Your official K-pop-to-English dictionary for getting a grip on the hybrid world of internet speak and Korean slang. For a second opinion, check out the links at the bottom, or click here.
Aegyo: Acting overly cute and innocent, often using baby-like voices and gestures. This can be done by male or female idols to charm fans.
Age Line: When people share the same birth year. This can build relationships between idols and even entire communities of people born in the same year.
Aigoo: A phrase showing frustration. The Korean equivalent of “aw man!” or “geez.”
Ajumma: A Korean term for older, married women or grandmothers. Stereotypically, these women sport short permed hair, moo-moos, or slacks like a uniform. This term is offensive to middle-aged women, like calling a middle-aged woman “grandma.”
Ajusshi: A polite term for a man who is older than you, especially if you do not know them well. Literally means ‘uncle,’ but is used similarly to the term “sir” in English.
All-kill: What K-pop fans call songs that top all major charts, killing all other competition.
Andwae: This Korean word meaning “no way,” is used in moments of disbelief, shock, fear, or defiance, especially when reading about the latest scandal or watching a melodrama.
Antis: Short for anti-fans, these groups unite against actors or idols for various reasons including stories in the news or to defend their bias from any potential competition.
Army: South Korea mandates all male citizens commit two years to military service, including idols, actors, and flower boys. This means these famous young men must drop out of the limelight during this time and are expected to boast six-pack abs and rugged masculinity upon returning.
Bagel girl: A girl with a mature figure and a baby face.
Banana milk: A sweet dairy-based drink flavored with banana juice, sugar, and vanilla. Other fruit-flavored milk drinks are popular including honeydew melon and strawberry, but banana is a best seller.
Banchan: A collection of small, traditional side dishes that complete any meal in Korea. These dishes include kimchi, kkakdugi (white radishes), oi sobagi (stuffed cucumbers), gat kimchi (mustard leaf), and dogchimi (various vegetables in brine), which are usually laid out before the meal, but are intended to be eaten with the main dish.
Bias: A fan’s absolute favorite actor or idol, whom they will fiercely support and keep track of no matter what content they produce. Fans pick one bias from their favorite group and usually only have one bias at a time.
Bias ruiner: An actor or idol who is revealed in a new light or newly enters the scene altogether, making a fan question their devotion to their original bias.
Big Three: Referencing the combined YG Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and SM Entertainment, considered the top entertainment production companies in K-pop.
Black Ocean: What happens when a large group of fans simultaneously turn off their light sticks during a performance as an act of shunning a group or artist. This is an organized effort made by fan club leaders through the internet in advance and can lead to the ruin of careers.
Bodyrolls: A dance move performed by both male and female idols for the purpose of driving fans crazy.
Bromance: A close relationship between two male idols or actors appearing almost romantic, though often platonic.
CF: The acronym for “commercial film” featuring popular favorite K-drama and K-pop stars.
Chaebol: A classic character type used in Korean drama that depicts a wealthy heir of a family corporation played by male leads.
Cheongmal: An expression of disbelief and annoyance similar to the English speakers use the exclamation, “Really?!”
Chincha: An expression that can also be interpreted as “really?!” or “are you serious?!”
Chocolate abs: Ultra-toned abdominal muscles, usually on a man, that resembles the sections of a Hershey’s bar. Also called an “M-line” in reference to the shape made by muscle definition.
Choding: Literally an elementary school kid, but commonly used as a name for someone who acts childish, using a lot of aegyo.
Comeback: The project announcing the official return of a group or individual k-pop star who has stepped out of the spotlight for an extended period of time, in some cases, even just a few weeks. This is often paired with an image rebranding to match their new album theme.
Concept: The theme of an album that is reflected in the way the idols perform, dress, and interact. These themes can change dramatically throughout a group’s career ranging from overly cute and innocent to edgy and sensual.
Daebak: An expression that directly translates to “jackpot,” used to praise something that is a big deal or awesome.
Debut: The official “coming out” of a future celebrity or group. It’s the first of everything from performing before an audience to releasing an album to appearing in a movie. This is the second stage when seeking stardom in Korea, only reached after years of strict training.
Dongsaeng: Anyone younger than you, regardless of gender. This is used among siblings, friends, and even in flirtation. Depending on the situation, anyone can be considered the dongsaeng of the group. It is important to identify this person, especially at mealtimes because they have defined roles and expectations in society.
