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Korean proverbs
May 29, 2021

Each society has its own unique proverb, which is used as a guide to  life. Therefore, the proverb is a cultural heritage inherited through  all generations and reflects the morality, beliefs and traditions of  each society and nation. The proverbs are very significant because they reflect  people’s cultural characteristics, national thought, way of living and  lifestyle.

Today we'll be learning about 20 Korean proverbs. Their translations and meaning in English.


1.제 눈에 안경이다

(je nune angyeongida)

Literal Translation: Glasses in my eyes.

Meaning: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

2. 꿩 먹고 알 먹는다

(kkwong meokgo al meongneunda) 

Literal Translation: If you eat a pheasant, you also eat the egg.

Meaning: Kill 2 birds with 1 stone.

3. 로마는 하루아침에 이루어진 것이 아니다

(romaneun haruachime irueojin  geosi anida) 

Literal Translation: Rome wasn’t made in one morning.

Meaning: Rome wasn’t built in a day. 

4. 보기 좋은 떡이 먹기도 좋다

(bogi joeun tteogi meokgido jota)

Literal Translation: Good looking rice cake tastes good.

Meaning: What looks good, tastes good.

5. 과부 설움은 홀아비가 안다

(gwabu seorumeun horabiga anda)

Literal Translation: A widower knows a widow’s sorrow.

Meaning: Misery loves company.

6. 낮말은 새가 듣고 밤말은 쥐가 듣는다

(nanmareun saega deutgo  bammareun jwiga deunneunda) 

Literal Translation: Birds hear the words spoken in the day, and mice hear the  words spoken at night.

Meaning: The walls have ears.

7.눈에서 멀어지면, 마음에서도 멀어진다

(nuneseo meoreojimyeon,  maeumeseodo meoreojinda) 

Literal Translation: If it becomes distant from your eyes, it also becomes distant  from your mind (heart).

Meaning: Out of sight, out of mind.

8. 말을 냇가에 끌고 갈 수는 있어도 억지로 물을 먹일 수는 없다

(mareul  naetgae kkeulgo gal suneun isseodo eokjiro mureul meogil suneun eopda) 

Literal Translation: You can lead a horse and go to a stream but you can’t make it drink water through its own will.

Meaning: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

9.백지장도 맞들면 낫다

(baekjijangdo matdeulmyeon natda)

Literal Translation: It is even easier for two people to move one piece of paper.

Meaning: Two heads are better than one.

10.궁하면 통한다

(gunghamyeon tonghanda) 

Literal Translation: If you are hard up for something, it will open up.

Meaning: There is always a way out.

11. 뜻이 있는 곳에 길이 있다

(tteusi inneun gose giri itda) 

Literal Translation: The place which has meaning (to you) has a way to it.

Meaning: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

12. 엎질러진 물이다

(eopjilleojin murida) 

Literal Translation: It is spilt water.

Meaning: There is no use in crying over spilt milk.

13.장님이 코끼리 만지는 격이다

(jangnimi kokkiri manjineun gyeogida)

Literal Translation: It is like a blind man touching an elephant.

Meaning: It is like a blind man describing an elephant.

14.다 된 밥에 재 뿌리지 마라

(da doen babe jae ppuriji mara)

Literal Translation: Don’t spread ashes on cooked rice.

Meaning: Don’t rain on someone’s parade.

15.웃음은 최고의 명약이다

(useumeun choegoui myeongyagida)

Literal Translation: Laughter is the best healer.

Meaning: Laughter is the best medicine.

16.병 주고 약 준다

(byeong jugo yak junda) 

Literal Translation: Give a disease then give medicine.

Meaning: To make trouble and then give help.

17.누워서 떡 먹기

(nuwoseo tteok meokgi) 

Literal Translation: Eat rice cake while lying down.

Meaning: A piece of cake.  

18.될성부른 나무는 떡잎부터 알아본다

(doelseongbureun namuneun  tteogipbuteo arabonda)

Literal Translation: You can know a promising tree from when it’s a baby tree.

Meaning: Genius shows itself from an early age.

19.가재는 게 편이라

(gajaeneun ge pyeonira) 

Literal Translation: The crayfish sides with the crab.

Meaning: Birds of a feather flock together. 

20. 나무에서 떨어질 때가 있다

(wonsungido namueseo tteoreojil ttaega itda) 

Literal Translation: There is a time when even a monkey falls from a tree.

Meaning: Even a monkey sometimes falls from the tree.

Hope you enjoy, memorize and practice these proverbs and we’ll come back with another interesting topic.

Thank you.

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