The 생 in 인생 meaning comes from the Hanja which meaning is tied to life and living. You’ll find 생 in a lot of words; from a social life, birth, and even over to students!


Sino Korean Vocab; The 생 in 인생 Meaning

Again, I want to say don’t be scared off by Hanja and think you have to start memorizing Chinese characters along with Korean! I like making these lists so we can gain more insight and intuition in Korean, just knowing that 생 can be tied to life and living can help you guess what new words may mean. Just like in English when you hear “anti-something” you know that it is against or opposing.

Plus I find it fun sometimes to find the original meaning/origin of a word like 외국인 directly meaning “external country person” in the original Hanja. Anyway, let’s get into the Vocab!


: life
인생: human life
생명: life, soul
일상생활: everyday (daily) life
일생: one’s lifetime
평생: lifetime
사생활: private life
사회생활: social life
생계: livelihood
생활: someone’s lifestyle/daily life
생활비: cost of living
생활환경: living environment
고생: a hard life/hardships

고생하다: to suffer/have hardships
발생하다: to occur/happen

미생물: microbe
발생: occurrence
생장: growth
생존: being/existence
동생: younger sibling

생산: production
생산자: manufacturer/producer
생존: survival
생존자: survivor

재생: rebirth/regeneration/reincarnation (lit. again/re- life)
출생: baby birth
탄생: birth (more general; can be used for animals, birth of new technology, etc.)
년생: year of birth
생일: birthday


Student Vocab with 생 Hanja

While 인생 meaning can seem intuitive once you learn that 생 is tied to life you might be confused as to why 생 and its Hanja is found in words for students, studying, and teachers. 생 means life but also living so when I think about it I can see the connection, 학 is tied to learning so a student’s life is focused on learning, right?


생물: creature (lit. life creature)
생물학: biology (lit. life creature learning)
생화학: biochemistry (lit. life change learning)

선생: teacher
학생: student
신입생: a new student/freshman
유학생: exchange student/student studying abroad

대학생: university student
중학생: middle school student
초등학생: an elementary school student
모범생: model student
장학생: student on a scholarship
학생증: student identification
졸업생: a graduate




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