(Special focus on Konglish & false cognates)

Learning any language is all about learning just the 6000 or 7000 … most frequently words in that language. It does not entail being a walking dictionary in that language (I doubt if it is even humanly possible. It is impossible even for the native speakers). So, at the first glance, it does not seem like such a herculean task. But, it may still be a daunting goal for someone who is learning a language which is VEEERRRY different from his/her own language, or worse, which has its own unique script or alphabet (quite alien from his/her own language) and not to forget for people like me who have been foredoomed with a terrible memory.

So, one quick way of getting your hands on those lexicons is to look for cognates existing between your target language and your own language. I got this idea from Jimmy Naraine’s video entitled “Accelerate Language Learning Speed with 2 GREAT Techniques”.

Since, the language I am using to learn my target language (Korean) is English, and my blog is also essentially intended to cater for English readers, I am presuming that your language is English as well. Therefore, the trick is to find the cognates between your target language and English.


A cognate is basically a word in one language that is directly or indirectly related to some other word in another related language and thus they have same or similar meaning, structures, phonetics and pronunciation. They are derived from the same ancestor and belong to the same linguistic family. For example, the word “exactly” in English has following cognates in six other languages as shown in the figure below. Hence, for an English speaker it is far easier to remember these words in the target language without making much effort.

cognates exactly with flags

But you’re lucky if you are learning “related” languages like Spanish, French, German, Italian, etc. What if you are an English speaker learning a rather unrelated language like an Asian Languages? Do cognates work for you too? Well, sadly, it is true that you won’t find as many cognates of English words with Asian languages as you would for other European languages. But don’t be disheartened already! Luckily for us, English happens to be one of the most assiduous “linguistic lenders”. Hence, you will find a wide assortment of “loan words” in Asian languages that have been borrowed from English. Since I am learning Korean, I can only speak for Korean language. Well, I can tell you about Nepali and Hindi too!  Both of them have numerous English words being used, that too, generously. For example, I just found out today (while doing some homework for this post) that there is actually a separate Nepali word for “Telephone”. So far everybody simply calls it “telephone” with Nepali spelling (Romanized one).

So English being the official international language in this globalized era, almost every language has borrowed words from it.  And Korean is no exception. What is more interesting is that the Korean language has not only simply borrowed words from English, it has recreated some of them giving a slight “twist” in the meanings to create its own unique and amusing set of “Konglish words” and/or “false cognates”.

Straightforward English Words

Before, going into those Konglish words or “Korean-English words with a twist” as I’d like to call them, let me talk briefly about the downright  ‘loan words’ from English, that are used in Korea, with the same meaning as their English counterparts but with a Korean spelling (romanized version)  and a Koreanized pronunciation. In my opinion, these do not fall into the Konglish category, as Konglish essentially encompass slight (to major) variation in the meaning of the original English word. Likewise, they do not fully fit in the definition of cognate as well, as the “same origin and related words” are the key attributes for cognates. So I am not quite sure if it covers direct romanization or not. But again, I am no linguist to be giving definitions. Hence, feel free to offer corrections if any of my statements are wrong or misguiding.  I would be glad to correct them in accordance to your suggestions.

There are numerous such straightforward “loan words” in Korean. Here is a short list of such list:

1 Key
2 카드 Card
3 커피 Coffee
4 컴퓨터 Computer
5 아이스크림 Ice cream
6 모니터 Monitor
7 텔레비전 TV (there is also 테레비=but that is more of a Japanese-Korean Cognate
8 텍시 Taxi
9 버스 Bus
10 맥도날드스 McDonald’s
11 바재큐 Barbecue
12 할리우드 Hollywood
13 프린터 Printer
14 포스트잇 Post-it
15 라디오 Radio

Konglish and/or False Cognates

Ok. Now back to Konglish“Korean-English words with a twist”. So what exactly is Konglish? Konglish are essentially the words or terms, that have been derived from English, BUT which have been koreanized to have a different meaning than the original English words, which is used and understand in South Korea only.

To illustrate, have a look at this short webtoon I found it on My Korean Husband’s very interesting “Konglish” series. (For more similar posts, Visit their website here, where Nicola explains her latest discoveries of Konglish words along with her great self-created webtoons.)