Double Eyelid: The crease in the eyelid that forms at the base of the brow bone and around the eyeball when opening the eye, common on Westerners. This is considered a beauty ideal in many cultures. The opposite of a monolid.
Eomeoni: A formal term meaning “mother,” often shortened to the less formal eomma or umma meaning “mom” or “mommy.”
Eye smile: Crescent shaped eyes caused by smiling. This is a technique used by Korean stars to convey sweetness, affection, flirtation, and even as a clever way to get out of trouble.
Fandom: A portmanteau of the words fan and kingdom encompassing everyone who loves Korean pop culture.
Fanboy and Fangirl: These terms can be used as nouns to describe someone who expresses strong, passionate feelings passionate about K-pop or K-drama, especially in regard to their bias and favorite group. As a verb, fanboying and fangirling are usually demonstrated through uncontrollable physical and emotional freak-outs in reaction to seeing, hearing, touching, or smelling a bias or favorite group.
Fan Café: A free option where devotees to a specific idol or idol group can get official information and updates released by entertainment companies, ask questions to officials and fellow fans, or brows new releases. Followers of these virtual communities can go through a process of “leveling up,” which is different for every café, to be able read messages left by idols and groups or leave their own messages. The Big Three have discontinued their fan cafes in exchange for releasing content on their official sites.
Fan Chants: Verses and or phrases that devoted fans learn on fan club sites to shout together during the songs of their favorite groups. These chants become part of the song like a call and response with the performers on stage during concerts and music TV shows.
Fan Club: A place for membership fee-paying die-hards to get together over the internet. These groups are how entertainment companies judge the size of groups’ fan base. Members get priority entry at weekly music show recordings, early bird ticket and meet and greet access, and special merchandise. International fans are not allowed to join these fan clubs.
Fan Fiction: Creative content in the form of graphic novels, short stories, comic strips, memes, and other multimedia starring characters based on K-pop and K-drama stars. The plots are invented by fans and many liberties are taken to manipulate characters through romantic, erotic, strange, and even disturbing storylines.
Fanservice: When idols and actors do something just to please fans, even if it’s not necessary or relevant to progressing the plotline or performance. This can range from playing into a bromance on screen to bodyrolling on stage to shower scenes in movies.
Feels: An overwhelming flood of emotions that happens when watching K-dramas or K-pop music videos (MVs). Common symptoms include sometimes crying, screaming, and in severe cases, impulsive destructive behavior.
Fighting! or Hwa-ting!: A motivational phrase meaning “You can do it!”, “good luck!”, or “let’s go!” often said at sporting events and before performances.
Finger Heart: Creating a tiny heart shape by squeezing the thumb and index finger together at opposite diagonals. This gesture is used to send love between fans and stars. It also makes for a super cute pose in selcas.
Flower boy: A highly conventionally attractive Korean male who puts extreme effort into his appearance including fashion, makeup, and hair styling. Although the look of these young men has evolved, they have been a mainstay of Korean culture since the Silla Kingdom between 57 B.C. and A.D. 935 as hwarang.
Gangnam: A district in Seoul known for its upscale shopping, dining, and lodging. A mecca for chaebols, idols, and stars.
Hallyu: The Hangul, or Korean language term, for The Korean Wave. Literally meaning the flow of Korea, this term referrers to the increase in worldwide popularity of South Korean media since the end of the 20th century.
Hanboks: The traditional Korean dress made up of three pieces. These often brightly colored, silken garments are still worn during traditional festivals, celebrations, and on period K-dramas.
Honey thighs: Shapely, healthy looking legs.
Hoobae: People new to an industry and usually younger than you; a newbie!
Hul: A slang exclamation used in embarrassing or awkward situations.
Hyung: Literally meaning older brother, this affectionate term is used by Korean males to address their biological brother or another male older than them who they are close to.
Idol: Someone who has completed years of training and successfully debuted as a highly skilled singer, dancer, actor, and overall performer complete with charm and good looks to spare. This is the final leg on the path to k-pop stardom!
Idol Groups: A band of two or more performers that perform, record, and essentially live together. Each member takes on a persona and a role within the group. Depending on the size there can be a leader; main, lead, and sub vocalists; main, lead, and sub rappers; main and lead dancers; visuals including the face of the group and the center; and the maknae. The largest group was Double B 21 made up of 21 members!
