Hwaiting: ‘Fighting’

Posted on 22. May, 2008 by in Vocabulary

Far from a battle cry, 화이팅 hwaiting is a commonly used word of encouragement, as well as a cheer. I’m told it made its way into Korean from its obvious English origin via the Japanese—and hence the unusual pronunciation. Language purists insist that it should be spelled 파이팅 paiting to reflect a closer approximation to the English word fighting. (As I typed 화이팅 above, and again here, the spell check tried to change it to 파이팅!) However, it’s universally pronounced hwaiting and so you will encounter both spellings. Although in use for decades, it’s inclusion into dictionaries has been met with some reluctance, still considered merely slang.

You’ll often hear Koreans try to translate 화이팅 as fighting, understandably, but we can actually translate it a couple of ways, depending on the situation…

At sporting events, the crowd will cheer on their team with 화이팅, sometimes preceded by 아자, 아자! aja aja! just to get pumped up, and in international matches: 대한민국, 회이팅!! daehanmin-guk, hwaiting!! or even 코리아 화이팅!! koria hwaiting!! Go, Korea!!

To wish someone luck before a difficult endeavor, such as before a test, parachuting out of a plane or approaching a woman in a bar! 파이팅! hwaiting! Good luck!

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29 Responses to “Hwaiting: ‘Fighting’”

  1. j 23 October 2009 at 9:15 pm #

    This is very interesting. :)

  2. Clint 30 October 2009 at 2:02 pm #

    파이팅!

  3. tina 12 June 2010 at 8:51 pm #

    World Cup 2010; Dae Han Min Guk hwaiting!

  4. boo 4 July 2010 at 7:52 am #

    wow first hit on google for “korean fighting”… which is what i was looking for… hear this a lot on korean dramas… it’s my favorite korean saying.. i always get a chuckle when i hear it…. at first i thought they were really saying “fighting” (in english).. then i realized.

    great explanation thanks!! hwaiting!!

  5. brian 14 August 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    My wife and I are korean. She’s first generation, I’m 2nd and can’t speak korean well. I grew up neglecting my korean background all the way through college and into my career. But after meeting my wife of 7 years now, I’ve been embracing anything korean. I regret my past.
    My wife was sick recently, so before I left for work, I made sure she was nice and comfortable, had the things she need next to her, kissed her, and said,
    “Fighting!”
    She whispered “Fighting!” back to me with a smile.

  6. Fluent Korean 29 January 2011 at 9:35 am #

    Great Post! http://www.fluentkorean.com

  7. Chris 12 August 2011 at 9:13 am #

    I’ve always thought it sounded like “fighting!” from k-dramas until someone corrected me. It’s one of the konglish expressions that confuse native English speakers.

  8. 아기 5 November 2011 at 11:58 pm #

    I hear this all the time!
    화이팅!
    =D

  9. mizzleli 24 November 2011 at 5:58 am #

    you Koreans must be proud of this, because it has brought you to the eyes of the world. I’m from Malaysia and i know this through K-dramas. this is a very unique type of culture :)

  10. Herro 29 November 2011 at 6:19 am #

    I am overflowing with fighting!

  11. yhayhen03 29 November 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    화이팅 hwaiting UKISS!

  12. Tetsuo 9 December 2011 at 11:28 am #

    OK, but WHY do they say “hwaiting”? Where does it come from and why does it mean what it does?

  13. Nita 13 February 2012 at 1:21 am #

    - What was the war over?
    - Any other information?

  14. manila gehl 17 February 2012 at 1:56 am #

    can i just a question about korean language? coz in the kdrama coffee prince, how did the characters refer to yoon eun hye’s character? i mean, what pronoun did they use? coz i saw somewhere online that third personal pronouns in korean language are also gender specific,like in the english language? in some of the english subs of the kdrama, she was alternately referred to as her or him which would have been a dead giveaway. i was wondering if it really was so in the korean dialogue. thanks in advance for answering.

  15. Asuka 11 April 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    wow thanx for sharing… ^^ MBLAQ 화이팅 !

  16. iluvkorea 12 May 2012 at 3:31 am #

    Hmmmmmm…… I am from Malaysia and a shawol, and I have always heard the word hwaiting but never knew what that meant… I guess now I know!!

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  18. noplacelikehome 7 August 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    @manila gehl 17 February 2012 at 1:56 am:

    Koreans can refer to someone in third person without revealing the sex by using “gue” or “gye”. When we want to specifcy, we can say “gue namja” for male and “gue yuja” for female.It’s very commone to use the asexual third pronouns.

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  28. Chris 27 September 2013 at 3:15 am #

    To me, it sounds more like something between “hwhiting” and “(p)iting” — essentially I NEVER hear the “a” part. This is another case where I think the pronunciation is different (like with words in English or any other language) than the spelling and the Romanization.

    I’m glad Koreans tend to translate it as “fighting”. I like keeping cultural idioms in tact. It’s easy enough to pick up the meaning from the context and body language. I first encountered it in Korean dramas, and it quickly became apparent that it was an expression of solidarity or support or encouragement, like “Go get ‘em!” or “Keep it up!” or “You/We can do it!” There are LOTS of suitable English expressions it could be translated to, but I’m glad the idiom perseveres in most translations I see.

    Really great to see the history and the details on the word, though. Nice post!


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