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Sino vs Native Korean | Why do some Korean words have the same meaning?

Updated: Oct 11, 2022



What Is Sino-Korean & What Is Pure-Korean?



Sino-Korean words are words that were previously in the Chinese language that were borrowed and are still used today in the Korean language.


Pure-Korean or Native-Korean words aren't taken from anywhere. They are simply made from the Korean language.


What's The Difference?


A sino-korean word has a more formal feeling to it. These words you would use or hear in formal situations. For example, you'll see some sino-korean words used when taking tests in Korean, like the Topik exam. Another example is if you were giving a speech in Korean, you might hear more Sino-Korean words instead of Pure-Korean ones.


As for pure/native-korean words, they have a more casual feel to them and Koreans use them very often. You'll most likely hear them in everyday situations. They are both important to know. Don't just learn one over the other, because they are both so intertwined into the Korean language. So much so that sometimes it's better to use a sino korean word over a pure korean word.


How Do I Know Which One is Which?

If you use Naver Dictionary (which i feel everyone should) then there is an easy way to tell.



If you see hanja written next to the word when you look it up in the dictionary, that means that it is indeed a sino-korean word. Hanja is a Chinese Character that reflects the Korean word & it's pronounciation.



When Do I Use Them?!

Don't stress about trying to remember which one is formal and informal or trying to adjust them to fit into a formal or informal situation. You can use pure-korean words and still make formal sentences. You can use sino-korean words and still make informal sentences. However, it's good to know the difference between the two.


There are plenty of Sino-Korean words that are much more common and natural to use than Pure-Korean words. For example, 친구 meaning "Friend" & happens to be a Sino-Korean word. 벗 & 동무 is the Native-korean word meaning "Friend" as well. But have you ever even heard of those? So once again don't stress about the difference, this post is mainly for people wondering why there's more than one word meaning the same thing.


What Is The Difference?

To be fair, I only just learned about this myself. I was on youtube and noticed a video from GoBilly and I watched it. I hope i presented the Info as well as he did. If not you can search for the video on youtube for another explanation.


I have been getting many questions asking me about the difference between words. I knew about Sino & Native numbers but for some reason It didn't register that Sino & Native words existed as well haha.


I'm not fluent, I'm not an expert. I just do my best and that's all I can do


No Vocabulary Or Example Sentences :

The most common ones we've all seen would have to be these three :

(Left = Pure/Native | Right = Sino)

해/태양

고르다/선택하다

쓰다/사용하다

I don't really have a list of words for you this time. It would be a bit hard to make a list of sino-korean words and pure-korean words to be honest. So when learning new words just look out for the hanja. Also Naver Dictionary tells you which words are used more often.

They have stars above the word that correlate to how often they are used. 1 star = not as commonly used, 2 star = fairly commonly used, 3 star = most commonly used. It's a very helpful system sometimes, but don't take it too seriously. Sometimes a word isn't used often just because It's a word that isn't used in everyday casual conversation.

Anyways, that’s the end of this post! Hope it was helpful for you. Comment below what other things confuse you about Korean and maybe I can make a post about it too.

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