Sayings, Proverbs, 속담

뒷담화 my ears are burning

말장난 play-on-words

기쁨은 나누면 배가 되고
슬픔은 나누면 반이 된다.

If you're happy, then it's twice,
if you're sad, then it's half

다다익선 the more the merrier

세상 참 좁네요 it's a small world

짚신도 짝이 있다: there`s someone out there for everyone. Literally translated, this means "even the straw shoe has a mate."       
수박 겉 핥기 : This means "licking the surface of the watermelon." Since you cannot taste the tasty part (the inside of the watermelon), you aren`t truly experiencing the watermelon. This saying refers to skimming text -- you aren`t getting the juicy, tasty part -- you`re just skimming it.       
떡 본 김에 제사 지낸다: Since you`ve seen the ddeok (rice cake), you spend [your time at] the ancestral rites [where ddeok is usually present]. This is used when you`ve already done something and you figure that you might as well do something else related while you`re at it.  
사공이 많으면 배가 산으로 간다: When there are many boatmen, the boat goes to the mountain. In other words, the boat doesn`t go where it`s supposed to. Too many chefs spoils the pot.             
배보다 배꼽이 크다 : The bellybutton is larger than the belly. In other words, the cost of doing something administrative or unrelated to the main thing is more than the thing itself. For example, if you buy a $25 present for someone and spend $50 in shipping and handling, the bellybutton (the S&H) is bigger than the belly (the present itself).             
정들자 이별이라: This is a good one for a foreigner in Korea to know, unfortunately. It literally means "as soon as you enter [into] affection [with someone], it`s separation." In other words, the moment we consider someone a friend, we are separated from them -- they move or otherwise disappear from our lives.              
바늘 도둑이 소 도둑 된다: The needle thief becomes a cow thief. To put this saying in the words of Weird Al: "cause you start out stealing songs [MP3s], then you`re robbing liquor stores, and selling crack, and running over children with your car!" According to our teacher, stealing a cow used to be punishable by death in Korea, because the cow was considered so important to an individual`s/family`s livelihood. Therefore, in this age, this phrase is equivalent to saying "the needle thief becomes a brutal murderer."             
남의 떡이 커 보인다 : Others` ddeok (rice cake) looks big. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.             
소 잃고 외양간 고치기: This means "losing a cow, then fixing the stable." In other words, AFTER a crisis, you prepare against the crisis. It would`ve been more helpful if you`d prepared beforehand!              
개똥(쇠똥)도 약에 쓰려면 없다: This is my favorite Korean saying in the entire language. It literally means "When you use dog shit (horse shit) as medicine, there isn`t any." I`m not exaggerating, they`re really using the swearword "shit" here, not just poop ("대변"). The meaning of this phrase is this: things that are all over the place and that you take for granted suddenly disappear when you need them most. If you have a gazillion pens strewn all over your desk, and one day, you need to write down a phone number in a hurry, you`ll be unable to find a pen!              
개구리 올챙이 적 생각도 못 한다: The frog cannot think [of] the tadpole [as] an enemy. You can`t hate people who aren`t as old or experienced as you, because you were once just like them. I may find Level 1 people to be naive and kind of annoying, but I was one of them just over a year ago              
엎드려 절 받기 : This literally means "putting your head down and receiving [someone else`s] bow." In other words, someone goes out of their way to do something courteous like bowing to you, and you just ignore them.              
쥐구멍에도 볕들 날 있다: Even into the mouse hole, the light shines. No matter how dark and horrible your world may be, don`t worry, something good is ahead for you.             
열길 물 속은 알아도 한 길 사람 속은 모른다 : Even though you know [what`s] in 10 gil (Korean measurement) of water, you do not know [what`s] in 1 gil of a person. People are unpredictable?              
웃는 낯에 침 뱉으랴: Spit on the face of a smiling person. This should be perfectly obvious. Basically, someone treats you well, and you, well, spit on them.              
매도 먼저 맞는 게 낫다 : It is superior to receive even the whip first. Basically, if there`s something really crappy that you`re going to have to endure anyway, you might as well get it over with. For example, we had speaking exams today. Originally, I was slated to be #5, but I decided to trade with #1 so I could go first -- that way I could just get it over with, in the spirit of this saying.              
어물전 망신은 꼴뚜기가 시킨다 : This one is REALLY difficult to translate literally, and I had a load of trouble with it. After a LONG discussion with my language partner, I finally came up with the following: "As for the shame of the fish store, the small kind of octopus makes it have it." Basically, a huge organization can be made to look bad by one young individual.             
제 눈에 안경: Glasses on my eyes. Such-and-such may not look so great to you, but through my glasses, such-and-such looks great.              
과부 사정 홀아비가 안다: The widower knows the widow`s circumstances.              
똥 묻은 개가 겨 묻은 개 나무란다: The dog that buried the shit rebukes the dog that buried the chaff. A hypocrite tells another person not to do something that`s less serious than what they`ve been doing.              
우물을 파도 한 우물을 파라: Dig one well even though you dug a well. In other words, you keep on doing something over again, and it impedes your progress. For example, you work your way up to store manager at McDonald`s, then decide to quit and start from the bottom at Burger King, making $6.25 an hour. That`s an example of this saying.              
말 한마디로 천냥 빚을 갚는다: You repay a 1,000 nyang debt with one word.              
친구 따라 강남 간다: Follow your friend and go to Gangnam. You do something because your friend does it, not because it`s logical. Kind of the same way all those idiots moved into super-expensive Gangnam!              
십 년이면 강산도 변한다: When it`s ten years, even the rivers and mountains change. This references a place becoming unrecognizable over the course of years -- this is especially true of Seoul.              
쇠뿔도 단 김에 빼라: while the cow is tied up to the tree, take advantage of the opportunity to cut off its horns. Back in the day they used to do really neat stuff with cow`s horns like make necklaces and hair pins and such.               

