Dozens Of Korean Words Enter The English Dictionary


Squid Game might be the most talked-about TV show on Earth right now, but it’s just part of a broader wave of South Korean pop culture that’s been sweeping the globe over the past few years.

Whether it’s BTS or Blackpink, manhwa (Korean graphic novels) or mukbang (livestreamed shows in which hosts eat food and talk to their viewers), the hallyu (Korean pop culture) wave has been gathering strength as fans across the world dive into all that the small but influential nation has to offer.

Now, hallyu has even been officially recognised by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which in its September 2021 update revealed that dozens of Korean words have been added to the comprehensive English language record.

Squid Game. (Netflix)Netflix

Among those words added to the OED are popular genres of hallyu content, including K-Drama (Korean TV series), manhwa and mukbang.

There’s also space for a number of popular South Korean foods, as the country’s cuisine is also experiencing a moment in cities around the world. Newly added to the dictionary are kimchi, bulgogi, japchae and galbi, and several more traditional Korean dishes.

But perhaps more surprisingly, the Oxford English Dictionary has also added a number of Korean words that aren’t typically used by non-Korean speakers. Many of these words are commonly heard phrases, like daebak (awesome), fighting (good luck), and aegyo (similar to kawaii). But others are even more niche, with Korean honourifics including unni, oppa and noona also winning a spot.

BTS are the world's biggest boyband (Alamy)Alamy

Explaining the reasoning behind the new additions, the OED said in a statement, ‘We are all riding the crest of the Korean wave, and this can be felt not only in film, music, or fashion, but also in our language, as evidenced by some of the words and phrases of Korean origin included in the latest update of the Oxford English Dictionary.’

With all this focus on Korean fan culture, South Koreans may be disappointed to learn that Koreaboo – a term used to negatively refer to non-Koreans who are overly obsessed with K-culture – didn’t get a look in. Although with the Squid Game train showing no sign of slowing, there’s always hope for next year.


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