like to tell us what about the original post you found so offensive.

  23. Brian Dean says:

    “I have never even mentioned Standard English, because there is no need to, because Konglish (as I have defined it here) is a part of the Korean language, not of English.”

    Okay, fair enough. One of the most difficult jobs I have is convincing Koreans that Americans use English words in a different way than they do. I have just about as hard of a time convincing them of that as I would convincing you that I have a way of creating free energy.

    “Perhaps you’d like to tell us what about the original post you found so offensive.”

    What I find offensive is that a few examples, although not “common English” (as in English used by most Americans that I personally know) make a sort of sense. It’s kind of like my auditeria example. Nobody else that I know of, uses that word (people from Fort Jennings use it). Every community has their own little words they use sometimes.

    In one particular example, SF does mean science fiction according to the American Heritage dictionary. Not many people I personally know use SF, but if it’s in the dictionary who am I to say it’s wrong?

    So basically, what sorts of konglish should we bother to correct and what should we let slide? I say there’s a good argument for letting SF slide since some Americans use it. There’s a good argument for correcting arbeit for “part time job” since no American that I know of, uses that.

  24. Brian Dean says:

    I would add that if “konglish” is defined as English-like words that are now part of the Korean vocabulary, then “tire” (타이어) is konglish according to that definition. My evidence for that is here:

    See Alex, once you clearly define things I am quite willing to obey that definition.

  25. Alex Case says:

    “Like “Japanese English”, “Korean English” is often used not to refer to a variety of English (like Singlish or Indian English) but to the use of English in the Korean language, including some words and expressions that were created in Korea from English and other European roots and don’t exist outside Korea. As I am using this meaning of “Konglish”, the expressions below are neither wrong English nor a variety of English but simply a category of Korean vocabulary similar to “French” expressions like “cul de sac” in English. ”

    From the very first lines of this blog post…

  26. Brian Dean says:

    ““Korean English” is often used not to refer to a variety of English (like Singlish or Indian English) but to the use of English in the Korean language,”

    Given that description “tire” is konglish because it is used as an “English” word in Korean. Just like ketchup is a loan word from Chinese.

    I’m glad to see that we can clearly define things like konglish so that we can test whether or not an expression fits the definition.

  27. Alex Case says:

    As that clear definition was in the original post, I really don’t understand what your problem has been all this time. Obviously under my definition, every word that comes from English but has only had pronunciation changes when it moved into Korean would indeed be included, but the list would be far too long to list here and impossible to explain without using hangeul. Those kinds of words are also the least interesting for disinterested outsiders, ie. 95% of the people reading this blog.

    Tire is within the words I am interested in, as there is a meaning in English that does not exist in Korean, being the verb of tired. This is more useful in the classroom when it is actually the same word as the one they know rather than just sharing spelling (in American English) and pron (a homonym??), but is certainly something worth including. Again, I’ve never said otherwise, so really have no idea what your issue is.

  28. Brian Dean says:

    “As that clear definition was in the original post, I really don’t understand what your problem has been all this time. Obviously under my definition, every word that comes from English but has only had pronunciation changes when it moved into Korean would indeed be included, but the list would be far too long to list here and impossible to explain without using hangeul. Those kinds of words are also the least interesting for disinterested outsiders, ie. 95% of the people reading this blog. ”

    Most people reading the blog would probably be interested in changing konglish expressions in order to teach Koreans the “correct” English expression.

    If a person is interested in what he should fix or correct with Koreans then “tire” is probably not a word he/she should be that concerned about. Whereas “arbeit” is.

    The problem is, there is no one standard that everyone agrees on as being “standard English”. Therefore, which words you should correct and which ones you should let slide is a controversial issue.

    If konglish is seen as bad, then that’s the pot calling the kettle black since English is rife with words that are borrowed from other languages. As far as English borrowing a word from another language and using it in a way that is not used in the language English borrowed it from, well, English has a lot of examples of that as well.

    For example, as I said before, correcting something like SF for “science fiction” is overzealous because a good argument can be made for SF being standard English. Why not tell Korean students that some people, including people who are famous in the field of science fiction, use SF instead of “sci. fi.”? Isn’t that more informative than saying SF is wrong because you and your buddies that you meet in the bar don’t use it?

    So my question is, as English teachers, who should endeavor to give students as accurate of information as possible (to the point of even correcting our own mistakes when we discover them), what should we do regarding “konglish”?

  29. Alex Case says:

    “What should we do regarding “konglish”?”

    That is indeed an interesting question. I’ve started writing articles and blog posts on that question with relation to Japanese English (which I know a lot more about than Konglish), but it is too huge a topic for a blog post and of too limited interest for an article, so have never finished one. If you’d like to do a guest piece on the topic, e.g. “Give that Konglish some respect!”, I’d be happy to put it on TEFLtastic.

    On the topic of Japanese English, these Macmillan pages look great:

  30. Alex Case says:

    Someone just told me that the Korean for ringtones is “colouring”, so that goes on the list!

  31. Daniel says:

    I wonder if “colouring” was originally “caller ring”, as in a caller ID ring. I asked my Korean girlfriend about why they say colouring, and although she confirmed that they do say it, she has no idea why. Any idea where that comes from?

  32. Alex Case says:

    No idea. Anyone else?

    My students just told me that to explain email addresses they use “middle bar” for “dash” and “underbar” for “underscore”

  33. Alex Case says:

    New one today- “bodyline” for “figure”, also used in Japan I think

  34. Alex Case says:

    Today’s discovery is “coating” for laminating

  35. Rick says:

    Is obaeit, 오바이트, to vomit, pure Korean or Konglish?



