Korean Honorifics - Oppa, nim, Seonsaeng and others

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In this article we will see the main Korean honorifics. You will see the meanings of nim; ssi; nuna; unni; hyung; oppa; ajumma; ajusshi; sunbae; hubae; seonsaeng; gun; yang; gaju and naeuri.

Korea, like Japan, also uses address suffixes. It is very important to follow these rules of use honorific names, after all, nobody wants to make a faux pas when going to a country.

What are Korean honorifics?

The honorific is generally used to refer to the person you are talking to, or when referring to a third party. It is never used to refer to itself, except for dramatic effect, or in some exceptional cases.

Honorary titles are equivalent to Lord, Lady, Young, Master, highness and similar words. The difference is that in Asian culture these honorifics are common and it is part of everyday life for the population to use them.

It is impossible not to come across the use of these titles in manhwa, novels, Korean literature and even K-POP. The practice of a country should not be left out of use by a foreigner, this is a rule, it is etiquette.

As in Japan, there are titles that fall into disuse because they are rarely used or because they have outdated meanings. But it is important to know even these, in case a situation of extreme formality occurs.

Korean honorary titles, oppa

Major Korean Honorary Titles

neem: It's a formal way to address a person older or more respectful than you. Being just a suffix.

Ssi: Used formally to address a stranger or strangers to you. Being just a suffix.

Nuna: It's a friendly, more intimate form, used only for women who are older than the man she's talking to. It can be used as a suffix or also as a Vocative when addressing a woman.

Unni: Unlike Nuna, Unni is used in the same friendly and more intimate way, except that it is used for a woman to refer to another, in case she is older. It can be used as a suffix, but one can directly call someone with it.

Hyung: This one is for men. A friendly way to address another man, as long as he is older. It can be used as a suffix, but one can directly call someone with it.

Korean honorary titles, oppa

What do oppa, ajumma and ajusshi mean?

Untranslatable: It's a friendly way to address a man who is older than you, use it if you're a woman. Even though it is not synonymous, it can be used to address your boyfriends. Likewise, it can be used as a suffix, and also to be used directly.

help: It is used to refer to middle-aged women, between their 35 to 55. Be careful when calling someone under 35 years old Ajumma, it may be offensive and rude of you. It is most commonly used alone, but it can be used as a suffix as well.
Ajusshi: Used to refer to men of the same age group as the Ajumma. Younger people in their 30s prefer to be called hyung/oppa by those younger than them. It can be used as a suffix or to refer directly.

Korean honorary titles, oppa

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What does Sunbae, Hubae and SEONSAENG mean?

Sunbae: It is used as in the case of “Senpais”, used for older colleagues or people you see as a helper, adviser or mentor. It can be used as a suffix or also used to refer directly.

Hubae: This one is backwards, it's used for the younger ones, like in Kouhai in Japanese. Used almost always in the third person and seldom used directly to the other person.

Seonsaeng: It is usually translated as teacher, however, this has much more formality, being used as a form of respect for the person addressed. It is customary to add '-nim' to call the person. It is common to see children and teenagers adding '-ssem' to in a way, pronounce 'teacher-nim' more quickly.

Korean honorary titles, oppa

What does Gun, Yang, gaju and naeuri mean?

Gun: Used sparingly for occasions of extreme formality, such as weddings, it is usually used after the first name or full name. Being used exclusively and only for men, mostly, the host.

Yang: Used sparingly for occasions of extreme formality, such as weddings, it is usually used after the first name or full name. Being used exclusively and only for women, mostly the hostess.

NOTA: These honorifics are falling out of use due to formality.

Gaju: Used for clan leaders or for parents and householders. Can be used with –nim or alone.

Naeuri: Used formerly to refer to people of the highest ranks and status, but lower than His Excellency, used by commoners in the Joseon Dynasty.

Korean honorary titles, oppa

Comparison between Korean and Japanese honorifics

You can see the list of Japanese Honors Click Here. It is possible to say that Korean and Japanese honorifics are completely different. Since there are few suffixes that are similar to the other language.

Korean suffixes are more difficult than Japanese ones, but of course, studying a language is never easy, it's a matter of practice and dedication. So just like Japanese is possible learn korean, do not you think?

However, it is widely used in both Korea and Japan. As we have seen, there are also suffixes outdated by time, as there are in Japan. Although they are different, they are part of the culture of their people and it is also something that foreigners like us should learn.

Some similarities in suffixes or their use are also due to Chinese culture and cultural influences spread across Asia. You might also want to see some similarities and differences between Chinese, Korean and Japanese languages.

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you liked it, share it and leave your comments! Thank you and until the next article!

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