가운데 토막도 속이 타겠지.: there is one bad apple among many good ones              
하늘에서 별 따기: like trying to get a star from the sky == impossible.             
가는 말이 고와야 오는 말이 곱다: if you speak beautiful words, then people will speak beautifully to you. You get what you sow              
가랑비에 옷 젖는 줄 모른다: The little things add up, as does the rain in a drizzle, so that the little things amount to a big thing.              
가려운 곳을 긁어 주다: it scratches just where it itches              
가재는 개 편이라: A crayfish (가재) sides with the crab (게) because they look alike            

개미 구멍으로 둑도 무너진다: A dike(둑) collapses because of an ant hole (개미 구멍). A small thing can have much larger repercussions             
개천에서 용 난다: A dragon (용) rises up from the stream (개천). This is used when a man of great talent or ability comes from a poor household.              
거미 새끼같이 흩어진다: They scatter (흩어진다) like baby spiders (거미 새끼). They scatter like flies.              
거지도 부지런하면 더운 밥 얻어 먹는다: Even if a begger works hard, he can get warm rice. The early bird catches the worm.              
거짓말도 방편: Even a lie is 방편 (an expedient, a means, an instrument). It`s okay to lie, if the outcome is good. The ends justifies the means.              
걱정도 팔자다: Even worrying (걱정) is fate (팔자). This expression makes fun of a worrywart (sb who worries all the time)              
고생 끝에 낙이 온다: After much tribulations (고생) comes much pleasure (낙). Hard work brings success.              
고양이에게 생선을 맡기다: Entrust (맡기다) a cat with a fish. How could you trust a cat to watch a fish and not eat it? A fox watching the henhouse.              
곡식은 익을수록 머리를 숙인다: As cereal (곡식) becomes more ripe, the head dips down/sags (숙이다). The older you are, the more humble you are.              
곧은 나무 먼저 찍힌다: A straight(곧은) tree is the first to get a mark put on it (찍히다). Used when a bright person who is good for society passes away.              
공자 앞에서 문자 쓴다: Writing letters (문자) in front of Confucious (공자). Sb who is trying to teach the best how to do their job.              
구르는 돌에는 이끼가 끼지 않는다: There is no moss (이끼) on a rolling (구르다) stone.              
궁하면 통한다: If you are in a desperate spot (궁하다), a path will open up (통하다). When you are desperate, then you will see a way.              
그 아비에 그 아들: Like father (아비) like son (아들).              
그림의 떡: Like a picture of (떡). Pie in the sky. An image of something you cannot have.              
기지도 못하면서 뛰려고 한다: Before you can crawl (기다) you try to run (뛰다). Trying to run before you can even walk.               
길고 짧은 것은 대어 보아야 안다: You have to actually measure (대다) it to find out if it is long (길다) or short ( 짧다 ). You will never know until you try.              
김치국부터 마시지 말라: Don`t start out with the KimChiSoup (김치국). The KimChiSoup is spicy, so if you start with that .... you have to wait for the rice to come first. Don`t put the cart before the horse.               
나무만 보고 숲을 보지 않는다: You only (만) see the trees (나무) and not the forest (숲).              
남의 떡이 커보인다: Another person (남)`s Dok (떡) looks big (크게 보이다). The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.              
낫 놓고 기억자도 모른다: You can lie a 낫(sickle) on the ground and not realize that it makes the shape of ㄱ the first letter of the alphabet. You don`t know your head from your asshole. He couldn`t find his own ass with both hands.              
놓친 고기가 커 보인다: The fish (고기) that got away (노치다) looks bigger (커 보인다).               
눈 감으면 코 베어먹을 세상: If you close (감다) your eyes (눈) people will cut off (베다) your nose (먹다) just adds derogation. It`s a dog-eat-dog world.              
눈에는 눈, 이에는 이: An eye for an eye, an ear for an ear. The opposite of turn the other cheek.              
눈엣가시: 눈에는 가시. A thorn (가시) in the eye. A pain in the ass.               
달도 차면 기운다: Even the moon (달) is full (차다) it wanes (기울다, shrink). Every flow must have its ebb.              
도토리 키 재기: Measuring (재다) the height of an acorn (도토리). Trying to compare two things which can`t be compared.               
독 안에 든 쥐: A rat (쥐) in poison (독). In a very bad situation, which you cannot escape from.               
돌다리도 두드려 보고 건너라: you only cross the stone bridge after you check if it`s sturdy by knocking on it, as you are walking across it. Now, you can do that on a flimsy wooden bridge, but it`s unnecessary for a stone bridge. Used to talk about a scaredy-cat.            

두 손뼉이 맞아야 소리가 난다: It takes two palms (손뼉)to make a clapping sound.              
등잔 밑이 어둡다: It is dark under a lamp. People don`t know what is right under their nose. Like, people pay more attention to things that happen far away from their house then they do right on their own doorstep.              
뚝배기보다 장맛이 좋다: The taste of 장 (sauce) is better than the taste of the bowl (뚝배기). Don`t judge a book by its cover.              
뜻이 있는 곳에 길이 있다: Where there`s a will, there`s a way.              
말보다 증거: Evidence (proof)(증거) is better than words (말).              
말하기는 쉬워도 행동하기는 어렵다: One word is worth a thousand dollars. If you are nice to the person you borrowed money from, maybe they`ll forget about the debt.              
망건 쓰자 파장된다: Easier said than done. (파장 close of the marketplace?)              
매끝에 정든다: It`s just at the end (맨끝에) that you become attached (정이 들다). Everything good happens at the end.              
먼 친척보다 가까운 이웃이 낫다: A close neighbor is better than a far-off relative. This means that the people who are around you, it is better to be closer to them than it is to have close relatives who are not near you all the time.              
모로 가도 서울만 가면 된다: It doesn`t matter which road you take to Seoul.               
모르면 약이요 아는 게 병: Ignorance is bliss (because if you know just a little then you will start to worry).               
무소식이 희소식이다: No news is good news.              
물 밖에 난 고기: A fish out of water.              
물에 빠지면 지푸라기라도 잡는다: If you are drowning in water, you will even grasp at a straws.              
바늘도둑이 소도둑이 된다: A needle thief will later become a cow thief. If you smoke marijuana then you will smoke crack later on and become a real druggie.              
발 없는 말이 천리 길 간다: Rumors spread fast. 말 means both words and a horse, and this expression says that even though 말 has no feet, it will travel a thousand 리 (a measure of distance, similar to the mile).              
백지장도 맞들면 낫다: Even if it is just a sheet of paper (백지장) it is better if it is lifted by many people.              
빈 수레가 요란하다: An empty cart rattles loudly. He who knows the least talks the most.              
빛 좋은 개살구: An apricot (개살구) which has a nice color. All that glitters is not gold.               
사공이 많으면 배가 산으로 간다: If there are a lot of ferryman (사공), then the boat will go to the mountain. If everybody is a back seat driver, the car will go nowhere (or, in the wrong direction).               
서당개 삼 년에 풍월 읊는다: A dog who has been to 서당 (a famous school teaching Chinese characters) then the dog will be able to recite (읊다) Chinese scrolls.              
선무당이 사람 잡는다: An inexperienced (선) shaman (무당) can do more harm than good, by giving misdirection.              
세 살 적 버릇이 여든까지 간다: The habits from when you were 3 last until you are 80. This means that old habits die hard.               
소 잃고 외양간 고친다: Close the barn door after the cows have already all gone out.              
시작이 반이다: The first step (the start, 시작) is the half of it.               
