Rising hallyu: 26 new Korean words added to Oxford English Dictionary

Oxford English Dictionary adds Korean words

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the accepted principal dictionary of the English language, recently included dozens of Korean words in its September update. 

At the “crest of the Korean wave”: Citing South Korea’s culture, which “continues to rise in international popularity,” the dictionary announced on Tuesday that it added 26 words of Korean origin to its latest edition. 

  • The new update mostly featured Korean food terminologies such as banchan (a small side dish of vegetables), bulgogi (thin marinated slices of beef or pork that are either grilled or stir-fried), dongchimi (kimchi made with radish) and galbi (a dish of beef short ribs), among others. 
  • The updated entries also included Korean terms often heard during aone’s K-drama binge, such as aegyo (cute, charming, adorable), oppa (an honorific used by women to any close man who’s older than her, like a brother or a friend), noona (an honorific used by men to any close woman who’s older than him, like a sister or a friend) and unni (an honorific used by women to any woman who is older than her, like a sister or a friend). 
  • The OED observed that both oppa and unni have taken a different connotation in the K-pop and K-drama fandom outside Korea. It noted that fans use unni for all genders when addressing “a Korean actress or singer they admire,” while in Southeast Asia, oppa can be used to refer to “an attractive South Korean man.”
  • The dictionary also added words that are “new formations of existing English words,” including fighting (expressing encouragement, incitement or support), PC bang (an internet café usually used for gaming) and skinship (touching or close physical contact to express affection or strengthen an emotional bond).
  • The update also revised 11 previously added Korean entries, improving definitions for words already embedded in the international lexicon, such as kimchi, K-pop and taekwondo, among others.

The work behind the update: According to the OED, the Korean update is a result of its editors’ work that “benefited from the insight of the dictionary’s friends and research partners in South Korea and the U.K.”

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  • Lexicographers from the National Institute of Korean Language (NIKL) originally gave OED editors a copy of the latest edition of its standard Korean dictionary during a visit to the OED’s offices at Oxford University Press in Oxford, England.
  • In return, OED attended an event held in the NIKL offices in Seoul years later and presented its ongoing research on English words of Korean origin to an audience of South Korean dictionary editors. It also gave a similar presentation at Korea University (KU) and visited the Centre of Lexicography of KU’s Research Institute of Korean Studies. 
  • The National Library of Korea also sponsored a workshop in Oxford, wherein Korean students helped identify words of Korean origin that could be included in the OED.  
  • South Korean universities, schools and other educational institutions have recently gained full access to the OED Online due to the initiatives of South Korean governmental organization KERIS, which promotes and supports education. 

In addition to its impact on the global lexicon, the South Korean entertainment industry’s influence can also be seen through South Korea’s own economic development and advances in innovation.

Featured Image via BIGBANG (left), SMTown (right)

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