Small talk not your forte?
Always running out of sensible things to say when face-to-face with a stranger?
In other words, what do you say when you don’t know what to say?
Simple: Talk about the weather!
Weather is such a reliable topic, as there’s practically a new forecast every day.
Small talk, whether in English or Korean, involves, sooner or later, jabs about how the weather is “So cold!” or “So hot!” or “So freakin’ Instragrammable!”
In today’s lesson, we talk about Korean weather-related vocabulary that might come in handy when conversing with a native speaker. Because you never know when you’ll get stuck under an awning with someone… on the very day that you forget to bring your umbrella.
So, are you ready to embrace awkward small talk in another language? Let’s go!
Winter Is Coming! 40+ Words and Phrases for the Weather in Korean
Let’s start by introducing you to the seasons, or 계절 (gye-jeol). Like in Carole King’s song, there are four distinct seasons in Korea: winter, spring, summer and fall. Although, as of late, both summer and winter are becoming more pronounced, extended and unpredictable. Climate change, anyone?
봄 (bom) — spring
If you find yourself in Korea sometime between March and May, then you’re smack in the middle of spring. That’s the best time to chase after cherry blossoms and take that perfect selfie that’ll be the envy of your social media cohorts.
The peak time to see cherry blossoms is mid-March to early April, when these pink beauties are in their picture-perfect best.
여름 (yuh-reum) — summer
Summer is from June to August. This is the hottest time of the year. Ironically, it’s also the wettest. Korea’s 장마 (jang-ma), or rainy season, happens around the middle of June to July. It’s best to ready your umbrella and raincoats during 장마 because you could be braving hot and humid weather in the morning, and before you know it, you’re skipping around in puddles (and being a child again) in the afternoon.
After this short, wet streak, temperatures then rise to as high as 40℃ around late July to August. Ditch those thick and baggy clothes and opt for light fabrics.
가을 (ga-eul) — fall
Korea is beautiful all year round, but September to November might just be when it’s most quiet and awe-inspiring. That’s when nature plays with the color palette and turns leaves and foliage into crimson, orange and yellow.
A visit to Nami Island, for example, would get you some of the most stunning autumn views of nature on this side of the planet. Get your camera ready and pack an extra battery. You’re going to need it.
겨울 (gyuh-wool) — winter
The nation’s winters happen between the months of December and February (snow comes in around late November). Koreans have romantic notions regarding the first snow of the year. They believe that if you’re lucky enough to be watching the first snow with your “special friend,” true love will blossom for both of you. For true believers, the first sight of the white powder sends phones ringing as couples proceed to the place where they promised to meet. Ah, the promise of forever!
January is the coldest month in Korea. (There’s nothing romantic about it.)
Whether you’re stuck inside in winter or just want to practice these season/weather words any time of the year, you can hear them used by native speakers via videos on FluentU.
For example, you can watch this cool music video of Lim Kim’s song called “Rain.”
If you watch it with FluentU, you’ll get access to interactive subtitles (click on any word to find out more about it), quizzes, flashcards and more.
Check out all of the weather-related videos or browse other content on FluentU by signing up for a free trial.
Korean Words to Describe the Weather
You have your own opinions about the weather, or 날씨 (nal-ssi), but you probably need to know how to describe a particular day’s forecast. Not that you need to explain why you’re wearing thick woolen sweaters in the searing heat of July, but here are some words that might help you describe how temperatures are at the moment.
맑아요 (mal-ga-yo) — fine
해나요 (hae-na-yo) — sunny
따듯해요 (tda-deut-hae-yo) — warm
습해요 (seup-hae-yo) — humid
더워요 (duh-wo-yo) — hot
흐려요 (heu-ryuh-yo) — cloudy
바람 불어요 (ba-ram boo-ruh-yo) — windy
비가 와요 (bi-ga wa-yo) — rainy
추워요 (choo-wo-yo) — cold
Beyond the sun and snow, there are several weather-related phenomena that, depending on your personal preference, could either ruin or make your day. Here are some of them.
구름 (goo-reum) — cloud
비 (bi) — rain
홍수 (hong-soo) — flood
눈 (noon) — snow
얼음 (uh-reum) — ice
우박 (woobak) — hail
안개 (an-gae) — fog
기온 (gi-on) — temperature
바람 (ba-ram) — wind
태풍 (tae-poong) — hurricane/typhoon
폭풍 (pok-poong) — storm
번개 (bun-gae) — lightning
천둥 (chun-doong) — thunder
무지개 (moo-ji-gae) — rainbow
지진 (ji-jin) — earthquake
Korean Phrases About the Weather
In addition to the ones we learned earlier, here are some basic sentences and expressions that might come in handy.
날씨가 어때요? (Nal-ssi-ga eo-ttae-yo?) — How’s the weather?
오늘 날씨가 어때요? (O-neul nal-ssi-ga eo-ttae-yo?) — How’s the weather today?
날씨가 나빠요. (Nal-ssi-ga na-ppa-yo.) — The weather is bad.
