Hey there! Welcome to my hodge-podge glossary.
I don’t aim to cover everything, coz there’s SO MUCH, really, and I don’t actually know everything. But I realize that there are a whole bunch of terms being thrown about in the dramaverse, and it can be quite befuddling to a newbie.
So here’s my attempt at explaining some of the lingo you’d need to know in order to comfortably navigate the dramaverse. I’ve included a random collection of terms, from common Korean words to abbreviations that could cover anything from film-making terminology to actor’s names to drama titles. Hope this is helpful to some degree! ^^
PS: If I missed out something, leave me a comment below & I’ll look into adding it to this list!
Aegyo: the act of behaving in a cutesy manner. Often features an affected high-pitched voice, child-like phrasing and the oppa-pout-wiggle. *shudder*
Ahgasshi: a term to address a young unmarried lady. Also used by a woman to address her husband’s younger unmarried sister [Thanks to muchadoboutlove for the clarification!]
Ahjumma: a term to address a middle-aged lady. Sometimes mistranslated as “aunt.”
Ahjusshi: a term to address an older man. Sometimes mistranslated as “uncle.” “Mister” would be a closer translation.
Aigoo: An exclamation. Usually used to express surprise &/or disappointment.
Aja aja: A term of encouragement / support, roughly meaning “Go go.” Often used in conjunction with “hwaiting” or “fighting” eg, “Aja aja hwaiting!”
Annyeong (안녕): A greeting that can mean “hello” or “goodbye.” It literally means “Are you peaceful/well?” (for hello), or “be peaceful/be well” (for goodbye). The polite forms are as follows:
Hello: 안녕하세요 (annyeong haseyo)
Goodbye: 안녕히가세요 (annyeonghi gaseyo): If the person you are talking to is leaving
Or, 안녕히계세요 (annyeonghi gyeseyo): If the person you are talking to is staying
Anti: anti-fan. Person who expresses hate for a celebrity, ie, the opposite of a fan.
Assa: An exclamation. Akin to “Awesome!” or “Yesss!!” Eg, “You mean I got the free tickets to the Big Bang concert?! Assa!!” *fist pump*
Banchan: side dishes
Banmal: informal form of speech in the Korean language. Often used between close friends, and by more senior / older people when addressing more junior / younger people in an informal setting.
Bias: A term originally used to refer to one’s favorite member of a kpop group, which typically consists of many members. Therefore, while one might be a fan of Big Bang, one’s bias might be TOP, making him one’s favorite member of one’s favorite band. As the term suggests, all of one’s actions and reactions would be biased in TOP’s favor. More recently, the term “bias” has expanded to a looser, all-encompassing use that includes actors and other artists outside of kpop, ie, if one says, “Lee Min Ho is my ultimate bias” or even simply, “Lee Min Ho is my bias” it would mean that Lee Min Ho is one’s favorite celebrity, over every other celebrity in the entire k-universe. [thanks to blog reader So-Ra for the suggestion!]
Binnie: Hyun Bin
BOF: Boys Over Flowers
Bromance: a deep friendship between men that can rival a romance
BTS: Behind the scenes
Call: An affirmative response, akin to “cool!” Eg, “Shall we go to the noraebang?” “Call!” [thanks to Nelly for the suggestion!]
Candy: refers to cheerful, poor but hardworking young female character. Inspired by Candy Candy, a Japanese manga series.
CF: Commercial Film. Basically refers to a commercial or advertisement, not an actual film.
CGI: Computer Generated Imagery aka Computer Graphics
Chadonam (차도남): from chagaun dosi namja (차가운 도시 남자), meaning a “cold city guy”. [Many thanks to muchadoboutlove for the suggestion and explanation!]
Chadonyeo (차도녀): from chagaun dosi yeoja (차가운 도시 여자), meaning a “cold city girl”. [Many thanks to muchadoboutlove for the suggestion and explanation!]
Chaebol: Refers to a particular class in society that are owners of conglomerates. A chaebol does not simply own a company, but a group of companies. Eg, Gu Jun Pyo in Boys Over Flowers is a second-generation chaebol.
Chimaek: Chicken + maekju (beer). A combo meal consisting of fried chicken and beer. This is mentioned in Rooftop Prince a few times. [Many thanks to muchadoboutlove for the suggestion and explanation!]
Choco abs: abs so well-defined that they resemble squares of chocolate in a chocolate bar
Chuseok: a harvest festival celebration in Korea
Crack Drama: Also known as Drama Crack. A drama so addictive that it’s like a drug & keeps you coming back for moar, moar, moar!
