51 Korean Idioms to Help You Sound Like a Native

You might be watching Korean dramas, listening to K-Pop or traveling in Korea.

And you might have noticed that one or two phrases you hear sound… odd.

Chances are you’ve stumbled upon a Korean idiom.

Idioms are strange and fun expressions that every language uses, but your textbooks and Korean translator apps might not cover them.

That being said, here’s a list of 51 Korean idioms you’ll want to know to upgrade your knowledge of the language.

Contents


1. 그림의 떡  — Rice cake in a picture

Meaning: something you desire, but can’t have or afford

Rice cakes, , are staples of Korean cuisine. They can be eaten as a snack but are usually consumed in more formal or celebratory affairs. Culturally, they’re associated with fortune and generosity.

Just like a rice cake in a picture, this idiom illustrates the inability to snatch up and eat a similarly delectable item—whether it’s a new computer or a job promotion.

Example:

세계 여행을 가고 싶지만 그림의 떡이에요

I want to travel the world, but it’s a rice cake in a picture.

2. 눈코 뜰 새 없다  — I don’t have time to open my eyes and nose

Meaning: too busy and have no time to lose

There are plenty of Korean idioms involving body parts, many of them dealing with one’s physical condition. For example, this idiom suggests that the speaker is so occupied that they don’t even have time to move their eyes or nose.

Example:

숙제가 너무 많아 눈코 뜰 새가 없어요  

I have so much homework that I can’t open my eyes and nose.

3. 가재는 게 편이다 — The crayfish sides with the crab

Meaning: those that are similar stay together

This idiom, which is also a proverb, states that a crayfish would instinctively side with a crab because they look similar. The expression suggests that those of similar backgrounds or characteristics tend to agree with each other.

You can use this idiom in much the same way as its English equivalent, “birds of a feather flock together.”

Example:

가재는 게 편이라더니, 회사에서 그 사람은 자기 학교 출신만 잘 해 줘요  

The crayfish sides with the crab, he only cares about his colleagues from the same school.

4. 식은 죽 먹기  — Like eating cold porridge

Meaning: piece of cake

 is Korean rice porridge made of slow-boiled rice and gets much of its flavor from added salt or ingredients. The bland, watery nature of this dish makes it a popular food to eat when someone is sick. That being said, equating something to eating rice porridge suggests it’s a very simple task.

Example:

시험이 너무 쉬워서 식은 죽 먹기였어요  

The test was so easy that it was like eating cold porridge.

5. 꼬리를 친다/흔든다  — Wagging / Shaking tail

Meaning: flattering or enticing another

You’ve probably seen it before—someone doing their very best to get in another person’s good graces, usually in flirtatious situations. (The resulting display can be quite amusing!) In Korean lingo, this kind of performance is equated to that of an animal eagerly wagging its tail.

Example:

그 여자가 그 남자에게 꼬리를 쳐요  

The woman is wagging her tail at the man.

6. 눈이 높다  — Eyes are high

Meaning: having high standards or unrealistic expectations

This idiom is used to refer to someone who possesses standards that border on unreasonable. The person who fits this description is someone whose perception rests on a much higher plane (thus, their “eyes are high”).

You’ll often find this used in the context of relationships when a person expects far too much from their potential suitor.

Example:

제 친구는 결혼을 안 했는데요. 눈이 높은 것 같아요  

A friend of mine isn’t married, and I think her eyes are high. 

7. 눈이 뒤집힌다 — Eyes are turned upside down

Meaning: to be mad or insane

Here’s another idiom involving the eyes that paints quite a picture! You can probably think of a time when someone (or you) reached their breaking point and snapped.

Of course, people’s eyes don’t literally turn upside down when this happens, but the expression does reflect a loss of normality.

Example:

너무 화가 나서 눈이 뒤집혔어요!

I was so mad my eyes turned upside down!

