On too many occasions I’ve had the great feeling of finally getting a good grasp of a Korean word, thinking to myself “Yes, this I understand! I’m sure I’ll be able to use this word correctly and understand it in both written and spoken Korean! Weee!” only to discover an hour later that a completely different word has the exact same meaning. Arghhh…

For instance, I recently learned from a TTMIK news article that “prevention” is called 예방… – that is in cases where it is not called 방지. Granted, both words have 방 hinting at some degree of kinship (although this need not at all be the case for words with a common syllable, so beware), but other than that I was confused. Well, not confused exactly as I am very aware of the concept of synonyms. In fact I always loved synonyms in my native language and other languages that I master significantly better than Korean. I always thought that wise use of synonyms lends nuance, power, and sophistication to a language. But I am also of the opinion that when struggling to acquire a new language and cramming vocabulary, synonyms are a pain. To ease my frustration, I treated myself to a book about Korean synonyms from TwoChois. Nothing lightens my mood like new books (well, clothes and makeup too, but that hardly seemed justifiable in this case).

Bonus info: In Korean, synonyms are called 유의어, and it wouldn’t be right if Korean didn’t have a synonym for the word “synonym”, now would it? So of course there is a synonym for 유의어: 동의어. There! Sorry if this blog post turned out to be a rather gloomy Tuesday rant from a frustrated Korean learner. ^^


  1. Aaaw, 힘내요 ^^
    I remember a few years ago a law prof passed on some advice that she got from her own prof at a moot court competition: “This is law, not a poetry competition!”. Apparently some people had been just a tad too creative with the synonyms in their home assignments 😀


    • Whoa, I wrote this a long time ago. But what I meant in this post was the use of different Korean words that have the exact same meaning. Three years down the road I’m okay, but as a beginner learner this was so frustrating.

      Liked by 1 person

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