Turtles, Tigers and Deer, Oh My! 39 Animals in Korean Language and Culture
Did you know that Korea was once known as the “land of the people who could tame a tiger”?
Or that a distinctly toothy deer wanders around the country, looking like a mix between Bambi and Dracula?
Learning animal vocabulary in Korean might seem like a simple exercise in vocab building, but many animals are inextricably linked with the Korean culture.
In this post, you’ll learn how to say the names of 39 animals in Korean.
But even more than that, this post will share some interesting tidbits about these creatures and their relationship to Korean culture.
Let’s get started!
How to Talk About Animals in Korean
Before we get into the vocabulary words themselves, let’s learn how to use them in conversation.
The Origin of the Word 동물 (Animal)
The Korean word for animal is 동물. Like many words in Korean, each character has a Chinese origin. The word 동물 can be broken into two parts.
동 → 動 — Movement
물 → 物 — Thing
Learning the Chinese characters that some Korean words are derived from can help you build your vocabulary. If you want to learn more Chinese characters that are used in Korean, How to study Korean has a great guide.
Counting Animals in Korean with 마리
Counting in Korean is a bit different from counting in English. That’s because Korean uses counters attached to nouns to quantify them.
The counter for counting animals is 마리. Here are a few examples of how you’d use this counter:
개가 세 마리 있어요. — I have three dogs.
고양이 네 마리를 봐요. — I see four cats.
Using Animal Words in a Sentence
Korean can be a difficult language to learn since the grammar is so different from English. But luckily, you can use animal words in the same way as you’d use any other nouns, and you don’t need to learn any unusual rules.
Here’s a sentence you might find useful when talking about animals in Korean:
가장 좋아하는 동물은 _____이에요/예요. — My favorite animal is _____.
Turtles, Tigers and Deer, Oh My! 39 Animals in Korean Language and Culture
Pets in Korean
Do you have any pets at your home? In Korean, pets are called 애완동물. Here are 10 common Korean pets:
개 — Dog
Although South Korea is a country where both dog and cat meat are still eaten regularly, the views on both—especially dogs—are starting to shift from “meal” to “companion.” According to a 2018 survey, about 75% of pets in South Korea are dogs. Most of these dogs are considered family members by their owners. We’re sure they’re all good boys and girls.
우리 개는 집 안에 있어요. — My dog is in the house.
고양이 — Cat
고양이가 상자 뒤에 있어요. — The cat is behind the box.
토끼 — Rabbit
제 친구는 토끼 두 마리가 있어요. — My friend has two rabbits.
앵무새 — Parrot
앵무새는 화려해요. — The parrot is colorful.
도마뱀 — Lizard
저는 초록색 도마뱀을 찾고 있어요. — I’m looking for a green lizard.
뱀 — Snake
If you don’t like snakes, don’t whistle at night when you’re in South Korea! A popular superstition claims that whistling at night can summon snakes (or ghosts, or demons…).
제 가장 친한 친구는 뱀을 무서워해요. — My best friend is afraid of snakes.
금붕어 — Goldfish
저는 금붕어 여섯 마리를 기르고 있어요. — I have six goldfish.
쥐 — Mouse
The mouse is generally disliked by humans around the world, since it’s most often a pest that spreads disease and eats crops. But Korean culture is a bit kinder to the little rodent, even featuring it in a folktale as a representation of a farmer’s soul that crawls out at night to have an adventure and returns to deliver a prophetic dream to the farmer.
저는 부엌에서 큰 쥐를 봤어요. — I saw a big mouse in the kitchen.
거북이 — Turtle
The turtle enjoys a reputation in Korean culture as a symbol of long life, knowledge and the future.
거북이는 느리고 게을러요. — The turtle is slow and lazy.
개구리 — Frog
우리 동생은 연못에서 개구리 20 마리를 봤어요. — My brother saw 20 frogs in the pond.
Farm Animals in Korean
What’s your favorite 농장 동물 (farm animal)? If you live in a rural area, you may find yourself using these words often.
말 — Horse
Horses hold a pretty important role in the history of Korea. During the Three Kingdoms Period (57 BCE to 668 CE), little figurines of horses were buried in tombs to carry the spirit of the deceased to the afterlife.
저는 매일 말을 타는 것을 좋아해요. — I like to ride horses every day.
소 — Cow
소는 맛있는 우유를 만들어요. — Cows produce delicious milk.
오리 — Duck
연못에 오리가 100 마리 이상 있다고 생각해요. — I think there are more than 100 ducks in the pond.
돼지 — Pig
돼지는 내가 가장 좋아하는 농장 동물이에요. — Pigs are my favorite farm animals.