8. 바람을 넣는다 — To put in wind / inflate

Meaning: to pump up, motivate, coax

This idiom is similar to the English idiom “to put wind in one’s sails.” It’s a common expression that expresses the moment when one is enticed into action—whether it’s because of a stroke of fortune, inspiration or encouragement from another individual.

However, it doesn’t always have a positive connotation. For example, one can also “put wind” to a ridiculous request to increase the chances of someone doing something they wouldn’t typically do.

Example:

제 친구가 영화관에 가자고 바람을 넣어요  

Literally: “My friend is inflating going to the movie theater.” (“My friend is making a big deal about going to the movies.”)

9. 사촌이 땅을 사면 배가 아프다 — Stomach hurts

Meaning: to be extremely jealous

While you can say this phrase to say you have a stomachache, the idiom suggests that you’re envious of another, usually because they lucked into riches or happiness and you haven’t.

The feeling can be a bit more than just jealousy and often includes a sense of disappointment. The idiom is used when the envied person in particular is someone you know and is close enough to you that seeing their moment of success feels like a punch in the gut.

Example:

친구 아들이 정말 좋은 대학에 들어갔어. 사촌이 땅을 사면 배가 아프다더니 진짜 배가 아프네

My friend’s son got into a really good college. My cousin bought some land and I’m really jealous.

10. 파리를 날리다  — Have flies flying around

Meaning: to be in a slump, have no customers

Flies are commonly known as a blight to any environment, and in the case of this idiom, they’re a sign of misfortune. The phrase is used quite specifically for businesses suffering from a scarcity of clients.

It’s easy to visualize what this expression is meant to illustrate—an establishment that’s so empty that the bulk of the employee’s work for the day is shooing away flies.

Example:

가게에 손님이 없어서 파리를 날리고 있어요  

There are no customers in the store, so there are flies flying around.

11. 손바닥으로 하늘을 가린다 — Trying to cover the sky with your palm

Meaning: the truth cannot be hidden even if you try to cover it up

According to this saying, no matter how much you try to hide the truth, it will surface eventually. 

Example:

그건 금세 사람들이 알아차릴 거야. 손바닥으로 하늘을 가릴 순 없어  

People will find out (the truth) soon. You can’t cover the sky with your palm.

12. 고래 싸움에 새우 등 터진다 — Shrimp get crushed in a whale fight

Meaning: innocent parties often suffer in conflicts between more powerful entities

The biggest shrimp in the world, the tiger prawn, is approximately 12.99 inches long. Meanwhile, the blue whale is over 100 feet long—the size of three school buses.

Just as a tiny shrimp would be easily crushed in a fight between whales, this expression conveys the notion that powerless individuals often bear the brunt of disputes they have no control over.

Example:

두 회사의 경쟁으로 많은 작은 기업들이 피해를 보는구나. 고래 싸움에 새우 등 터지는 거야  

Many small businesses suffer from the competition between the two companies. It’s like shrimp getting crushed in a whale fight.

13. 눈에 밟힌다 — Get stepped on by the eyes

Meaning: to worry or miss someone

This idiom sums up the feeling of thinking about someone all the time—usually because you miss or are worried about them.  

Example:

집에 혼자 계신 우리 어머니가 자꾸 눈에 밟혀요  

I’m worried about my mother who’s home alone.

14. 손발이 맞지 않는다 — Hands and feet don’t match

Meaning: lack of coordination; unable to work together effectively

Picture two dancers: one is a professional, while the other is a complete beginner. Even if you don’t know anything about dancing, you can easily know which is which, because the professional would have coordinated movements, while the beginner wouldn’t.

You can use that image to remember the meaning of “hands and feet don’t match.”

Example:

우리 팀은 어제 경기에서 너무 손발이 맞지 않아서 지고 말았어요  

Our team lost yesterday’s game because our hands and feet didn’t match.