Idolization: The transformation a person goes through to achieve those signature, stunning good looks of a celebrity. This can include muscle sculpting, weight loss, waxing, hair dying, cosmetics, and even plastic surgery.
Jeju Island: An idyllic island getaway destination complete with volcano and crystal clear water – often described as the Hawaii of Korea. It also serves as the perfect set for dreamy K-dramas.
Jjang: Translates to “best” in English. When pronouncing, try emphasizing the G and tossing in a thumb up to sound like a true natural!
Kekeke (ㅋㅋㅋ): A way of typing an ultra-cute version of “hehehe,” but not intended for real-life use. This phrase originated on the internet in the 1990’s when StarCraft was big and the Korean Wave was first making a splash.
Kimchi: A traditional dish made most commonly with cabbage, red pepper powder, and fish oil and served as part of traditional banchan. Although it can be served fresh, the more fermented the kimchi is, the richer the flavor becomes.
Kkab: This slang term describes someone acting overly energetic, often to the point of annoyance. In English, people behaving like this might be called “hyperactive” or “hyper” for short.
Koreaboo: A non-Korean person with a strong interest or obsession with Korean popular culture.
Light Sticks: LED-filled wand-like sticks used to show fan appreciation at concerts from the audience. Each group or soloist has their own official color that dictates the color of light that emanates from the stick. New sticks are usually released with new albums or concert series and can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Love Line: A series of K-drama characters who become infatuated with each other.
Maknae: The youngest member in a K-pop group who, although cute and innocent in appearance, usually takes on the stereotypical mischievous role of a youngest sibling.
Manner hands or hover hands: When a male comes close to touching the shoulder, waist, or thigh of a female, but never quite lands. This can be used out of courtesy of protecting boundaries, but usually just builds relationship tension in K-dramas.
Manner legs: When a tall person politely accommodates the height of someone shorter by assuming a wide-legged stance. While doing this move, beware of the tight pants and suddenly sliding into the splits.
Mat-seon: Parental intervention in K-drama characters’ love lives by setting up formal blind dates. This is usually done by evil mothers who want to get rid of the leading female character.
Michyeosseo: A phrase that translates to “Are you crazy?” This is usually used to heighted the drama and cause a scene. If a K-drama doesn’t incorporate this line somewhere in the script, can it really be considered a K-drama?
Monolid: An eyelid that does not have a crease in it when open and may appear to fold over the eyelashes. This is common in Asians across cultures. The opposite of the double eyelid.
Netizen: A portmanteau for internet citizen. These people typically use their computer screens as shields as they troll celebrities, trying to end careers for sport. On the flip side, these people also take the liberty of behaving as the moral police. They walk the line of humor and insanity.
Noona: An affectionate term for “older sister” used by males, regardless of relation, speaking to an older woman or girl. Sometimes used in flirtation by younger boys.
Noona Killer: A younger guy who knows how to make noonas fall in love with him through romantic gestures including, but not limited to, winking, smiling, and teasing.
Omo!: The Korean version of “OMG” used to increase drama and express surprise and shock. wanting to make a current situation even more dramatic.
Oppa: The term for “older brother,” used by girls when speaking to guys regardless of family relation. It is also loosely used to show affection or even flirt with older men.
Otoke: A phrase meaning “what to do?” or “what do I/we do?” often dramatically used out of desperation or panic in K-dramas.
OTP: An acronym for “One True Pairing.” This is used to describe “soulmates,” romantic or not that are often shipped by fans or netizens.
Piggy Back: The playful act of one person carrying another on his or her back. In the context of K-dramas or TV shows, this usually occurs between a male and female after too much soju and can signify that the couple has realized their OTP.
Pojangmacha: Pre-pitched, rentable tents that line parks, rivers, forests, and streets in Korea used for a quick staycation or a hideout for K-drama characters to drown their sorrows in soju, gossip, or confess their love for another character.
Plastic Prince: A flower boy who achieved his beauty through plastic surgery and makeup.
Plastic Surgery: Procedures done to enhanced or change a person’s image to fit into societal ideals. This has grown into a major trend in Korean society with one in three women in their 20s going under the knife according to Gallup Korea. Common procedures include double eyelid, jaw shaving, and rhinoplasty.