(My Korean Husband's Konglish artwork
(My Korean Husband’s Konglish artwork “Fighting” by Nicola (Nic)

So, as you can see from the picture, the Konglish word “Fighting” is no doubt an English word, but it does mean “fighting or quarreling” as we understand it. It is a Konglish word which is a kind of a word used for cheering or rooting someone meaning “Cheer up!” /“You can do it!”/”All the best”/”Go for it!”, etc. Therefore, Konglish are words that definitely appear English and are formed using loan words from English, but they have a new meaning, the difference in the meaning can range from slight difference to a completely unrelated meaning altogether.  Providing the most simplistic view on the structure of Konglish, Konglish words are primarily formed through one of the following three ways:

  1. Changing the meaning of the English words
  2. Creating completely new phrases (fabricated phrases) using English words which do not exist in English
  3. Abbreviating the original English word, but such abbreviated versions do not exist in English

Of course there are other categories of Konglish based on:

  • Pronunciation differences, (occurring primarily due to absence of exactly matching sounds in Korean in the process of koreanizing the English words, for eg, Korean does not have a “F” sound so all “F” sounding words are converted into the closest matching sound “P”.
  • Brand names being used to indicate the product category itself, such as the brand “Burberry” (버버리) means “overcoat” in general. (But this is not surprising at all, even we say “to Google something” if we want to say “to look up something in the internet”. Ubiquity of something is bound to bring about such coining of terms.
  • Altered phrases

These categorizations have been based on two chief research articles, namely, Dr. David Shaffer’s- “False Cognates:  Teaching Techniques for Korean Loan-word Interference” and Cui Xue-Bo’s –“An Analysis of Lexical Borrowing From Languages: “Konglish” ”.

False cognates

We cannot talk about Konglish without explaining about false cognates. A false cognate is a pair of words which appear to be cognates but they are not, as they have different meanings. So, although they seem similar, they have completely different meanings which are quite misleading for the learners.

Now, the good news is that Korean has Konglish words which are quite easy to remember for us. But the bad news is that, these Konglish words are notorious for being false cognates. To put another way, most of the Konglish words (mainly the fabricated phrases and abbreviations have meanings in Korean considerably different from the English counterparts. So, both the Korean language learners and English learning Koreans have a hard time distinguishing between the meanings. Most of the time, they don’t even realize that these differences exist. Therefore, we can find some research works being done and  literature being devoted towards solving this problem created by false cognates in Korean, especially from the point of view of teaching English to Koreans.

These are the words that would immediately bring out reactions such as “Say WHHAAAAT????” from any English speaker. For example, I was shocked to see this picture on the internet once that literally reads “립 앤 아이 리무버” that is Lip and eye remover” in English. It is basically a cleanser or make-up remover product. But in Korea they just get rid of the “make-up” part. So, I have had my share of these moments. And I still do every time I learn a new Konglish word).

Konglish : 립 앤 아이 리무버” = “Lip and eye remover (Cleanser)
Konglish : 립 앤 아이 리무버” = “Lip and eye remover (Cleanser)

Anyway, my purpose for this post is not to give you a detailed analysis of Konglish (I am not qualified enough for that). So I am only introducing these concepts briefly so that we can use them to remember new Korean words easily, while at that same time not making sure that we do not fall prey to the “misleading” aspects of these loan words.

So be it: Cognates, Konglish, false cognates, or simply loan words, the bottom line here is that we can use them TO LEARN NEW KOREAN WORDS. After all, our ULTIMATE GOAL here is TO ADD AS MANY NEW VOCABULARY AS POSSIBLE TO OUR KOREAN LEXICON REPOSITORY.  Besides, there are a handful good research articles and write-ups in the internet that dissect the concept of Konglish in more detail. Check out my reference section for this post, if you want to have a look at some of the more comprehensive explanations.

So in this post, I have compiled a list of 150 “Loan words” in Korean from English. I learnt most of these words through my Korean friends, Korean shows, dramas, songs, etc.

Konglish: “트러벌” = Trouble (Skin problems)

I have been compiling them ever since I started learning Korean. But I also found that some AWESOME bloggers and YouTube videos, especially these two videos by Talk to me in Korean (TTMIK) (part 1 & part 2) have done extensive work on compiling similar lists. So I have also borrowed some words from them which I think are used the most in Korean. (Please find them listed in the reference section of this blog).