15. 가는 날이 장날이다 — The day you go out is a market day

Meaning: bad luck or unfortunate events tend to occur on important occasions or special days

It’s believed that important occasions, such as the day of departure for a trip, are more susceptible to unexpected setbacks or mishaps, contrasting the anticipation of a special day with the reality of undesirable circumstances.

Example:

가는 날이 장날이라고, 결혼식 당일에 비가 왔어  

Literally: “The day you go out is a market day, and it’s raining on the day of the wedding.” (It’s raining on the day of the wedding. The day you go out is a market day, indeed!)

16. 소문난 잔치에 먹을 것 없다 — There’s nothing to eat at a famous feast

Meaning: rumors don’t match reality

Imagine going to a hyped-up party, only to realize that it’s all just hype. This idiom refers to something that isn’t what it’s cracked up to be: you’ve heard great things about it, but the reality is different (and disappointing). 

Example:

소문난 잔치에 먹을 것 없다는 말이 맞았어. 어제 광고를 보고 새 가게에 갔는데 막상 이쁜 옷들이 하나도 없더라.  

They were right about there being nothing to eat at a famous feast. I went to a new store yesterday after seeing the ad, but the (advertised) clothes weren’t pretty at all.

17. 쥐구멍에도 볕 들 날 있다 — Even a mouse hole gets sunlight

Meaning: there’s always a silver lining in every situation

Like much of the world, Korean culture attributes positive qualities to sunlight. If it’s able to reach a humble mouse hole, then by the same token, any negative or potentially negative outcome has a good side. 

Example:

조금만 더 참아. 쥐구멍에도 볕 들 날이 있다고 하잖아.  

Hang in there. They say even a mouse hole gets sunlight.

18. 벼락치기 — Lightning-fast study

Meaning: cramming just before an exam or test

Just as lightning flashes in the blink of an eye, lightning-fast study allows you to cram a semester’s worth of lessons into one night. (Or at least, that’s what many Korean students hope.)

Example:

나 내일 시험인데 공부 하나도 안 했어. 오늘 벼락치기 해야 해  

I have a test tomorrow and haven’t studied at all. I need to do lightning-fast study.

19. 도토리 키재기 — Lit: “Acorn Stomping”

Meaning: not much of a difference

When there’s not much difference between two options, what’s the point of fighting over them? 

Example:

제발 누가 더 키가 큰지 싸우지 마. 그건 도토리 키재기야  

Literally: “Please don’t fight over who’s taller. There’s not much difference.” (“Please don’t fight over who’s taller. You guys are basically the same height.”)

20. 아는 길도 물어 가라 — Ask for directions even on a familiar road

Meaning: it’s better to seek advice even in familiar situations

Ever heard the expression that you need to have a “beginner’s mindset”? No matter how much you think you know about something, you’ll always have gaps in your knowledge or experience that can only be remedied by (humbly) asking for help from others who know more than you. 

Example:

일을 잘한다고 생각하지 말고 언제나 아는 길도 물어 가야지  

Don’t think you’re good at everything; always ask for directions, even on a familiar road.

21. 계란으로 바위치기 — Hitting a rock with an egg

Meaning: an unwinnable or impossible challenge

To hit a rock with an egg is to do something foolish that results in a huge loss. It can also be used to describe anything that seems impossible or reckless. 

Example:

이제 그만 해. 그건 계란으로 바위치기야  

Stop it, that’s hitting a rock with an egg.

22. 벼는 익을수록 고개 숙인다 — As the rice ripens, the head bows

Meaning: the more successful one is, the more humble they should be

When rice grains grow to their full size, they’ll naturally succumb to the laws of gravity. Otherwise, their stems will break.

It’s the same with successful people: if they forget to give thanks to those who’ve helped them get where they are, it’ll come back to bite them eventually. 

Example:

그만 자랑해. 벼는 익을 수록 고개를 숙이는 법이야  

Stop bragging. As the rice ripens, the head bows.

