18 Korean Sayings and Meanings

18 Korean Sayings and Meanings

가는 날이 장날

this proverb is used when you end up with something unexpected while you were doing something.

세월은 사람을 기다려 주지 않는다.


time and tide wait for no man.

세월은 : time and tide

사람을 기다려 주지 않는다 : wait for no man

쇠뿔도 단김에 빼랬다.

Strike while the iron is hot.

가는 말이 고와야 오는 말이 곱다.


you need to say good things in order to hear good things; what goes around comes around

떡 줄 사람은 꿈도 안 꾸는데 김칫국부터 마신다.


This saying refers to a person acting as if a goal or job were already completed or dome without taking into consideration the absence of another person needed to do so.

Someone who has a rice cake doesn’t even think about giving it to you, but you already have drunk kimchi broth

떡: ricecake

김칫국: kimch broth

부뚜막의 소금도 집어 넣어야 짜다.

No pains, no gains.

식은 죽도 불어가며 먹어라.


Look before you leap / Think before you act (speak)

작은 고추가 더 맵다.

it is often used to warn someone not to underestimate someone simply based

on his or her size.

The best things come in small packages.

작은 고추: small pappers

더: more

맵다: Spicy

배보다 배꼽이 더 크다.

Your belly button(navel) is bigger than your stomach.

Korean people say this when someone forgets what’s really important and ends up making or doing more of something that is extra. For example, when you see someone taking a taxi and paying 100 dollars in order to go shopping to a cheaper mall and save 50 dollars, or when you see someone cooking just for three people and buying the amount of ingredients for 30 people , you can say “배보다 배꼽이 크네!” or “배보다 배꼽이 크군요.”

배: stomach

배꼽: belly button (navel)

크다: big

종로에서 뺨 맞고 한강에서 눈 흘긴다.


Go home and kick the dog.

You got slapped in Jong-ro 종로 and then you glared at someone else in the Han river 한강 which translates to “A coward vents his anger on a third person”.

아니 땐 굴뚝에 연기 날까.

Will smoke come out of an unlit chimney?

Where there is smoke, there is fire

누워서 침 뱉기.


Spitting on as you are lying on facing upward.

It’s an ill bird that fouls its own nest”and “What goes around, comes around”.  

낮말은 새가 듣고 밤말은 쥐가 듣는다. 

Birds hear the words spoken in the day, and the mice those at night.

The Korean equivalent of “The walls have ears”.

새: bird

쥐: mice

굴러온 돌이 박힌 돌 뺀다.

Literally: The rolling stone takes out the embedded stone. 

Metaphorically: A temporary person/thing takes out a permanent person/thing. 

굴러 온 돌 indicates ‘temporary’ a person/a thing. 

박힌 돌 indicates ‘permanent’ a person/a thing. 

빼낸다 indicates “pull out, take out, (even to steal)” 

therefore, its general meaning is… 

굴러 온 돌이 “a temporary thing/person” + 빼낸다 “pulls out / takes out” + 박힌 돌(을) “a permanent person/thing” 

It is often used when expressing ‘betrayal’ from someone. 

하룻강아지 범 무서운 줄 모른다.

A day old puppy is not afraid of a tiger.

하나를 보면 열을 안다.

 if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

하나: one

보다: see

열: ten

알다: know

고래 싸움에 새우 등 터진다.


Literal meaning is that ” A prawn died in a whale’s fight “.

What it is really trying to say : An innocent bystander gets hurt in a fight.

고래: whale

싸움: fight

새우: prawn

리 길도 한 걸음부터


A thousand mile journey must begin with a single step.



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