Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ask a Korean! Wiki: Language Similarities?

Dear Korean,

I know there's been an influx of English words to have been adopted by Koreans into their own language, like coffee, camera, computer, bus, okay, etc. But are there any purely Korean words which -- when spoken -- carry exactly same meaning in Korean as English? The one possibility I'm thinking of is "soot," meaning dirty or ashy. Doesn't that mean approximately the same thing in both languages?

Kenneth L.


Finding "soot" is extremely clever, but the Korean is afraid that Korean soot and English soot do not mean exactly the same -- although they are close. In Korean, soot means "charcoal". In English, soot means "grime". Korean soot doesn't exactly carry the judgmental connotation that English soot carries.

The Korean can't think of any other example, but this is really intriguing. Readers, be creative. Any randomly similar words between Korean and English?

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. I always thought it kind of a cute coincidence that:

    사과: apple
    사과하다: apple-ogize :)

  2. "Give" and "Gi-Bu" (donate)

  3. This isn't a perfect example, but I've always been curious about "want" and "원하다." I've always been told that its not borrowed from English.

  4. what about "many" and "많이"

  5. why? 왜? Listen to Korean rap songs to find more.

  6. How about "yes" and "예"?

  7. I like that 해고하다 means "discharge" or "dismiss"- kinda like telling someone "hey, go!"
    I'm a dork.

  8. Could eating too much "salsa" cause a bout of "sul-sa"?

  9. This one's actually in Spanish, which I found even more surprising.

    There been a couple of times my friends would call somebody
    "바보 Babo." - Fool

    In Spanish, sometimes we'll call someone "Baboso" - Silly

  10. This is extremely interesting guys. Keep them coming!

  11. has quite a few Korean-English ones, some of them mentioned in this thread.

    From that page:
    English dung and Korean 똥
    English pear and Korean 배
    English seed and Korean 씨

  12. words "amma" and "appa" (or slight modifications of them) are probably common in a dozen or so languages

  13. Here are a few with Urdu/Hindi:

    차 and chai (tea)
    엄마 and um-ma
    아빠 and ub-ba
    자 the command particle, as in 가자, is the same

    From French, je and 저 were approximate false cognates I noticed immediately, along with 먹다 and manger.

  14. this is kinda reaching for it, but i always thought 더불다 "together" sounds like "double"

  15. not really related but I was told they use the word "sun cream" instead of "sun screen". Which makes more sense then using "screen".

  16. 선호다다 means to prefer. This verb reminds me of the traditional Korean preference for a son. 선 sounds like son in English.

  17. Dear The Korean,
    I have to disagree with your explanation that soot means grime. I understand that meaning, but I have always associated soot with burned wood.. the fine carbon dust that is released when burning wood in a fireplace that sticks to the chimney.
    This is soot. So, in a way, coal and soot are similar...both are made mainly from carbon, are black, and could be used to write on white paper if necessary.

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  19. In English, "soot" does not mean grime. It refers to charcoal dust.


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