23. 가는 말이 고와야 오는 말이 곱다 — A good word spoken goes well, and a good word heard is beautiful

Meaning: speaking kind and positive words leads to pleasant conversations and relationships

I don’t think this one needs further explanation, but it bears repeating. If you want to have good relationships with people in general, be positive in your communications with them as much as possible.

If you have nothing good to say, you can either not say it or say it in a tactful way that’s considerate and respectful of the other person’s feelings. 

Example:

친구에 대해 언제나 칭찬의 말을 해 주는 게 중요해. 가는 말이 고와야 오는 말이 고우니까

It’s important to always speak words of praise about your friends. A good word spoken goes well, and a good word heard is beautiful.

24. 공자 앞에서 문자 쓴다 — Writing Chinese characters in front of Confucius

Meaning: feeling inadequate in the presence of an expert or highly knowledgeable person

Like many countries that came into close contact with Chinese culture, Korea is no stranger to Confucius ( 공자 ). Being the revered figure that he is, it’s no surprise that he’s associated with refined activities like calligraphy.

So when you try to explain your knowledge of a subject in front of an expert on that subject, it can feel like doing calligraphy in front of 공자 himself! 

Example:

전문가 앞에서 내 생각을 얘기하려니까, 공자 앞에서 문자 쓰는 기분이야  

When I try to express my thoughts in front of an expert, it feels like writing Chinese characters in front of Confucius.

25. 꿩 먹고 알 먹기 — Eating both the pheasant and its eggs

Meaning: to have the best of both worlds; to gain benefits from multiple sources

Owing to how beautiful pheasants are, they’ve become associated with positive qualities in Korean culture. If you somehow eat a pheasant and its eggs, it’s like killing two birds with one stone (pun intended) when it comes to getting good fortune. 

Example:

여행할 때 돈도 모으고 경험도 쌓을 수 있으면 꿩 먹고 알 먹는 거야  

When you can save money and accumulate experiences while traveling, you’re eating both the pheasant and its eggs.

26. 귀신도 모른다 — Even ghosts don’t know

Meaning: an expression used when nobody has any idea about something

You’d expect ghosts to be more knowledgeable about the world than any living person, seeing as they have plenty of time to roam the earth. So if even ghosts don’t know something, how can you know that something?

Example:

이 문제에 대해 아무도 모르는 거 같아. 귀신도 모른다니까  

It seems like nobody knows the answer to this problem. Even ghosts don’t know.

27. 금강산도 식후경 — Even Geumgang Mountain looks ordinary when you’re hungry

Meaning: it’s easier to appreciate beautiful things on a full stomach

Geumgang Mountain ( 금강산 ) is one of Korea’s most famous mountains. It’s a magnificent sight when you’re able to afford basic things like meals. But if you’re starving and only thinking about food, you’re not really in the headspace to stop and see the sights no matter how beautiful they may be. 

Example:

라면 먹으러 가자. 금강산도 식후경이잖아  

Let’s have ramyeon. Even Geumgang Mountain looks ordinary when you’re hungry.

28. 남의 떡이 더 커 보인다 — Other people’s rice cakes look bigger

Meaning: other people’s belongings or circumstances can seem more appealing or desirable than one’s own

You could say this is the Korean equivalent of “the grass is greener on the other side.” When you see people posting picturesque photos of their vacation on social media, you can’t help but think that their lives are better than yours (even though those photos probably don’t show the full picture of their lives). 

Example:

네 피자가 내 것보다 더 큰 것 같아. / 아니야, 똑같아. 원래 남의 떡이 더 커 보이잖아  

Literally: “I think your pizza is bigger than mine. / No, it’s the same. Other people’s rice cakes look bigger.” (“I think your pizza is bigger than mine. / No, it’s the same size. It’s just that mine looks bigger from your perspective.”)

