Korean Language Blog

Korean Colloquial Expressions (Part 1) Posted by on Sep 27, 2021 in Grammar, Idioms, Korean Language, Pronunciation, Slang, Vocabulary

Learning a language is not an easy task, especially if you start later in life. Everything looks completely different and sounds strange. I know your agony in the journey of learning a foreign language because I, myself, have been there. In fact, I am still hanging in there. Mastering a language is hard work that requires patience and passion. 


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Unfortunately, the Korean language has a notorious reputation being one of the most difficult languages to learn for English native speakers. As a native Korean, this is a sad statement because many potential language learners simply opt-out of an opportunity to learn Korean without giving it a chance. 

Today, I want to introduce you to a fun way to brush up on your Korean. In the beginning, I had spent more time learning colloquial expressions in English. Looking back, I think it was one of the most effective ways I could kindle my passion for learning English. After studying today’s lesson, you might surprise your coworkers with your level-up Korean.


image by PicsbyFran on Pixabay


Korean languages have homonyms as many other languages do. For example, 눈 (noon: eye, snow) is one of them. Below expressions indicate 눈 as an eye.

1. 그녀는 눈이 높다. (noon-ee-nop-dah: She has a high standard.)

It is literally translated that eyes are set on a high level. It means that someone has a high standard.

->My aunt hasn’t been married yet because 그녀는 눈이 높다.


2. 한 눈 팔다. (han-noon-pal-dah: keep one’s eyes off from something/get distracted.)

It literally says that someone is selling one eye to something/someone. If you start dating someone, your girlfriend/boyfriend may kindly(?) remind you not to look at other men/women.


-> You would break my heart if you 한 눈 팔다. 


3. 그녀는 코가 높다 (koh-gah-nop-dah: She’s too snobby.) 

It literally says that she has a high nose. When people describe someone as being snobby in English-speaking culture, they often point their nose upwards. In Korean, we also use a raised nose for someone being haughty. You see, even the Korean language, which you might think that it is too foreign, could be similar to your own language. 


콧대 (kot-dae: a nose bone) could be often replaced. 콧대가 높다. (kot-dae-gah-nop-dah: a nose bone is high). 콧대가 세다. (kot-dae-gah-se-dah: a nose bone is strong) have similar nuance. 


->She won’t even approve of any of this high-end jewelry because 콧대가 높다.


image by Ihadlock50 on Pixabay


4. 감이 잡히다 (gahm-ee-jop-hee-dah: I got a hunch.) 

Don’t be confused. 감 (gahm: a persimmon, a feeling) is a homonym. The expression indicates 감 as a feeling/a hunch. 잡다 (jop-dah: to grasp)


->When somebody says, 감 잡다 (gahm-jop-dah: I’ve got the picture.) you’ve got the picture!


5. 당근이지. (dang-geun-ee-ji: It is for sure!) 

It is derived from 당연하다. (dang-yeon-hah-dah: It is for certain.) Believe it or not, 당근이지 is a catchphrase of a Korean comedian. Naver Dictionary defines 당근 as a noun that is short for a 당연하다. 당근 is supposed to be used in a casual and witty case. Who knew?

-> A: Did you eat breakfast?

    B: 당근이지!


6. 그는 짜다. (sah-ram-ee-jjah-dah: he is stingy.) 

It literally says that a person is salty. In English, the word ‘salty’ contains negative meanings as well. In Korean, the word can be used as being cheap. 

-> My boss is 짜다.


What did you think about these colloquial expressions? When you know the backstories of them, doesn’t it give you the motivation to study Korean harder? I hope so. I have many more colloquial expressions for you in the next post. Stay tuned!


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About the Author: Flying Oyster

Hi, I was born and raised in Seoul, S. Korea. I have lived in Seattle for a while and I am traveling the world with my husband since 2016. It is my honor to share Korean culture with you all. Don't be shy to share your thoughts and comments! :) Talk to you soon. H.J.


  1. Diane W:

    This was fascinating and a fun way to add more words and understanding. Keep up these entertaining ways to love Korean language learning.

    • FlyHighOyster:

      @Diane W Thank you, Diane! I shall come up with more in the next post. Stay tuned!

  2. Moira:

    Very interesting! I recently learned about your blog, and I am enjoying your content very much. 🙂

    • Flying Oyster:

      @Moira Thank you, Moira! I am honored to hear that 🙂