A great place to start when learning a new language is to focus your studies on the most common words in that specific language.
This tactic is especially useful when learning Korean as you will be able to understand around half of the whole language by simply learning the 100 most common Korean words.
Therefore after some focused learning of these common Korean words, you will be able to reach a certain level of proficiency in Korean and unlock the means to communicate with new people and interact with a new culture.
This guide will break down the most common words in Korean into easy-to-navigate categories so you can quickly level up in Korean.
The words will be written using the Korean alphabet, Hangul, as it is important to familiarize yourself with the writing system of Korea in order to progress your learning of the language.
Not only is Hangul easier to learn than you may think, but it will also vastly improve your pronunciation and allow you to understand written Korean too.
Don’t worry we will also provide a romanized word to help you with pronouncing the words if you have not yet learnt Hangul.
10 Must-Know Basic Korean Words
First off are the ten most basic Korean words to learn as a beginner.
These words are vital for everyday conversations and so will enable you to get by on a short trip to Korea and when having small interactions with others.
- 안녕하세요 (annyeong haseyo) – “Hello”
- 안녕히 가세요 (annyeonghi gaseyo) or 안녕히 계세요 (annyeonghi gyeseyo) – “Goodbye”
- 네 (ne) or 예 (ye) – “Yes”
- 예 (ye) or 괜찮다 (gwaenchanhda) – “Okay”
- 아니요 (aniyo) – “No”
- 주세요 (juseyo) – “Please”
- 감사합니다 (gamsahamnida) or 고마워요 (gomawoyo) – “Thank you”
- 천만에요 (cheonmaneyo) – “You’re welcome”
- 미안해요 (mianhaeyo) – “I’m sorry”
- 몰라요 (mollayo) – “I don’t know”
10 Core Korean Pronouns
Much like in Japanese, pronouns are often omitted when speaking or writing in Korean as the context of a situation will indicate what you are talking about.
However, pronouns form a vital foundational part of the Korean language and so not knowing them can cause a lot of trouble for your learning progress
Pronouns are also especially useful if you ever need to emphasize who you are talking to or what you are talking about.
- -씨 (-ssi) – “Mr., Mrs., Ms.”
- 나 (na) – “I”
- 여자 (yeoja) – “She”
- 그 (geu) – “He”
- 그들 (geudeul) – “They”
- 우리 (uli) – “We”
- 이 (i) – “This”
- 그 (geu) – “That”
- 저기 그거 (jeogi geugeo) – “That over there”
- 그것 (geugeos) – “It”
You may notice that the Korean word for “you” is not listed on the above list.
That is because it cannot be considered a core or common word in Korean because it is rarely used since it is considered rude to say “you”.
“You” in Korean is 당신 (dangsin) and would only be used when you don’t know someone’s name.
Otherwise, when wanting to say “you” to someone, you would just use the person’s name along with the honorific listed above -씨 (-ssi).
42 Basic Korean Nouns
Nouns make up a big part of daily language, especially words related to time and location since people often need to place something in the context of a time or place whether it be a future plan or a past experience.
The following 42 common Korean nouns are sure to come in handy when learning the language and we have broken them down into categories to help you learn them.
Of course, if you don’t use the specific nouns listed below in regular conversation then they will be less useful to you when learning Korean.
That is why it is always a good idea to make a list of words that you say frequently in everyday life and focus on learning those words, in order to accelerate your Korean language progression even more.
Of course, you can always learn these common nouns first, as they are sure to come in useful, and then start to list and learn Korean words specific to what you use regularly.
Korean Words for Time
- 일 (il) – “Day”
- 주 (ju) – “Week”
- 달 (dal) – “Month”
- 년 (nyeon) – “Year”
- 오늘 (oneul) – “Today”
- 어제 (eoje) – “Yesterday”
- 내일 (naeil) – “Tomorrow”
- 시 (si) – “Hour”
- 분 (bun) – “Minute”
- 시간 (sigan) – “Time”
- 전에 (jeon-e) – “Before”
- 후 (hu) – “After”
- 지금 (jigeum) – “Now”
Korean Words for Places
- 여기 (yeogi) – “Here”
- 그곳에 (geugos-e) – “There”
- 장소 (jangso) – “Place”
- 학교 (haggyo) – “School”
- 가게 (gage) – “Shop”
- 일 (il) – “Work”
- 화장실 (hwajangsil) – “Bathroom”
- 도시 (dosi) – “City”
- 나라 (nara) – “Country”
- 기차역 (gichayeog) – “Train station”
- 방 (bang) – “Room”
- 대한민국 (daehanmingug) – “South Korea”
Korean Words for Things
- 것 (geos) – “Thing”
- 아무것도 (amugeosdo) – “Nothing”
- 뭔가 (mwonga) – “Something”
- 집 (jib)- “House”
- 차 (cha) – “Car”
- 말 (mal) – “Words”
- 언어 (eon-eo) – “Language”
- 물 (mul) – “Water”
- 영화 (yeonghwa) – “Movie”
Korean Words for People
- 여자 (yeoja) – “Woman”
- 남자 (namja) – “Man”
- 소녀 (sonyeo) – “Girl”
- 소년 (sonyeon) – “Boy”
- 친구 (chingu) – “Friend”
- 사람 (saram) – “Person”
- 가족 (gajok) – “Family”
- 이름 (ileum) – “Name”
25 Common Korean Verbs
Verbs form a vital part of language and without them you can often not even form a proper sentence.
Therefore, it is important to learn the 25 most common Korean verbs so you can properly converse in Korean.
Verbs like 하다 (hada) meaning “to do” or 있다 (issda) meaning “to be” can actually be combined with other words and nouns to form new verbs altogether making them the perfect starting point for this list.