Daebak: Absolutely, positively AWESOME.
DB OT: Dramabeans Open Thread, every Friday on Dramabeans.
Di-ka (디카): condensed form for digital camera (디지털 카메라). [Many thanks to muchadoboutlove for the suggestion and explanation!]
Doenjang girl: literally beanpaste girl. A satirical phrase describing young women willing to scrimp on essentials because they are addicted to luxury and brands. The phrase originates from the idea that they would eat a cheap meal of beanpaste stew in order to buy an expensive drink from Starbucks. [Many thanks to muchadoboutlove for the suggestion and explanation!]
Dong-gap: of the same age. People who are dong-gap are ideally better positioned to be friends, since one does not need to be more respectful than the other, and often drop the honorifics ie, use banmal, with one another. However, in a formal context, people who are dong-gap would most certainly still use jondaemal.
Dong saeng: Younger sibling, refers to siblings of both sexes.
Dongseo: A term used by a more senior daughter-in-law to address a more junior daughter-in-law.
Flower Boy: pretty boy [Edit: does not have a negative connotation as it might in western culture. Refers to a young man with well-manicured looks, often much more groomed and attractive than women. Thanks to dewaanifordrama for the clarification!]
FTW: For the win
Gomo: pronounced goh-moh, refers to paternal aunt
Gumiho: Nine tailed fox, often taking on the form of a young woman, according to folklore / legend.
GY: Gong Yoo
Haengsho (행쇼): a shortening of “haengbokhasyeoyo” (행복하셔요) which means “be happy”. Considered slang, this is a cheerful sort of greeting meaning “be well” or similar [thanks to dewaanifordrama for the suggestion and the explanation!]
Hallyu: Korean wave
Hanbok: traditional Korean clothes
Hangul: Korean writing script
Heodang: literally means “empty-head” and has the sense of someone who speaks without thinking, who might be smart but still says silly/funny/things that don’t make sense. Also described as innocent naïveté. Often used to describe Lee Seung Gi [thanks to dewaanifordrama for the suggestion and the explanation!]
Heol-a: An exclamation. Often used to express mild surprise or shock. Informal. [Thanks to blog reader steffie for the suggestion and explanation!]
Honorifics: parts of speech to indicate formality, used in jondaemal. Therefore, an invitation to drop the honorifics is an invitation to use banmal.
Hoobae: A junior with less experience than you. Often happens to be younger than you, but not necessarily the case.
Hwaiting: Aka Fighting. A term used in encouragement and support.
Hyung: Older brother. A term that is only used by males.
Hyung-nim: Respectful form of Hyung, OR, a term used by a more junior daughter-in-law to address a more senior daughter-in-law [Much thanks to muchadoboutlove for the clarification!]
Hyungsu-nim: Sister-in-law. Specifically a term of address used by men, for the wife of an older brother.
ICOMYM: Inappropriate crush on much younger man
Imo: pronounced i-moh, refers to maternal aunt. Sometimes used to address an unrelated older lady who is on close terms with you.
Jeongmal: Really, actually, truly. From the hanja 正 (jeong, “correct”, 정) and 말 (mal, “word”). Is often used as an exclamation of surprise, although not limited to this usage. Synonym: 진자 (jinjja).
Jesu-sshi: Sister-in-law. Specifically a term used by men to address the wife of a younger brother or the wife of a friend.
Jimjilbang: Korean bath house.
Jinjja: Really, actually, truly. From the hanja 眞 (jin, “true”, 진) and 字 (ja, “character”, 자). Is often used as an exclamation of surprise, although not limited to this usage. Synonym: 정말 (jeongmal). [Thanks to Kelly for the suggestion]
Jjang: the best. Eg, Unnie jjang! = Unnie, you’re the best! [Edit: Jjang can also take on more of a title feel when it comes to high school. The best fighter in a school is the jjang. Thanks to MadDino for the insight!]
Jondaemal: polite / formal Korean speech. A blanket term for polite speech, which has varying levels of formality. There are a total of 7 levels of formality in Korean speech, but only a few are common in modern usage.
Joseon: aka Chosun. Refers to the historical era of the Joseon Dynasty in Korea, which lasted from 1393-1897.
JYP: Park Jin Young, founder of JYP Entertainment
Kamjagiya: An expression of surprise used when jolted by a sudden shock [thanks to Nelly for the suggestion!]
