Koreans curse a lot. They swear not only when they are angry, but also when they want to show some intimacy to close friends. Now, you may think, “Cursing and insulting to show intimacy? I will insult my Korean friend right away!" However, as Korean curse words contain some very offensive meanings, it will be better to learn the meaning of curse words and when to use them first.
씨발 [ssi-bal] : damn
Every Korean learner knows 씨발. It is the most common curse word in Korean. It is so widely and extensively used that the original meaning is forgotten.
Its original meaning is "prostitute" or "incest.” But somehow, it is used in the same way as "damn" in English. You can use it in various situations. Your close friends might be amused if you say it, but it will cause trouble in a formal and polite conversation.
씨발 ㅋㅋ (when it is funny)
씨발… (when you are disappointed)
씨발! (when you are surprised)
씨발 ㅠㅠ (when you are sad)
존나 [Jon-na] : really
Many Korean curse words are about a penis. 존나 is one of them. It means “a penis falling from the body.” It is used to emphasize other words like “really” in English.
존나 웃기네 (I laughed my penis off)
존나 짜증나네 (it is really annoying)
존나 싫어 (I really hate it)
지랄 [Ji-ral] : convulsion (bullshit)
지랄 literally means “convulsion.” If you went into a convulsion, your body would shake and move out of your control. Koreans would say 지랄 if you are messing around as though you went into a convulsion. It is an offensive word to a person suffering from this condition. The original meaning is forgotten, however, and it is used as the word "bullshit" in English. Close friends will find it funny to hear this word.
지랄이네 ㅋㅋ (seeing your friend dancing like a robot)
지랄… (when you heard an unbelievable news)
지랄하지 말고 꺼져 (when someone is annoying)
염병 [Yeom-byeong] : typhoid fever (bullshit)
염병 literally means “typhoid fever," which is a contagious and painful stomach infection. How to use it is similar to how to use 지랄. You can say it when your close friends are messing around or being annoying.
염병 ㅋㅋ (seeing your friend slipping on the ice)
염병… (when you heard an unbelievable news)
염병하지 말고 꺼져 (when someone is annoying)
개새끼 [Gae-sae-ggi] : baby of dog (son of a bitch)
Cute puppies did nothing wrong, and they are always loyal to their owners. But somehow, they appear in almost every insult and curse word in Korean. Even the prefix “개” (dog) means “low quality, fake.” 개새끼 is one of many curse words related to a dog. It literally means “baby of dog,” which can be translated into "son of a bitch" in English. Like 씨발, You can say it in various situations to close friends.
개새끼야 ㅋㅋ (when your friend is mocking you)
개새끼야! (when your friend is late)
개새끼 ㅠㅠ (when your friend does not send a message for weeks)
상놈 [Sang-nom] : merchant (peasant)
It was not long ago that Korea started focusing on the economy. While modern Korea achieved substantial economic development and became one of the largest economies in Asia, merchants were the lowest rank of people except for slaves until two centuries ago.
There were four unofficial classes among citizens: scholars, farmers, engineers, and merchants (highest to lowest). As the Joseon Dynasty was founded on Confucian ideas, scholars became the elite class. The next highest class was farmers since agriculture was the main industry. Merchants were considered the lowest class citizens as people thought they were greedy and did not contribute to producing something.
Although calling somebody a merchant or an entrepreneur is not insulting at all in modern society, the negative nuance of the word remains. Koreans call greedy or impolite men 상놈 (상년 for greedy women).
병신 [Byeong-sin] : handicapped (retard)
병신 is an insulting and offensive curse word. It refers to all the handicapped people. While you can still say it to close friends, you’d better not use 병신 since both the original meaning and current meaning of this word indicate the handicapped.
좆같다 [Jot-gat-da] : Like a penis (out of control)
If something is out of control and causing trouble, you can say 좆같다. It means “like a penis.” Like 존나, you can say 좆같다 for fun to your close friends.
옷 좆같이 입었네 ㅋㅋ (when your friend’s clothes look funny)
좆같네… (when the homework is too difficult)
또라이 [ddo-ra-i] : mentally ill (moron)
또라이 refers to people with mental illness. Although it is as insulting as 병신 is, the original meaning was diluted with time. A decade ago, even TV shows were using this word. So, your close friends would not find it too insulting.
또라이야? ㅋㅋ (seeing your friend doing something funny)
너 또라이지? (seeing a person doing ridiculous things)
젠장 [Jen-jang] : physical punishment (fuck)
젠장 is from “난장," which is a kind of physical punishment where you lie on the floor and people beat you (to death sometimes). It means "fuck" in English, and you can say it when something annoying happened.
젠장, 시험이 왜 이렇게 어려워? (Fuck, why is this exam so difficult?)
젠장, 주말에도 일 하라고? (Fuck, Do i have to work on this weekend?)
You learned ten Korean curse words today. Interestingly, sometimes we find more creativity in the curse and insulting words than in other words. Which word do you find funny, or which word do you think should not be used at all? Maybe you can memorize these words and surprise your close Korean friends too!
Don’t forget to check out these articles for more Korean words and phrases: