가족 Korean Family Tree Terms
아버지: Father (more formal than 아빠)
아버님: Father (more formal than 아버지)
어머니: Mother (more formal than 엄마)
어머님: Mother (more formal than 어머니)
형제 – brothers
– Also – siblings in general, typically used in a question (eg. Do you have any siblings?)
자매 – sisters
남매 – specifically brother(s)+sister(s)
오빠: Older brother (for females)
형: Older brother (for males)
형님: Older brother (for males – more formal)
남동생: Younger brother (any gender)
언니: Older sister (for females)
누나: Older sister (for males)
여동생: Younger sister (any gender)
동생: Younger sibling (any gender for speaker and sibling)
할머님: Grandmother (more formal)
할아버님: Grandfather (more formal)
이모: aunt (mother’s sister)
고모: aunt (father’s sister)
삼촌: uncle (father’s brother)
조카: Gender neutral both niece/nephew
여자 조카: niece
남자 조카: nephew
How Koreans use these terms
Now Koreans don’t solely use these terms for people related to them, they are used freely! People call the woman running the restaurant 이모, boys call their older friends 형, etc. This terms are used to show how close and familiar you are with others (and for the ‘aunt’ at your favourite K-BBQ to warm up to her and maybe get extra side dishes haha).
Using Korean honorifics while dating
Also, many people use their terms for someone they are dating too. If you’re interested in K-pop, kdramas and more you have definitely run across this. This just applies to the older one in the relationship though, so a woman dating an older man will call him 오빠 but he wouldn’t seriously call her 동생. Likewise for a couple where the woman is older, the man can call her 누나 but she wouldn’t call him 동생 either. LGBTQIA+ couples can use 형 between men and 언니 between women just the same. Though these terms are used fluently within the LGBT+, with some men joking that the usage of determines how they feel about another man:
언니: joking with gay man that he has no interest in
오빠: joking with gay man that he does have interest in
형: seriously wants to go home with him right now
But then how do you distinguish people?
If your brother is 오빠, and your older friend is 오빠 and your boyfriend is 오빠 how can you distinguish which is which to people and avoid confusion?
Don’t worry you can still define your relationship with people and avoid a lot of confusion. There’s:
그냥 오빠 just a friend, just an older guy i know
these all work for other honorifics too so 그냥 누나, 친누나, 그냥 언니, 친언니, 그냥 형, 친할아버지, etc.
Need help with reading the list? Check out my hangul 101 post and use these Korean family tree terms to build up your reading skills.