K-ent: Korean entertainment scene / industry
Kkadonam (까도남): from kkachilhan dosi namja (까칠한 도시 남자), meaning an “arrogant/prickly city guy” [Many thanks to muchadoboutlove for the suggestion and explanation!]
Kpop: Korean pop
LMH: Lee Min Ho. Also affectionately known as Lee Min Hot, for obvious reasons, heh.
Makjang: overly melodramatic stories, heavily laden with extreme, outrageous & unbelievable plot devices. Includes birth secrets, revenge, adultery, murder, incest, fauxcest, terminal illnesses, accidents, rape, etc. A melodrama may include a couple of these elements but that does not make it makjang.
Maknae: the youngest
Maldoandwae: That can’t be true / that doesn’t make sense [thanks to Nelly for the suggestion!]
Manhwa: Korean comic. Similar to Japanese manga
me2day: Korean social network
Menboong (멘붕): A compound word that joins 멘탈 [men-tal] (‘mental’) and 붕괴 [boong-gwi] (‘collapse’, ‘implosion’) referring to a psychological shock one experiences when encountering an unexpected and shocking event. Considered slang, it is sometimes written as 멘탈붕괴. Initially used by StarCraft viewers in 2011, this phrase was popular among drama watchers when Ji Hyun Woo made his public love confession to Yoo In Na. [many thanks to dewaanifordrama for the suggestion and the explanation!]
Melo: Melodrama. Not to be confused with makjang although they can be combined. Eg, a melo with a touch of makjang.
M3: Marry Me, Mary (aka Mary Stayed Out All Night)
MiSa: Mianhae, Saranghae aka I’m Sorry, I Love You. Classic melodrama
Moar: A combination cry of more and roar / rawr [thanks to shukmeister for the suggestion!]
MS: Military Service. It is mandatory for Korean males to serve 2 years of MS.
MV: Music Video
NG: No Good
-nim: a suffix added at the end of / after a term of address, to indicate respect. Eg, Hyung-nim, Noonim, Sunbae-nim.
Noble Idiocy: making self-sacrificing decisions for the perceived good of your loved one, Eg, leaving him/her, or disappearing to another country for his/her good.
Noona: Older sister. A term only used by males.
Noraebang: literally Singing Room. Popularly known as karaoke in other parts of the world.
Omo: An exclamation akin to “Oh my”
Oppa: Older brother. A term only used by females. Can also refer to older male cousin or friend, and most significantly, also refers to boyfriend.
OPW: Oppa-Pout-Wiggle. A three-for-one combination of using a cutesy voice to drawl, “oppaaa~~”, pouting, and wiggling one’s shoulders & perhaps behind. Apparently a magic formula for getting a guy to do what you want.
orz: Not an actual abbreviation, this is a graphic representation of a person bowing down on all fours. Usually used to express either remorse or deep respect. Similar to OTL.
OTL: Not an actual abbreviation, this is a graphic representation of a person bowing down on all fours. Usually used to express either remorse or deep respect. Similar to orz.
OTP: One True Pairing
OST: Original Soundtrack
PIE: Chung Jung Myung, because he’s so widely known as a cutie pie. (Personally, he does nothing for me, but facts are facts. He is known as PIE for this reason.)
PK: Playful Kiss
Power Rangers: The 4 musketeers from Rooftop Prince. Aka the Joseon Power Rangers.
PPL: Product Placement. The not-so-innocuous featuring of products in dramas. Can be anything from cell phones to cars to clothing lines.
PSH: Park Shi Hoo, and also Park Shin Hye. Yes, it is confusing.
Pull a Park Shi Hoo: To swoop in from Second Lead territory to actually get the girl. Park Shi Hoo did this twice, once in How To Meet A Perfect Neighbor and once in Queen Of Reversals, therefore the phrase Pull a Park Shi Hoo. However, he is not the first second lead to successfully usurp the position of male lead. Bae Yong Jun did it in Hotelier and Lee Byung Hun did it in Beautiful Days.
QOR: Queen of Reversals
Raws: refers to videos as they are, without subtitles. Not to be confused with rawr
Rawr: A primitive sound used to represent a personal feeling. Often used in a sexually oriented fashion, eg, upon sighting choco abs. Step 1: Gaze at choco abs, & Step 2: rawr [Thanks to shukmeister for the suggestion!]
Recap: A detailed summary of an episode, complete with screencaps and often witty commentary by the recapper.
RL: Real Life
Rom-com: Romantic comedy
Sageuk: historical / period drama
Samchon: term used to address one’s father’s younger unmarried brother.