양 — Sheep
Want to look like a sheep, Korean style? Check out a popular method of folding a towel called the “Korean towel sheep head”… aka the Princess Leia do.
흰 양과 검은 양 두 마리를 봐요. — I see one white sheep and two black sheep.
염소 — Goat
염소는 제가 가장 좋아하는 동물이에요. — Goats are my favorite animal.
당나귀 — Donkey
당나귀는 수레을 끌고 있어요. — The donkey is pulling a wagon.
닭 — Chicken
농부는 닭 두 마리를 가지고 있어요. — The farmer is carrying two chickens.
거위 — Goose
연못에 거위 5 마리가 수영을 하고 있어요. — There are five geese swimming in the pond.
Wild Animals in Korean
The next time you’re out in nature (or visiting the zoo) you might spot one of these 야생 동물 (wild animals). Here’s how you can say them in Korean.
사슴 — Deer
Deer are adorable, gentle-looking creatures, but the musk deer—a.k.a “vampire deer” of South Korea probably won’t be getting a Disney special made about them any time soon.
숲속에 사슴 3 마리가 있어요. — There are three deer in the woods.
원숭이 — Monkey
인도네시아에서 원숭이를 봤어요. — I saw monkeys in Indonesia.
사자 — Lion
동물원에는 사자 4 마리가 있어요. There are four lions at the zoo.
호랑이 — Tiger
Tigers have a special place in Korean lore and folktales. If you spend some time in South Korea, you can expect to see tiger statues around the temples and cities. You might even spot a tiger-adorned crest on the badges of some military officers, representing the tiger’s strength and ferocity.
In fact, the many tigers living in Korea have given it a reputation as the “Land of the Tigers” and the tiger is considered the unofficial symbol of North and South Korea.
호랑이는 제 여동생이 가장 좋아하는 동물이에요. — Tigers are my little sister’s favorite animal.
여우 — Fox
You may have seen the mythical nine-tailed fox in various mediums (it’s even appeared in Pokemon!). This is the gumiho/kumiho from Korean mythology. Kumiho are said to be created when a fox lives to 1,000 years, and they have the ability to shift between the shape of a nine-tailed fox and a beautiful girl.
여우는 토끼와 다람쥐를 자주 사냥해요. — Foxes often hunt rabbits and squirrels.
곰 — Bear
숲에 있을 때는 곰을 조심하세요. — Beware of bears when you’re in the forest.
코끼리 — Elephant
South Korean elephant Koshik reached international fame for allegedly learning to speak Korean. Hey, if an elephant can do it…
코끼리는 큰 코와 큰 귀를 가지고 있어요. — Elephants have big noses and big ears.
하마 — Hippo
아프리카에 가면 하마를 볼 수도 있어요. — If you go to Africa, you might see a hippo.
얼룩말 — Zebra
얼룩말은 흑백 말처럼 보여요. — Zebras look like black and white horses.
코뿔소 — Rhino
코뿔소는 인간보다 더 빨리 달릴 수 있습니다. — Rhinos can run faster than humans.
Sea Animals in Korean
Perhaps you’ll see one of these 해양 동물 (sea animals) the next time you go to an aquarium or scuba diving.
물고기 — Fish
If you’re a seafood lover and you’re planning a visit to Korea, the Noryangjin Fish Market—where merchants peddle everything from shellfish to jellyfish—is a must visit.
호주로 여행하면 많은 종류의 물고기를 볼 수 있습니다. — If you travel to Australia, you can see many kinds of fish.
고래 — Whale
고래는 물고기처럼 보이지만 물고기가 아니에요. — Even though whales look like fish, they’re not fish.
돌고래 — Dolphin
돌고래는 매우 빠르게 수영할 수 있어요. — Dolphins can swim very fast.
상어 — Shark
South Korea’s Pinkfong is the creative force behind the abysmally catchy song that everyone’s heard at least 1,000 times by now: “Baby Shark.” And now it’s stuck in your head again. You’re welcome!
바다에 있을 때는 상어를 조심하세요. — Beware of sharks when you’re in the ocean.
문어 — Octopus
문어는 바다에 삽니다. — Octopuses live in the ocean.
오징어 — Squid
한국에서는 사람들이 자주 오징어를 먹어요. — People often eat squid in Korea.
게 — Crab
해변에 게가 6 마리 있어요. — There are six crabs on the beach.
해파리 — Jellyfish
저는 수영할 때 해파리를 자주 봐요. — I often see jellyfish when swimming.
물개 — Seal
물개는 게으른 동물이에요. — Seals are lazy animals.
조개 — Clam
조개는 모래 속에 살아요. — Clams live under the sand.
You now know the names of 39 animals in Korean! Use them as you walk around your city/town, or visit the zoo or aquarium for a challenge!