26 Authentic Korean Exclamations

Exclamations are also very important when learning a foreign language like Korean, because they can help your speech sound much more genuine and natural.

Here’s a list of 26 Korean exclamations that may be useful to you in a range of conversations.

Contents


1. 아이구 / 아이고 — Oh no / Uh-oh / Oops

The most common interjection to express dismay, frustration or disbelief.

It’s a particular favorite for older Korean folks (especially women) who are quick to find something to complain about. I’m pretty sure I hear a “아이구!” at least once per day from my own mother.

아이고, 잘했어요. 아이고, 잘했어요.

Oh, good job. Oh, good job.

2. 엄마야 — Oh my

엄마야 literally means “Oh, mother!” It’s an exclamation of shock, fear or surprise. Think of it as the Korean equivalent of the Italian “Mamma Mia!”

Again, this one is more commonly used by Korean women.

엄마야! 괜찮으세요? — Oh my! Are you okay?

3. 아야 — Ow

An exclamation to express pain, usually of a minor type, like a small pinch or ache.

Of course, you can feel free to use it when the pain is a little more dramatic, such as those tragic incidents in which you stub a toe against a desk or trip on asphalt. In those cases, it’s usually followed by a loud expletive.

아야! 내 손… — Ow! My hand…

4. 에이씨 — Ugh / Dang

This is a somewhat harsh way to express your discontent or frustration about something. The scenario could be anything—accidentally dropping your ice cream, waiting too long for a friend to show up, getting caught in a sudden rain storm while walking.

This phrase comes out kind of like a hiss, which I think is a fine way to express those negative feelings.

에이씨! 우산 가져오는 걸 깜빡했어… — Ugh! I forgot to bring an umbrella…

5. 야! — Hey!

야 is an attention-grabbing word with some versatility in its usage. It can take on different inflections depending on the context.

It can express anger (most often), but it can also express fondness or exasperation. However, if you were to say 야 multiple times in a row (야야야), then it more strongly implies hostility.

야! 너… 어떻게 알았어?

Hey! How… did you know?

6. 뭐? / 뭐라고? — What did you say?

This can be an exclamation of disbelief, indicating that you’re stunned by what you just heard, or you could just be literally asking someone to repeat what they said.

When said emphatically (with a higher pitch), it can come off as aggressive and demanding.

? 다시 말해 봐! — What? Say it again!

7. 에이 — No way / Yeah, right / Nah

A casual way to sarcastically dismiss something you heard as a bunch of bunk. It could be an unbelievable story, a compliment towards you or a disparaging comment.

Personally, I hear 에이 used most often to wave off flattery or praise.

에이… 그렇게 많은 일을 하지는 않았어요. — Nah, I didn’t do that much work.

8. 말도 안 돼 — Impossible / Nonsense

Literally translating to “Can’t be put into words,” this exclamation can be used to express disbelief in both negative and positive situations.

In the latter case, 말도 안되 can work similarly to the incredulous but delighted English phrase “No way!”

시험에 떨어졌어? 말도 안 돼! — You failed the test? Impossible!

9. — Ah / Oh

Simple and to the point, it means exactly what it sounds like—say a quick “아!” as a surprised “Oh!”

In Korean, 아 is also often used to express understanding. Dragging it out or saying it multiple times in a row indicates that you’re following what’s being said to you.

아, 부럽다. 저 커플들.

Ah, (I)’m jealous. Those couples.

10. 아싸! — Yay! / All right!

A fun expression of success and cheer. If you ever go to a Korean party involving a lot of song and dance, amidst all of the hand-clapping and funny jigs you’ll hear plenty shouts of “아싸!” to rev up the good vibes.

Nowadays, when not used as an exclamation, 아싸 is actually a Korean slang term for “outsider” or “outcast.”

아싸! 당첨됐어! — All right! I win!

11. 만세! — Hurray!

만세 is the Korean equivalent to the Japanese cheer “Banzai!” It essentially means “Long live ___” and is used to express well wishes, success and/or good luck.

Within a crowd, 만세 can also be used as a unifying rally call to raise one’s hands for a group-wide cheer.

한국 축구팀이 승리했습니다! 만세! — The Korean soccer team won! Hurray!

12. 대박 — Awesome / Unbelievable

대박 translates to “big success.” It’s an expression that indicates you’re thoroughly impressed or stunned by what you just heard or witnessed.

While it’s commonly used as an exclamation of praise and admiration, 대박 can also be used for negative situations that you just can’t wrap your head around.

감독님, 고맙습니다, 진짜. 야… 대박이다.

Director, thank (you), really. Wow… (this) is awesome.

13. — Whoa / What the…

A modern slang exclamation meant to express surprise and astonishment, whether towards something positive or negative. 헐 is used often in texting.

It speaks for itself—you don’t really have to extrapolate or say anything after responding with “헐!”

정말 그렇게 나쁜가? . — Is it really that bad? Whoa.