29. 바늘 도둑이 소도둑 된다 — A needle thief becomes a cow thief

Meaning: starting with small wrongdoings can lead to more serious offenses

This Korean idiom emphasizes the importance of being aware of the consequences of your actions. If doing small things like stealing needles doesn’t faze you, what’s to stop you from escalating to bigger crimes like stealing cows?

Example:

아무리 작은 거라도 도둑질하면 안 돼. 바늘 도둑이 소도둑 돼!

Don’t steal anything, no matter how small. A needle thief becomes a cow thief!

30. 설상가상 — The unexpected on top of the unexpected

Meaning: one unexpected situation or event occurring after another

This is one of the more straightforward Korean expressions. Life isn’t always predictable and it’s possible for one unexpected event to come after another (or a series of events). 

Example:

오늘 아침에 핸드폰을 잃어버렸는데, 설상가상으로, 오후에 지갑도 잃어버렸어  

Literally: “I lost my phone this morning, and to make matters worse, I lost my wallet this afternoon.” (“I lost my phone this morning and my wallet this afternoon. It’s the unexpected on top of the unexpected!”)

31. 수박 겉핥기 — Licking the surface of a watermelon

Meaning: superficially experiencing something without delving deeper or fully understanding it

Watermelons are pretty hefty plants, so it’d be a waste to simply lick and leave them at that.

In the same way, if you’re engaging in something (like reading a random article about Korean culture), it might be a good idea to really put yourself into it. 

Example:

수박 겉핥기식으로 공부하면 안 돼  

You can’t study the way you lick the surface of a watermelon.

32. 꿩 대신 닭 — A chicken instead of a pheasant

Meaning: taking the next best thing

When you can’t have a pheasant, get a chicken (if it’s available). You can’t always have the best thing, but maybe the next best thing will do!

Example:

우리가 이번에 해외 여행 못 가면, 가까운 바닷가라도 가자. 꿩대신 닭으로

Literally: “If we don’t get to travel abroad this time, let’s go to the nearest beach. It’s a chicken, instead of a pheasant.” (“If we don’t get to travel abroad this time, let’s go to the nearest beach. It’s the next best thing.”)

33. 호랑이도 제 말 하면 온다 — Even a tiger comes when you mention it

Meaning: speak of the devil

Tigers are a revered cultural symbol in Korea to this day. It’s such a compelling figure that if you even talk about it (or anything that can be on the same level of importance as a tiger), it will come. 

Example:

방금 네 이야기 하고 있었는데. 호랑이도 제 말 하면 오는구나  

We were just talking about you. Even a tiger comes when you mention it.

34. 호랑이에게 물려가도 정신만 차리면 산다 — Even if bitten by a tiger, you’ll survive if you regain your composure

Meaning: to overcome a dangerous situation by staying calm and composed

This is another tiger-related idiom that paints quite the picture. I doubt anyone can stay calm if they’re bitten by a tiger (which has one of the strongest bites of any big cat), but maintaining your presence of mind certainly helps whenever you’re in a dire situation.  

Example:

침착해. 지금 바로 경찰에 신고하면 돼. 호랑이에게 물려 가도 정신만 차리면 살아  

Stay calm and call the police right now. Even if bitten by a tiger, you’ll survive if you regain your composure.

35. 고생 끝에 낙이 온다 — After hardship comes happiness

Meaning: good things come after enduring difficult times or suffering

This is one of the more optimistic Korean sayings. Even if it feels like your hardships are never-ending, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. 

Example:

힘내세요. 고생 끝에 낙이 온다는 말이 있잖아요  

Stay strong. There’s a saying that happiness comes at the end of hardship.

36. 소 잃고 외양간 고친다 — Fix the cowshed after losing the cow

Meaning: there’s no point in crying over spilled milk.

Most of the time, when something happens, there’s not much you can do about it. If it can be fixed, then you should fix it; otherwise, best to accept what happened and move on. 

Example:

시험 다 끝나고 공부하는 것은 소 잃고 외양간 고치는 거야  

Studying after the exam is over is like fixing the cowshed after losing the cow.