Sasaeng: an excessively obsessed fan. Often engages in aggressive activities eg, stalking his / her idol.
Screencap: screenshot. Shortened form of screen capture. Does not mean a recap done through screenshots.
Selca: self-taken photographs.
SeGa: Secret Garden
Seasons Dramas: Refers to the kdrama classics Autumn In My Heart, Winter Sonata, Summer Scent and Spring Waltz.
Ship: To “ship” a couple is to support / hope for the couple to actually get together. I believe it’s inspired by the word worship. [Edit: The term, “‘ship” comes from “relationship”. It’s from the X-Files days when fans who supported the idea of Mulder and Scully getting together were called “relationshippers” which quickly got shortened to “shippers” which then spread across the internet and took on a life of its own. Thanks to BetsyHp for the insight!] Often, ships are inspired by various permutations of the 4 leads in a kdrama. Eg, to ship Yoo Seung Ho & Yoon Eun Hye in I Miss You.
Skinship: physical touching between two people. Includes hugging, kissing, holding hands.
SKKS: Sungkyunkwan Scandal
S-line: refers to the sleek curves of the female form. Inspired (I believe) by the side profile of a slim woman posing with an arch in her back, causing her chest & butt to, er, stand out.
SLS: Second Lead Syndrome, where you root for the second lead to get the girl, but is often a fruitless endeavor. Unless the second lead pulls a Park Shi Hoo.
Soju: A (strong) alcoholic drink, traditionally made from rice.
Somaek: Soju + maekju (beer). A mix of soju and maekju. [Many thanks to muchadoboutlove for the suggestion and explanation!]
Some (썸): Used to describe a situation where a man and woman like each other, but nothing has really happened and they’re not in a relationship but there is “something” romantic between them, for example, flirting and semi-dates. Therefore, “some-guy” (썸넘) would be a guy with whom you’ve got “some” going on, and “some-girl” (썸여) would be a girl with whom you’ve got “some” going on. [many thanks to dewaanifordrama for the suggestion and the explanation!]
Squee: The cry of an over-excited fangirl. Usually high-pitched and extended, to express fangirl excitement over something particularly squee-worthy. Eg, male lead in your crack drama finally plants a romantic kiss on the female lead [thanks to shukmeister for the suggestion!]
-ssi: A suffix attached to Korean names, either the full name or just the first name. Not attached to only the family name, as this is considered impolite.
Soft subs: subtitles that exist in a separate file distinct from the video file, allowing you to disable the subs if you wish, eg, to take screen caps without them showing
Hard subs: subtitles that are part of the video file and cannot be disabled or removed, ie, will always appear on your screen whenever you watch it
Thanks to Amanda for the suggestion to break this down!
Sunbae: senior, upperclassman
The Voice: Lee Sun Gyun, owner of the most gorgeous, deep, velvety, smooth-as-butter voice in dramaland.
THT: The Hand Towel aka Song Seung Hun. A nickname inspired by his shirtless scene in My Princess, in which he wore only a hand towel, to the delight of us all. [Edit: the origin of THT is actually from a DB podcast in which Javabeans called him sonsugeon (hand towel) – thanks to Jules for the correction!]
TPM: The Princess’ Man
Ttadonam (따도남): from ttatteuthan dosi namja (따뜻한 도시 남자), meaning a “warm city guy” [Many thanks to muchadoboutlove for the suggestion and explanation!]
UhmForce: Uhm Tae Woong. A nickname born of his very intense performance in Resurrection.
Unnie: Older sister. A term that is only used by females.
UST: Unresolved Sexual Tension for the characters in a drama. May also (unofficially) apply to the viewer *cough* [Thanks to Jules for the suggestion and the explanation!]
V-line: refers to the sleek jaw-line with a sharp chin that Koreans favor. Not to be confused with the western V-line which often refers to the preferred broad shoulder-slim waist male silhouette. Also not to be confused with VPL (Visible Panty Line)
Weh Samchon: Often shortened to Samchon. Refers to mother’s brother, regardless of whether he’s an older or younger brother, single or married.
White Day: March 14, celebrated in Japan and Korea. A month after Valentines day, this is when men give chocolates to women, whereas women give men chocolates on February 14, Valentines day. The following month, “Black Day” is celebrated by single people.
Woob: Kim Woo Bin! ♥ Well, in my world, anyway 😉
PS: For a fantastically comprehensive run-down and explanation of Korean family and kinship terms, visit my friend muchadoboutlove here!