So here my list of 150 Konglish words, which have been divided into two parts: (i) the general Konglish words or phrases and (ii) the abbreviated ones, which often act as false cognates.

S.N Loan words What it sounds or appears in English Meaning as understood in Korean
1 아이쇼핑 Eye shopping Window shopping
2 액세소리 Accessory Jewelry
3 오디오 Audio Audio system
4 오픈 카 Open car Convertible
5 이어폰 Ear/air phone Earphone
6 이벤트 Event Promotional event or activity as a part of a marketing campaign
7 인터 폰 Interphone Intercom
8 가글 Gargle Mouthwash
9 클로버 Clover Clubs from playing cards
10 클맆 Clip Paper clip
11 골든아워 Golden hour Prime time, peak viewing/listening time for television, radio, etc.
12 콜롱 Cologne, men’s perfume Perfume used after having a shower
13 코팅 Coating Laminating (paper, documents) with plastic
14 키크 보드 Kickboard Scooter
15 개그맨 Gag man Comedian
16 게임 룸 Game room Video game arcade
17 그래머 Glamour Voluptuous, curvaceous female
18 네임 카드 Name card Business card
19 노트북 Notebook Laptop
20 다이어리 Diary Schedule book, planner, appointment book
21 다이어트 Diet Weight loss attempt
22 드링크 Drink Caffeine-laced pick-me-up tonic
23 더치 페이 Dutch pay Dutch treat
24 (가스) 레인지 Gas range Gas burner, gas stove/range
25 (전자) 레인지 Range Microwave oven
26 레포트 Report Prepared schoolwork assignment
27 라이트 코크 Light coke Diet coke
28 라이브 잉글리시 Live english Real-life English
29 루즈 Rouge Lipstick
30 리본 Ribbon Bow and ribbon
31 매니 큐어 Manicure Fingernail polish
32 맨션 Mansion Large, luxurious apartment
33 모닝콜 Morning call Wake-up call
34 모텔 Motel Small hotel
35 믹서/믹서기 Mixuh/mixture Blender
36 미팅 Meeting Blind date, group blind date
37 버버리 Burberry (the brand name) Overcoat
38 백넘버 Back number Jersey number/ player number
39 백미러 Back mirror Rear-view mirror
40 벡싱거 Back singer Back-up singer
41 브이티알 VTR VCR
42 브릿지 Bridge Bleach (like hair color, highlight colour)
43 본드 Bond Glue
44 비닐 Vinyl Plastic
45 빌딩 Building Tall office building
46 빌라 Villa Countryside vacation home
47 볼펜 Ball pen Ball-point pen
48 뺏지 Badge Lapel pin
49 사이다 Cider Carbonated lemon-lime drink like sprite, 7up
50 사인 Sign Autograph, signature
51 샤프 Sharp Mechanical pencil
52 서비 스 Service Complementary service/ something given as a free service, things on the house, freebies
53 선텐 Suntan Tinted sheeting for window glass
54 쇼파/소파 Sofa Armchair/sofa
55 스케 줄 Schedule Appointment
56 스킨쉽 Skin-ship Physical intimation, touching, hugging, etc
57 스크랩 Scrap Clip (and file)
58 스탠드 Stand Table lamp
59 스토브 Stove Heater
60 스포츠 댄스 Sports dance Ball room dance
61 서 클 Circle School club
62 샐러리맨 Salary man Office worker
63 Sack Backpack
64 엔지니어 Engineer Mechanic, repairman, technician
65 오바이트 Overeat Vomit
66 오일 Oil  Any petroleum product for motor vehicle use
67 올드 미스 Old miss An old maid, spinster
68 오피스텔 Office-tel  (Office + Hotel) A place where the lower storeys/floors are rented out for businesses, offices, stores, etc, whereas the upper storeys/floors are rented out for residential purposes, homes, etc.
69 원룸 One room Studio apartment,  a one-room flat,
70 원 쇼트 One shot Cheers! While drinking
71 와이셔스 White shirt Dress shirt
72 워커 Walker Army boots
73 원피스 One piece Dress
74 츄레이 닝 Training Warm-up suit, track suit, sweat suit
75 카세트 Cassette Cassette player/recorder
76 Can Canned beverage, tin can
77 컨닝 Cunning Cheating (on a test)
78 Cup Glass, cup