- 하다 (hada) – “To do”
- 있다 (issda) – “To be, there is”
- 지다 (jida) – “To become”
- 말하다 (malhada) – “To say”
- 오다 (oda) – “To come”
- 가다 (kada) – “To go”
- 할 수 있다 (hal su issda) – “To be able to do”
- 보다 (boda) – “To see”
- 보내다 (bonaeda) – “To send”
- 가지다 (gajida) – “To have”
- 기다리다 (gidalida) – “To wait”
- 만나다 (mannada) – “To meet”
- 살다 (salda) – “To live”
- 생각하다 (saeng-gaghada) – “To think”
- 주다 (juda) – “To give”
- 받다 (badda) – “To receive”
- 알다 (alda) – “To know”
- 만들다 (mandeulda) – “To make”
- 사용하다 (sayonghada) – “To use”
- 배우다 (baeuda) – “To learn”
- 먹다 (meogada) – “To eat”
- 마시다 (masida) – “To drink”
- 웃다 (udda) – “To laugh”
- 읽다 (ilgda) – “To read”
- 쓰다 (sseuda) – “To write”
19 Simple Korean Adjectives and Adverbs
Adjectives and adverbs allow you to express yourself and add some interest into your language.
The following list will break down some basic adjectives and adverbs so you can easily get started with adding some descriptive details into your conversations.
Adjectives are also useful when you are starting to learn Korean since they will enable you to describe something that you do not yet know the word for.
- 많은 (manh-eun) – “Many, lots of”
- 조금 (jogeum) – “Few”
- 큰 (keun) – “Big”
- 작은 (jageun) – “Small”
- 긴 (gin) – “Tall”
- 짧은 (jjalb-eun) – “Short”
- 가까이에 (gakkaie) – “Near”
- 멀리 (meolli) – “Far”
- 좋은 (joeun) – “Good, nice”
- 나쁜 (nappeun) – “Bad”
- 쉬운 (swiun) – “Easy”
- 어려운 (eoryeoun) – “Difficult”
- 아름다운 (aleumdaun) – “Beautiful”
- 못생긴 (mossaenggin) – “Ugly”
- 맛있는 (masissneun) – “Delicious”
- 뜨거운 (tteugeoun) – “Hot”
- 춥다 (chubda) – “Cold”
- 매우 (maeu) – “Very”
- 재미 (jaemi) – “Enjoyable”
5 Core Korean Conjunctions and Connectors
If you want to increase the flow of your Korean conversations then you need to learn some basic conjunctions and connectors.
Learning just a few of these core words will allow you to transition from one sentence to the next and will also give you some thinking time before you move on to your next words.
- 그러나 (geuleona) – “But, however”
- 또한 (ttohan) – “Also”
- 예를 들어 (yeleul deul-eo) – “For example”
- 그래서 (geulaeseo) – “So”
- 그때 (geuttae) – “Then”
Bonus: 10 Cool Korean Words and Slang to Boost your Korean Vocabulary
If you really want to impress native speakers then learning Korean slang is a must.
Of course, slang is often used in everyday life and so if you want to learn common words it is good to have some slang in your vocabulary so you can fit in like a local and sound more natural when speaking Korean.
- 대박 (daebak) – “Amazing, great”, or “that’s crazy”
- 짱 (jjang) – “The best, awesome”
- 꿀잼 (kkuljaem) – “Fun, interesting, or funny”
- 닭살 (dalgsal) – “Cheesy”
- 극혐 (geughyeom) – “Totally disgusting/repulsive”
- 불금 (bulgeum) – “TGIF”, “Burning Friday” or “Golden Friday”
- 행쇼 (haengsyo) – “Be happy” (a trendy phrase made popular by K-Pop idol, G-Dragon)
- 헐 (heol) – “OMG, no way”
- ㅋㅋ (kk) – “Haha” or “lol” (used in text)
- 만렙 (manleb) – “Level 10,000” (or as I like to think of it… “It’s over 9,000!”)
How to Learn the Most Common Korean Words With the Word-Frequency Method
The word frequency learning method is a great way to easily get to the core of a language and learn the must-know words.
Your speaking will understandably improve once you have learnt these key Korean words and you will be able to string together basic conversations in no time.
You will also see an improvement in your listening comprehension as you start to notice the common words throughout conversations.
Instead of learning the sorts of basic words that you will not use regularly, like clothing items or weather words, focusing on vocabulary that is used often will have a greater impact on accelerating your progress.
Now that you have a list of the words to learn, all that it takes is to learn them, though this is easier said than done.
If you know what learning method works best for you then you can simply get started right away learning the vocab.
Some ideas on ways to learn the above words include: making flashcards, writing lists, learning via word association, practicing the words in sentences, listening out for the words while watching TV and getting a native speaker to test you.
Learning using the word frequency learning method no matter how you commit the words to memory will set you up with a strong foundation for going forward to learn more Korean.
Of course, since these 100 words cover around half of the Korean you will need to know, there is 50% you still need to learn.
Words caused by grammar conjugations as well as grammatical particles are not included in this guide as you will need to study and understand Korean grammar in its own right and not just memorize certain words.
Once you have memorized the above 100 words, you can diversify your study to incorporate more complex topics and subjects that will expand your Korean even more.
Now that you know the most common Korean words the most important thing to do is to start showing off your new skills!
Immersing yourself in the Korean culture and interacting with Korean speakers is of course the best way to improve your Korean and probably the reason you want to learn the language in the first place.
If you can’t afford the plane ticket try watching some Korean TV shows and films or conversing with an online language partner.