Mysterious Korean Word: 우리 Posted by Kyung-Hwa on Mar 1, 2017 in Korean Culture, Korean Language, Vocabulary
Korean culture is more community focused, and this strong sense of collectivism is deeply permeated in the Korean language.
If you study Korean, you will hear “ 우리_____” on a daily basis. Direct translation of “우리” is “we” or “our” in English. However, this is one of those Korean words you often do not want to translate literally. For example, what does “우리 아내” and “우리 남편” mean? Its direct translation would be “our wife” and “our husband” in English. Your response may be something like this: “Uh~, isn’t monogamy the legal practice in Korea?” You might find that these Korean expressions seem quite strange to your ears. In many cases, you cannot directly translate the meaning of “우리” as “our” in English. “우리 아내” and “우리 남편” actually mean “my wife” and “my husband” in English.
Why is this Korean word “우리” deeply permeated in the Korean language? Korean culture emphasizes the value of the group that a person belongs to, whether it is a person’s country, family, school, society, neighbor, hometown, etc. Koreans see these groups as a single entity. This aspect of collectivism has a huge impact on the way Koreans behave and speak. This Korean word “우리” would make sense to you only if you consider these aspects of Korean culture. Because Koreans value a group mindset, they generally use “우리” instead of “my” when they refer to people and things they are related to. Here are some examples that you will frequently hear from Korean speakers:
Just remember that Korean people like to show unity by grouping themselves with same school, same company, same neighborhood, or same hometown, same club, and so on. When you hear Korean people referring to their wife or husband as “우리 아내” or “우리 남편” next time, please don’t have a mysterious expression on your face. They really mean “my wife” or “my husband” in English.
감사합니다! (Thank you!)
In Korean (literal translation) In English
- 우리 집 (our house) ———– my house
- 우리 나라 (our country) ———– my country
- 우리 가족 (our family) ———– my family
- 우리 아내 (our wife) ———– my wife
- 우리 남편 (our husband) ———– my husband
- 우리 아빠 (our dad) ———– my dad
- 우리 엄마 (our mom) ———– my mom
- 우리 학교 (our school) ———– my school
- 우리 선생님 (our teacher) ———– my teacher
- 우리 회사 (our company) ———– my company
- 우리 개 (our dog) ———– my dog
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