79 코펠 Copper Camping pots and pans
80 콘사이 스 Concise Small dictionary
81 콘센 트 Consent Electrical/Power Socket, outlet
82 크림 Cream Pastry frosting/filling
83 크랙션 Klaxon Motor vehicle horn of any type
84 탈렌트 Talent Television celebrity
85 트럼 프 Trump Western playing cards
86 트롯 Trot Genre of music loosely associated with the fox-trot
87 Team Division in a company
88 티 켓 Ticket Gift certificate
89 토스트 Toast Omelet sandwich which is grilled
90 팝송 Pop song Popular English language music
91 팬시 Fancy Stationery and/or knickknacks
92 포스 트 Post Breakfast cereal
93 프린트 Print Handout, print-out (Not 프린터 = printer)
94 펜션 Pension Motel
95 하드 Hard Ice bar
96 하이킹 Hiking Bicycling
97 하이퍼 마트 Hyper mart Grocery store
98 핫도그 Hot dog Corn dog
99 헤이어 밴드 Hair band Head band
100 핸들 Handle Steering wheel
101 핸드폰 Hand phone Mobile phone, cell phone
102 호치 키 스 Hotchkiss Stapler
103 히 프 Hip Buttocks
S.N Loan words What it sounds or appears in English Meaning as understood in Korean
104 나이 트 Night Dance club
105 노트 Note Notebook
106 드라 이 버 Driver Screwdriver
107 디카 Dika Digital camera
108 다큐 / 도큐 Docu Documentary
109 Wrap Plastic/kitchen/Saran wrap
110 리모콘 Remocon Remote control
111 린스 Rinse Hair conditioner
112 미 스 Miss Mistake
113 미싱 Machine Sewing machine
114 Back Backing, support, connection
115 샌드 Sand Cream-filled sandwich cookie
116 셀프 Self Self-service
117 소프트 Soft Soft freeze
118 수퍼 Super Supermarket
119 스킨 Skin Skin lotion, toner
120 아이스 께끼 Ice cake Ice bar
121 아파트 Apart Apartment/condominium
122 에어 콘 Air cone Air conditioner
123 오버 Over Overcoat
124 에로 Ero Erotic movie
125 젤리 Jelly Soft, gelatin candy
126 클래식 Classic Classical music
127 콤비 Combi- (from combination) Sports coat and trouser
128 콘도 Condo Membership resort or hotel
129 크림 샌드 Cream sand Cream sandwich
130 트랜 스 Trans- Transformer
131 펑크 Punk Tire puncture/ breaking of a promise, appointment
132 포테 토 Potato French fries
133 플래시/후라시 Flash Flashlight, torchlight
134 헬쓰 Health Health club, gym
135 화이 트 White Tipex, correction fluid/pen, white-out
136 히어링 Hearing Listening comprehension (히어링 시럼 =listening comprehension test
137 팬츠/빤스 Pants Underpants (British English)
138 비디오 Video Video cassette recorder/player
139 트랜치 Trench Trench coat/ overcoat
140 스테인리스 Stainless Stainless steel
141 셀프 캐메라 Self camera Home video
142 트러벌 (mostly 피부 트러벌) Trouble Skin problems like pimples, etc.
143 애프터서비스 /애이 에스 After service  or A/S After sales service
144 엠티 Mt (membership training) Trip, retreat
145 엘티 L.t. Leadership training
146 에스에프 Sf Sci-fi/science fiction
147 오티 O / T Orientation as in orientation class for new students, etc
148 오무라이스 Omu-rice Omelet + rice
149 디 시 D/C Discount
150 시 에프 CF Commercial film/ video advertisement

I hope you will easily be able to have these 150 Konglish words under your belt through the above list.

Reference List

While doing a little homework for this post, I came across many superb articles and blog posts, who have done a splendid job explaining the loan words in Korean. Some of these write-ups also cover cognates and loan words of Korean from other languages too. So I salute the works by all these people. Hence, here is a list of some great works that I’ve had a great pleasure reading and whom I have referred for compiling the most commonly used Konglish words.

  • TTMIK Ask Hyojin – Konglish Videos part one and part two