It’s official, Korea has gone global. The September 2021 revision of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) sees 26 Korean words added to the English language1,2. The global popularity of Korean culture — dubbed ‘hallyu’ in Korean and now in English! — has made its way in to the world of linguistics.
The Korean Wave
The driving force behind the Korean wave is undoubtedly the popularity of Korean entertainment, notably, K-Pop and K-Drama. Trailblazing boyband BTS continue to shatter world-records, from being the first Korean artists to perform on the Grammy stage to reigning supreme as the most streamed group on Spotify. Meanwhile, the survival drama Squid Game (2021) is on track to become Netflix’s most successful show in history, the biggest achievement since Parasite (2019) swept the Oscars last year.
Hallyu is not a wave anymore, its a tsunami.
Korean Additions to the Dictionary
The OED welcomes 26 Korean and Konglish words into its league, including some alternate meanings to pre-existing words.
- Korean wave
- PC bang
- Tang soo do
You might be thinking “isn’t ‘fighting’ an English word?” In this case, the Korean meaning for “fighting” as a term of encouragement has been made an official meaning of the English word, as of Sept 2021. What’s more, many of the Konglish words you see before you have origins in the English Language.
Besides Konglish and romanized Korean words, the list includes popular Korean slang as well. For instance, ‘daebak’ and ‘chimaek’, the latter signifying the holy combination of chicken and beer (maek-ju in Korean.)
The news has got us thinking about the origin of other Korea-related words in English, like the word ‘Korea.’ Those who have studied Korean will know that the country’s name is ‘han-guk‘ in native Korean. However, the English name ‘Korea’ has been in use a lot longer than ‘han-guk’.
The word ‘Korea’ stems from ‘Goryeo‘, the largest of the original Three Kingdoms of Korea that existed over 2000 years ago. The rise and fall of royal dynasties and military occupation saw the country’s name change several times in the Korean language. Joseon, the final pre-empire kingdom, dissolved at the end of the 19th century, 50 years prior to the division of Korea. To this day, North Koreans refer to their country as ‘Cho-son’ in native Korean, derived from ‘Joseon.’
On the other hand, ‘han-guk’ derives from the Chinese root that means ‘large, great’. To that end, South Korea is known as hánguó in Chinese.
Which of the new Konglish words in the OED is your favourite? Which Konglish words would you like to see added to the OED at the next revision? Let us know in the comments below.