14. — Super / Great

Colloquially, 짱 is a slang term that translates to “the best” and works as a positive exclamation to express your approval.

You can also say “짱이야!” to mean “It’s great!” or “It’s the best!” The extended phrase is usually accompanied by a thumbs-up.

와, 정말 잘하셨어요! ! — Wow, you did great. Super!

Learning how to use Korean exclamations and slang like 짱 is easiest when you have lots of examples. A program like FluentU, for instance, lets you watch real Korean videos alongside useful learning tools, so you can see exclamations in conversations as native speakers really use them.

15. — Ew / Yuck / Blegh

This exclamation resembles the sound of throwing up, so you already know what it means. The written syllable itself is as scrunched up as your face would be when grimacing. Just try not to actually vomit when saying it.

! 그 냄새는 어디서 나는 걸까? — Blegh! Where is that smell coming from?

16. 진짜(요)? — Really? / Seriously?

This is an exclamation of shock that can also work as its own response to confirm the reality of what’s being questioned (you can answer “진짜” to someone’s inquiry of “진짜?”).

“아진짜!” is a common expression to suggest disgust or frustration, similar to the English phrase “Oh, seriously?!” 진짜요 is a more polite version, though it doesn’t necessarily lessen the impact.

진짜요? 그거 가짜 이야기 같은데요. — Really? That sounds like a fake story.

17. 이런 — Dang it / What? / So it’s like that

이런 literally means “this,” but as an exclamation, it can take on slightly different meanings.

In general, 이런 is not a positive interjection. It’s often used whenever you’re unsettled or startled by something. In certain contexts, it can be interpreted as a threatening “Why, I oughta…”

이런! 나한테 거짓말을 하는 거야? — Dang it! Are you lying to me?

18. 우와 — Wow

Conveniently, this Korean exclamation even sounds like “wow.” And, just like “wow” in English, it can be appropriate for both good and bad situations.

우와, 여기 웬일이래? 빨리 찍어 봐.

Wow, what is (she) doing here? Take (a) photo, quickly.

19. 그래(요)? — Really? / Is that right?

Although it technically means the same thing as 진짜(요) in number 16 above, 그래(요) is usually a bit more toned down in impact. You can also say “그래 그래'” to emphatically agree with someone.

However, a sharp “그래!” functions as a more aggressive “Yes!” or “Duh!”

그래? 너 내일 반티 입고 갈 거야? 아니면 가서 입을 거야?

Really? Are you going to wear the uniform tomorrow? Or are you going to wear it there?

20. 그렇구나 / 그렇군요 — I see / That’s how it is

Both 그렇구나 and the previous 그래(요) are derived from the same Korean verb: 그러다 (to do like that).

그렇구나 (and the more polite 그렇군요) is an exclamation of affirmation and understanding. It’s the go-to expression for those lightbulb “aha!” moments.

그래서 떠난 거야? 그렇구나! — Is that why you left? I see!

21. — Yes / Huh / Uh

It can work as a confirming or inquiring exclamation, depending on your tone.

Saying “어” multiple times (어어어) in a level tone, or dragging it out, indicates that you’re understanding or agreeing with what’s being said. A short “어?” means that you’ll need a repeat of what was just told to you.

어, 네. 굉장히 평소에 털털하고, 애교도 많이 없고,

Oh, yeah. (I)’m usually very easy-going, not that cute,

22. — Phew

An interjection that suggests you’re feeling relieved, exhausted or overwhelmed. Drag it out into a sigh to make it extra dramatic.

… 소주가 필요해. — Phew… I need some soju.

23. — Tch / Tsk

This exclamation expresses disapproval or contempt. You can use it whenever you feel slighted or irritated.

You can mutter a quick “치” under your breath, or you can say a loud and pronounced “치!” in front of someone to be more petty and obvious about your displeasure towards them.

! 정말 나에 대해 그렇게 생각해? — Tch! Is that really what you think of me?

24. / — Hmm

Another Korean exclamation that conveniently sounds like what it means!

흠 or 음 are the Korean equivalents to the reflective and thoughtful “Hmm.” Saying a quick “흠” / “음” can also be used to show approval or agreement.

… 꽤 어렵네요. — Hmm… that is pretty difficult.

25. — Pshh / Hmph

This is the interjection to use when you feel irked or disparaged by someone. In that sense, it’s a noise of discontent similar to 치.

It also sounds very much like 흠, so watch the tone you use! Here, a huffy “흥!” works much like a scoff or sniff.

! 다시는 그 사람을 돕지 않을 거야! — Hmph! I won’t help that person again!

26. 우우 — Boo

Turns out, the Korean way to boo someone isn’t very different from the English way. Just snip out the “b”!

A long, drawn out “우우” will make your dissatisfaction clear, whether it’s due to a terrible joke or a bad referee call.

우우! 무대에서 내려와! — Boo! Get off the stage!

 

휴… Isn’t it good to get all those feelings out?

Exclamations will help you understand and participate further in casual Korean conversations.

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