좋아요. (Jo-a-yo.) — It’s good
더워요. (Duh-wo-yo.) — It’s hot.
추워요. (Chu-wo-yo.) — It’s cold.
비 와요. (Bi wa-yo.) — It’s raining.
눈 와요. (Noon wa-yo.) — It’s snowing.
하늘이 매우 맑아요. (Ha-neul-i mae-u mal-ga-yo.) — The sky is clear.
저는 추운 날씨를 좋아해요. (Jeo-neun chu-un nal-ssi-leul joh-a-hae-yo.) — I like cold weather.
비 온대요. (Bi on-dae-yo.) — It’s going to rain.
Sometimes, you might want to emphasize or highlight things. You need to use a couple of “intensifiers” like 아주 (a-joo) and 많이 (ma-nee) for this. 아주 means “really” and is used to emphasize degree or intensity, and 많이 means “very” or “a lot.”
날씨 아주 좋은데요. (Nal-ssi a-joo jo-eun-de-yo.) — The weather is really nice.
바람 많이 불어요. (Ba-ram ma-nee bul-uh-yo.) — It’s very windy.
Weather-related Korean Idioms
In any language, weather vocabulary figures into the idiomatic expressions, making the language more vivid and colorful. English has its share of weather-related idioms like “to be under the weather,” “the calm before the storm” and “to steal someone’s thunder.” Here are some Korean ones.
바람을 맞다 (ba-ram-eul mat-da) — Run into the wind
바람 (ba-ram) — wind
을 (eul) — [particle]
맞다 (mat-da) — run into/get hit with
Imagine you’re sitting in a Western-themed restaurant, waiting for your date. Suddenly, you see a tumbleweed, like the ones you see in cowboy movies, ominously roll across the floor. Your table is quiet. You hear the whistle of the lonely wind. You’ve just been stood up.
That’s what 바람을 맞다 means: to be stood up.
바람 (wind) here represents the nothingness that is your date. Nada. Zilch.
Get a tub of Ben & Jerry’s on your way home.
가랑비에 옷 젖는 줄 모른다. (Ga-rang-bi-e ot jeot-neun-jul mo-reun-da.) — You don’t realize your clothes are getting wet in a drizzle.
가랑비 (ga-rang-bi) — light rain
옷 (ot) — clothes
젖다 (jeot-da) — get wet
모르다 (mo-reu-da) — don’t know
This is a Korean proverb that points to how little things add up to a lot—like in terms of money and wealth. Saving even a little money can soon mean a lot, but it can also go the other way. Losing money, even a little, will soon send you to the poor house.
The English equivalent for this would be “A little leak will sink a great ship” or “Many drops make a flood.”
The phrase also reminds us of the fable of how to boil a frog. If you put a frog in boiling water, it’ll jump out and escape. No food for you. But, if you first place it in lukewarm water, it’ll stay there. Increase the temperature very gradually so the frog doesn’t notice, and soon enough, you have a nice stew.
The moral of the lesson?
Don’t boil a frog?!
Eat chicken; they practically taste the same.
꽃샘추위. (Kkot-saem-chu-wi.) — The cold envies the flowers.
꽃 (kkot) — flower
샘 (saem) — envy
추위 (chu-wi) — cold
In Korea, around March, spring comes for its annual show. Flowers start blooming again, exhibiting their natural beauty. But every once in awhile, there’s a spring frost or cold snap that feels like winter returning, seemingly jealous of the flowers in bloom. That’s where this expression comes from.
The explanation for the phenomena is that the chill comes from up North in Siberia, blowing through countries like Japan and Korea. Interestingly, Japan also has a similar expression with the term 花冷え (hanabie), which literally means “flowers get cold” but conveys the same idea as this Korean idiom.
바람을 넣다 (ba-ram-eul nuh-ta) — To put in wind
바람 (ba-ram) — wind
을 (eul) — [particle]
넣다 (nuh-ta) — put in
This expression is similar to the English one about “putting wind in one’s sails.” It’s motivating and encouraging, or coaxes someone into action.
And this goes both ways. For example, you can encourage someone for his benefit, like bucking your friend up for a job interview. On the other hand, if you inflate his ego so he drunkenly walks up to a girl who you know will turn him down… well, then you might have something viral for YouTube.
하늘을 지붕 삼다 (ha-neul-eul ji-bung sam-da) — Make the sky a roof
하늘 (ha-neul) — sky
을 (eul) — [participle]
지붕 (ji-bung) — roof
삼다 (sam-da) — make
The person who makes the sky his roof is a person who sleeps anywhere and wanders from place to place. The idea encapsulates a vagabond who is perpetually unsettled and always exploring someplace else.
That’s it. You now have some Korean things to say about the weather. That native speaker beside you, taking refuge under the same awning, can turn into a buddy. This could be the beginning of a sunny friendship… as long as you don’t make him clam up by talking about domestic politics and the current state of the economy.
For Korean language and cultural lessons, try FluentU’s fun, authentic video clips with interactive transcriptions. That nondescript Korean interview or commercial becomes a powerful language lesson after we get our hands on it!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.