  36. Alex Case says:

    I’ve written this whole list while only being able to speak thirty words of Korean, so never come across that useful sounding word! As you can see from the list above, though, adding an additional sound at the beginning doesn’t ever seem to happen, so guessing it’s Korean. “mani” is another example of a word that sounds almost exactly like English and has the same meaning, but has no connection, i.e. just coincidence

  37. Alex Case says:

    casher is another one in Japanese and Korean. Think it means bank clerk and/ or cashier

  38. Alex Case says:

    S line is another one that came up in class today. Means hourglass figure/ curvy

  39. Alex Case says:

    CC for campus couple is one I just learnt

  40. Alex Case says:

    “room salon” for hostess bar is another

  41. Michalina says:

    Hello there ~ I’m currently writing my M.A. thesis in language acquisition and I’m interested in the notion of Konglish ~ I was wondering if you could provide me with your sources (which I could use and put in my references)?
    ~ on a side note ~ I want to become an English teacher and my biggest dream is to go to Korea (and teach there for some time) ~ do you enjoy working there? would you recommend it? how to apply for a job? is this process complicated? ~ unfortunately I don’t know any Korean…

    sorry for the flood of questions :)
    regards from Poland,

  42. Paul C says:

    Thanks Alex, for a really useful list. Here’s a few more:

    ‘confess’ tell someone you are attracted to them

    ‘propose’ ask your date if they would like to ‘go steady’ with you

    ‘hof’ a bar or pub

  43. Mike says:

    Konglish is the devil!

  44. Anja says:

    Thanks for the list! :)

  45. Alex Case says:

    List now much expanded and polished up, including PDF version for easy printing. Have also now done a full list for Janglish:

  46. JaeWon says:

    Thanks for your great post. I’m a Korean and I didn’t even know “arbeit” is from German and so on. And in addition, we use the word “Bongo (A car name of KIA motors)” for “Van”, “Poclain(French brand name)” for “excavator” and “Pro (From Dutch ‘Procent’)” for Percents. You wrote this post about 4~5 years ago though, I hope this comment will be helpful. Thanks

  47. alexcase says:

    Great, thanks, keep them coming!

  48. Riley says:

    It helped me a lot, thank you. I am Korean teaching English to students, and this is just what I was looking for!

    Just there are things that I want to point out:
    1. Korea and Japan tend to use same incorrect expressions, and I have a theory, a good one. Since Korea was colonized by Japan, lots of new stuffs from western countries were brought into Korea through Japan and we called the things just as the Japanese did. Even the English language itself was taught, schools used textbooks from Japan. Which makes the most sense to me because my grandparents generation still can read and speak Japanse, and they still randomly use Japanes words here and there without noticing. For example, the word “cream,” in Korean sound system it is “크림” which is pronounced /k-lim/ , but instead my grandparents would go “구리무” which is prounced /gu-ri-mu/, just as Japanese people say “cream” these days.
    (Keep this in mind that I do not mean to make accusations here.)

    2. item no.14 all ri
    It is more like /o-ra-i/

    3. item no. 45 caller ring
    It is not about caller ID, it is the ringtone that people hear set by the number holder when someone makes a phone call to them. You know, the songs you hear before the person you are calling picks up the phone.

    4. item no.90 depart
    We use Korean word for a department store, I never met any Koreans saying “depart” unless they were trying to say things in Japanese way. But I guess it is possible because of the theory that I made earlier.

    5. item no.94 digi-came
    Again, another one that I have never ever heard from a Korean. We called it /di-ka/ or just /di-ji-tul-ka-me-la/.

    6. item no. 116 fine play
    We may not pronounce that “f” properly, but other than that we do say “fair play.”

    7. item no. 137 golden ball
    In Korea when we say “gold” they usually mean something is very good/nice. I have no idea where this one came from? If someone out there does, please let me know.
    You might have got confused with “golden bell?” still it means completely different from sudden death.
    When a Korean “rings a golden bell” at a pub, that means the person who just rang the bell will pay for everyone’s drink there.

    8. item no. 157 health
    Isn’t the right English word “a gym?”

    9. item no. 140 and 147 gom
    Very close, but /go-mu/ to be accurate ;)

    10. item no. 168 homep
    We used to call it /hom-pi/ maybe about 10 years ago, but I don’t hear it anymore.
    We just say /hom-pe-i-ji/ or /sa-i-tu/ (site from “website”) these days.

    11. item no. 182 illustra
    It is more like, /il-luh/ ^^

    12. item no. 209 love call
    You will see “love call” on a news articles mostly in sports and entertainment section.
    Someone gets a love call, that means the person is being desired by an agency (or agencies).

    Ok I see more, but I am bit tired now, so I will just add just a bit more.

    13. item no. 255 nish

    14. item no. 256 no touch
    /no-da-ji/, which is another one that seems like a word that was handed over to Koreans through Japanese, because if we heard it from an native English speaker it would have been /no-tuh-chi/.
    To be honest I am not 100% sure if this story I am about to tell is true, but here it is.
    It was originated from miners looking for gold. When they found gold mine, they tried to keep the native people of the land away from gold, so they kept saying “no touch, no touch.”
    Now when someones says something is /no-da-ji/, that something is a bonanza/windfall. All you need to do is just reach out and take the gold(something pricey/valuable).

    14. item no. 280 perma

    15. item no. 309 roll coaster
    We actually say roller coaster, even though we pronounce those “r”s with “l”s.

    Now I am really leaving this page. Just too tired.
    But I hope someone find this helpful.

  49. alexcase says:

    Thanks, much appreciated. To be honest I can’t remember how I made the original list – I think it was a combination of other online lists plus a trawl through the dictionary.

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