12 Fun & Easy Korean Expressions & Sounds

Professor Oh November 14, 2013 4

Want to sound like a native Korean? Or just plain desire to understand more of your favorite Korean dramas? Watch KWOW #110 to learn some popular Korean expressions and sounds (below).

There are tons, tons, tons of Korean expressions and sounds. Some are classics while others are passing trends. Here’s the list of the ones featured in the episode:

  1. Aish/아이씨: darnit, ah crap, oh man
  2. Nyam nyam nyam/냠냠냠: munching sounds, the Korean way of saying America’s “nom nom nom”
  3. Ae/에이: roughly translates to “Aw~ Come on,” can sound highly aegyo depending on how you say it, use when someone rejects your request
  4. Uh/어: heard often when Koreans are on the phone, the Korean way of saying “yeah” and “uhuh.”
  5. The airy huh: very common sound in Korean dramas, used when expressing disbelief with an “omg, what did you just say to me?” face
  6. Ooh-ah/우아: a Korean way of saying “wow”
  7. Ayah!/아야!: the Korean “ouch,” the shorter way to say it is “Ah! 아!” Use this when you have sharp and sudden pain, i.e. papercut. Make a longer “Ah/아” if you’re sick in bed, have a stomachache or are experiencing brain freeze.
  8. Ah-HH-hh/아~ (see KWOW #110 at 3:08): a long AH with a raised middle then back down is equivalent to “oh-HH-hh.” Like when someone says in America, “OhhHHhhhh, I see.”
  9. The suck-in-the-air-through-your-teeth sound effect (watch KWOW #110 at 3:33 for demo): use when in pain or when someone is about to do something after you told them not to, i.e. your little brother reaching for the cookie jar, your cat jumping on the dinner table.
  10. Ya/야: means “hey” in most situations. There are multiple ways of using YA. Yell it out loud when frustrated (like when you’re fighting and you’re at a loss for words) and if someone wronged you (i.e. a pickpocket snatched your purse).
  11. Ya, ya, ya/야, 야, 야: meaning “hey, hey, hey,” this expression is often seen in Korean dramas with policemen and gangsters. Remember to include hand and arm motions as shown in the video (4:45)!
  12. The long Ya/야 with a genuine smile: sounds more like “wow” than “hey,” use when impressed with something or someone, i.e. your friend can drink a ridiculous amount of soju and is still alive, you saw the Grand Canyon for the first time and are blown away by its awesome-ness.


  1. Felecia Applewhite December 24, 2013 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for the list! Could you explain the phrase”I-go”(eye-go)?

    • Lala January 23, 2014 at 4:40 pm - Reply

      >>copied from Yahoo!
      It doesn’t have an exact translation..

      It’s sort of like:

      (lol, they all start with “G”)

      “Aigoo.. we have to clean this all up?”
      so it’s translation would be like “Gosh.. we have to clean this all up?”

      But you can use it in a lot of context. :] It’s not just negative.
      Like, if your friend picked a really ugly dress and showed it to you.
      You could like and be like “Aigoo.”
      It’s sort of like “Oh god..” but in a funny manner. :]
      Do you get what I’m saying?

      It’s sort of slang though.
      Okay, sorry, I’m rambling.

      Hope I helped! :D

  2. Cathy^^ December 15, 2013 at 9:50 pm - Reply

    Hi merry christmas !! I’m from Hong Kong, I like ur video very much !! And I want to ask a question, is Aishhh a foul language in Korea ?
    Hope to see u in Hong Kong ;;)

  3. LadyG November 15, 2013 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    I love all these expressions! Especially”Aishhh!” and when they suck their teeth with the hiss. And the men will add that deep ‘hoy hoy” when they are irritated. I hear that more often in the Sageuk Dramas.

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