Q_Q: An emoticon used in text to show tears falling from open eyes. Most commonly used in a sarcastic manner toward another person as if telling them to “get over it, cry baby!” Similar to TT.
Rookie: An actor, soloist, or group who has just debuted and has yet to be accepted by fans as an official idol or idol group. The third phase of a Korean’s journey to future stardom after training for years and releasing pilot content.
Sageuk: A genre of K-drama that takes place in history. These films and TV shows either base the story lines on true events and real people or use an ancient era as a backdrop for more creative freedom.
Sangnamja: A stereotypical macho man or manly man often associated with army men.
Sasaeng: Extreme fans that are considered obsessive, crazy, outrageous, or even dangerous. Many become stalkers of their biases and collect detailed personal information, break into private property, and/or send unsanitary gifts to idols and actors to get their attention.
Selca: The Korean word for “selfie,” or self-portrait taken by holding a camera phone with an outstretched arm. Usually, the photos receiving the most likes are taken from above, angled down to capture the entire body to make it appear smaller, and with a cute facial expression such as puffed out cheeks and pouty lips. Many of these photos are dressed up for maximum cuteness with props and/ or digital doodles.
Seven Year Curse: The theory that K-pop groups only last seven years after their debut due to disbandment by their producers or members dropping out. Only 16 idol groups have successfully defeated the curse.
Shipping: An abbreviation of the word “relationship,” that has come to means either fans’ acceptance and support of a relationship or the desire for a real-life relationship to occur between two characters or celebrities.
Skinship: Two people touching. Whether it’s a brush, a tap, a hug, or a squeeze, this is what fans want to see!
Small face: The theoretical ideal that face size is directly related to attractiveness, making tiny faces the cutest. Many selcas are taken beside oversized objects or props to give the illusion of this condition.
Soju: A popular distilled Korean rice liquor sold in a variety of flavors, often in a green bottle. This is the culprit for initiating most drunken mistakes, piggybacking, and unlikely relationships in K-dramas.
Ssanti: A Korean word for “cheap” in the way that excessive booty shaking can be considered “cheap.” This is a silly, satirical dance that idols are sometimes asked to perform on variety shows.
Subunit: A small group made up of members from a larger group that releases its own music and content separate from their main idol group.
Teaser – A short video clip or photo(s) of an upcoming movie, drama, or music video strategically selected to incite strong feels and excitement. “Teaser pics,” or pictures, are notoriously centered around concepts completely unrelated to the new album they are advertising.
Trainee: The name for a wannabe star who is in the process of intensive singing, dancing, and acting instruction, media training, and image redesign. The first stage of an aspiring star’s career path in which idolization is in process.
TT or ㅜㅜ or ㅠㅠ: Text-speak for crying because the shape of the letters resemble a stream of tears from closed eyes. This usually is written with a neutral tone and begs of faux sympathy similarly to QQ.
Ulzzang: A phrase meaning “best face” reserved for people who are considered the most attractive above all others. Someone who earns this title usually possesses qualities such as, large eyes, clear complexion, pale skin, narrow jaw, double eyelids, small nose, and full cheeks. In other words, they are social media or real-life models.
Unnie: The Korean word for “older sister” used by younger girls when speaking to older girls regardless of relation. It can also be used in a condescending way between peers.
Visual: The member in a K-pop group that fulfills the role of “best looking” who serves as the face of the group. Although opinions differ among fans, according to the industry producers, this idol is the most conventionally attractive.
Wae? or Wae-yo: Respectively the informal and formal way of asking “why” in Korean. This expression can be used rhetorically or as a question out of anger, confusion, appreciation, or wonderment.
World Star: An actor or idol who has reached celebrity status in their home country and abroad. Singer, Psy, was one of the first world stars to reach the U.S. through his hit song, “Gangnam Style.”
Ya!: A rude exclamation used to get someone’s attention or as a substitute for various curse words.
Yeobo: A term of endearment or pet name used between Korean couples, especially married couples, meaning “honey”, “sweetie”, or “dear.” The more times it is said in a row, the stronger the affection.
Zhjkgandfklkfh: The typical reaction of someone experiencing an overwhelming case of the feel expressed through text.