37. 손발이 오그라든다 — Hands and feet curl up

Meaning: feeling extremely embarrassed or humiliated

When you’re so embarrassed that you want to cover yourself with your hands and feet, you must’ve been in quite an awkward situation!

Example:

그는 자신이 한 말 때문에 창피해서 손발이 오그라들었어요  

He was so embarrassed by what he’d said that his hands and feet curled up.

38. 티끌 모아 태산 — Accumulating dust forms a mountain

Meaning: small efforts or contributions, when accumulated, can lead to significant results

This idiom hammers home the idea that small things can turn into big things, so always tread with care in everything you do.

Example:

100원이라도 함부로 쓰지 마. 티끌모아 태산이야  

Don’t spend even 100 won without thinking. Accumulating dust forms a mountain.

39. 고양이에게 생선을 맡긴다 — Entrusting fish to a cat

Meaning: putting something in the wrong hands or trusting someone who is likely to misuse or mishandle it

This is the Korean equivalent of “putting the fox in the hen house.” Whenever you want to get something done, make sure the person you’re entrusting that task to actually knows what they’re doing and has the best intentions. 

Example:

그 사람한테 네 지갑을 맡기다니, 그건 고양이에게 생선을 맡기는 거야  

Leaving your wallet with him is like leaving fish with the cat.

40. 오르지 못할 나무는 쳐다보지도 마라 — Don’t stare at a tree you can’t climb

Meaning: don’t dwell on or pursue something beyond your reach

This Korean idiom isn’t necessarily being pessimistic. While aiming for the stars is great, you’d probably be better off putting your energy into something more realistic and achievable. 

Example:

그 여자는 이미 남자 친구가 있어. 오르지 못할 나무는 쳐다보지도 마  

Literally: “She already has a boyfriend. Don’t stare at a tree you can’t climb.” (“She already has a boyfriend. Don’t even think about courting her.”)

41. 하늘의 별 따기 — Trying to catch the stars in the sky

Meaning: pursuing something that is extremely difficult or impossible to achieve

Considering that the nearest star is approximately 24.85 trillion miles away, trying to catch them can be likened to an impossible endeavor indeed!

Example:

그 회사에 취직하는 것은 하늘의 별 따기예요  

Getting a job at that (prestigious) company is like trying to catch the stars.

42. 말 한 마디에 천냥 빚을 갚는다 — Paying off a debt of a thousand nyang with one word

Meaning: resolving a conflict or settling a debt through communication or negotiation

You’d think “nyang” ( ) is an ancient form of Korean currency. In fact, it’s a Korean onomatopoeia for the sound of a cat—i.e., their version of “meow.” If you’re skilled enough as an orator, you can make all your opponents seem like meowing cats!

Example:

그 남자가 우리 모든 의견에 무조건 반대해요. 그러니까 잘 좀 말해 보세요. 말 한마디에 천 냥 빚도 갚는다고 하잖아요  

Literally: “The guy disagrees with everything we say, so talk to him. Paying off a debt of a thousand nyang with one word.” (“We’d have to ramp up the way we communicate and negotiate with that guy, since he likes to disagree with everything we say.”)

43. 엎드려 절 받기 — Twist someone’s arm

Meaning: fish for compliments

This idiom describes a situation in which a person gets a favor because they ask for it, even though the other person doesn’t want it.

Example:

우리 남편을 조르고 졸라 겨우 생일 선물 받았어요. 얻드려 절 받기였어요  

I finally got my birthday present by twisting my husband’s arm a lot. 

44. 등잔 밑이 어둡다 — The area under the lamp is dark

Meaning: neglecting what is right under one’s nose

You know those moments when you get stumped by a problem only to realize that the solution was right under your nose the whole time? That’s one of the things this idiom refers to. It also emphasizes the importance of paying attention to the little things as they might have a bigger role to play than you realize. 