식은 죽 먹기: Eating soup (죽) when it is cold (식다). Piece of cake.               
실패는 성공의 어머니: Failure is the mother of success.              
아는 길도 물어 가라: Even if it`s a road that you know, ask first. You have to do your best even on something you think will be very easy.              
아니 땐 굴뚝에 연기 날까?: Will smoke (연기) come out of (나다 + ㄹ까) a chimney (굴뚝) if there`s no fire? WHere there is smoke, there IS fire.              
엎친데 덮친다: When it rains, it pours.               
옷이 날개다: Clothes (옷) become wings (날개). Clothes make the man.              
우는 아이 젖 준다: Give milk to a crying baby. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.               
울며 겨자 먹기: Cry while eating mustard seed. Grin and bear it.               
이 없으면 잇몸으로 살지: If you have no teeth (이) then use your gums (잇몸). Make do with what you have.              
일이 많으면 근심도 많다: When there is a lot of work (일) there is also a lot of worries (근심).              
일찍 일어나면 복이 있다: Early bird gets the worm.              
작은 고추가 맵다: The small gochu-pepper is the hottest one. Don`t judge somebody by their size.              
잠을 자야 꿈을 꾸지: You can`t dream if you don`t sleep. You only reap what you sow.              
줍는 사람이 임자다: It all depends on how you look at it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.              
첫술에 배부르랴?: Can one be satisfied with the first spoonful? You can`t eat just one.

털어서 먼지 안 나는 사람 없다: Nobody is perfect. Everybody has faults. Dust (먼지) will come off of anybody if you brush them (털다).              
티끌모아 태산: if you collect little pieces of dust (티끌) eventually you will have made a mountain.              
피는 물보다 진하다: Blood is thicker than water.              
하늘이 무너져도 솟아날 구멍이 있다: Even if the sky is falling, there will be a hole in it. Every cloud has a silver lining.              

헌 짚신도 짝이 있다: Every sock has a pair, no matter how ugly it is. There`s somebody for everybody.              
호랑이 굴에 가야 호랑이를 잡는다: You can only catch the tiger by going into the tiger`s cage.              
호랑이 담배 피던 시절: When a tiger used to smoke. Refers to what was long, long, long, long ago.               
호랑이도 제말하면 온다: Speak of the devil. If you talk about the tiger, lo-and-behold the tiger shows up.              
호랑이에게 물려가도 정신만 차리면 산다: Even if you are cornered by a tiger, if you keep your cool you can survive. Don`t give up!              
호미로 막을 것을 가래로 막는다: Instead of using a hoe(호미) to do the weeding, use a shovel (가래) and make a pre-emptive strike. If you miss the opportunity, you may have a bigger problem later.              
벼룩의 간을 먹는다: To take away something valuable from somebody already in a desperate situation, or, trying to take a very small profit in a dishonorable way            

무자식이 상팔자다 : 無子息이 上八字 . no children is good fortune.              
긁어 부스럼 만들다: if you don't talk about it, it's not a problem but if you blab on about it then it becomes a huge problem. Shut up and keep quiet.              
역시 사람은 끝까지 가봐야 안다는 것 : you only truly know somebody when you've stuck it out with them for a long time              
짚신도 짝이 있다: 짚 신도 짝이 있다