Words of Korean origin

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The OED includes dozens of words originating in the Korean language and/or related to Korea. Although the oldest of these words are attested in English as early as the 17th century, most of the words of Korean origin in the dictionary entered the language relatively recently, in the latter half of the 20th century and early part of the 21st century. The current influx of Korean-origin words into English is due largely to a phenomenon called hallyu or the Korean wave—the increase in international interest in South Korea and its popular culture, especially as represented by the global success of South Korean music, film, television, fashion, and food. This rise in popularity of South Korean culture, which began in the 1990s in East and South-east Asia, had become a worldwide phenomenon by the 2010s, driven largely by the success of various forms of Korean entertainment on social media and video-sharing platforms.

South Korea’s cultural and consumer products are highly sought after in Asia and beyond, and it is through English, the global lingua franca, that it sells these products to the rest of world. That is how a country where English is not a majority language, and where it plays no official role, can have such an impact on modern English vocabulary. The current K- trend, encompassing K-pop, K-drama, K-beauty, K-food, and K-style, introduces new vocabulary that is quickly adopted by English speakers across the globe.

Excerpt taken from ‘Introduction to words of Korean origin’ blog post

Words of Korean origin recently recorded in the OED

Explore the full list of words of Korean origin most recently added to the OED.

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Additional resources

Submit a word of Korean origin to the OED

Use the submissions form below to suggest a word of Korean origin for inclusion in the OED:

World Englishes

  • E.g. Philippine English, Hong Kong English, Ugandan English
  • e.g. bammy, skinship, bunny hug
  • e.g. an informal social gathering, a street vendor
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Editors and consultants for words of Korean origin

The OED works in partnership with external experts from or in South Korea to ensure that our entries for words of Korean origin draw from local knowledge and expertise and reflect the everyday reality and distinctive identity of the Korean-speaking community.

Resources: from the OED blog

It was the success of K-pop and K-dramas that initially fuelled the rise of international interest in South Korean pop culture, a phenomenon that is now so widespread that it has not one but two names that have just entered the OED: hallyu and Korean waveboth first seen in 2001. Hallyu, a borrowing from Korean, also means ‘Korean wave’ when literally translated, and it is now also being used in English to refer to South Korean pop culture and entertainment itself, not just its increasing popularity.

Excerpt taken from ‘Daebak! The OED gets a K-update’ by World English Editor, Danica Salazar

Webinars and events

Information about any upcoming events and webinars, as well as recording from past events, will be posted on our webinar and events page. Recent events related to words of Korean origin are available to view below.

The Oxford English Dictionary for Korean users: resources to support teaching and academic research

Korean universities, schools, and other education institutions can access the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) through an initiative by KERIS, a Korean governmental organization to promote and support education.

The OED is a powerful online linguistic resource, providing features, tools, and language data which are essential for academic research and teaching. However, the extent of the OED capabilities is not always explored to its full potential.

The Oxford University Press team – Dr Danica Salazar, World English Editor, Ms Chen Zhou, Regional Customer Trainer, Mr Won Jung, Product Executive – and Dr Jieun Kiaer, Young Bin Min-KF Associate Professor of Korean Language and Linguistics, University of Oxford, presented a session where they provided an overview of all the OED can offer.


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