Example:

내 열쇠가 내 주머니 안에 있었네. 그걸 모르고 한참 찾았어. 등잔 밑이 어두웠잖아  

My keys were in my pocket. I looked for them for a while without realizing it. The area under the lamp is dark (indeed).

45. 백문이 불여일견 — Seeing is better than hearing a hundred times

Meaning: experiencing something firsthand is more valuable than hearing about it repeatedly

Like Westerners, Koreans believe in the concept of “seeing is believing.” It’s one thing to talk about someone else’s experience and another to have actually experienced that something. 

Example:

저는 그들의 이야기를 믿지 않아요. 백문이 불여일견이에요  

I don’t believe their story. Seeing is better than hearing a hundred times. 

46. 낮말은 새가 듣고 밤말은 쥐가 듣는다  — Birds hear daytime talk, and mice hear nighttime talk

Meaning: secrets or private conversations are often overheard or revealed unexpectedly

Never assume that your secrets are safe! As this saying suggests, birds can hear you during the day, while mice can hear you during the night.

Example:

항상 말조심해야 해. 낮말은 새가 듣고 밤말은 쥐가 들어  

Always be careful what you say. Birds hear daytime talk and mice hear nighttime talk.

47. 시작이 반이다 — The beginning is half the battle

Meaning: starting something is often the most challenging part

It’s one thing to say you’ll do something and another to actually do it. Pretty inspirational saying for people who tend to procrastinate!

Example:

이 프로젝트를 시작해 봅시다. 시작이 반이에요  

Let’s start this project. The beginning is half the battle. 

48. 돌다리도 두들겨 보고 건너라 — Even on a stone bridge, test it with your footsteps before crossing

Meaning: being cautious and verifying things before taking action

This idiom emphasizes the importance of caution and prudence. It suggests that you should carefully assess a situation before proceeding, even if it seems safe. 

Example:

돌다리도 두들겨 보고 건너야 한다는 것을 기억해야 해요  

You should remember that even on a stone bridge, test it with your footsteps before crossing.

49. 콩 심은 데 콩 나고 팥 심은 데 팥 난다 — Beans grow where beans are planted, and red beans grow where red beans are planted

Meaning: actions have consequences, and similar actions yield similar results

You could say this has roughly the same meaning as “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If you want something to change, it may be time to approach it from a different direction. 

Example:

조금 변화를 주자. 콩 심은 데 콩 나고 팥 심은 데 팥 나니까  

Let’s switch things up. Beans grow where beans are planted, and red beans grow where red beans are planted. 

50. 빈 수레가 요란하다 — An empty cart makes a lot of noise

Meaning: those with little substance often boast the most

According to this idiom, those who don’t have much in the way of accomplishments tend to be the loudest. 

Example:

그 사람 너무 믿지 마. 잘 모르는데 아는 체하는 거야. 빈 수레가 요란하잖아  

Don’t trust him too much. He doesn’t really know (what he’s talking about), he’s just pretending he does. They say an empty cart makes a lot of noise.

51. 비 온 뒤에 땅이 굳어진다 — The ground hardens after rain

Meaning: difficulties or challenges can lead to personal growth and resilience

When it rains, it pours. And when it pours, you can wait it out until it’s over and the ground becomes safe to walk on again. Like many of the expressions listed so far, this one places a lot of emphasis on patience and determination. 

Example:

이번엔 비록 실패했지만, 저는 다음번엔 더 잘할 수 있을 것 같아요. 비 온 뒤에 땅이 굳어지는 것처럼요

Although I failed this time, I think I’ll do better next time. The ground hardens after rain. 

 

So that’s our list of 51 Korean idioms!

Keep an ear out for them in TV shows and movies, or search for them on the language learning program FluentU to hear them used in context.

See if you can find instances where you can put these expressions to use. Maybe you’ll get the chance to impress actual native speakers!

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