Korean Proverbs

Korean Proverbs

There certain proverbs which been passed down from one generation to the next in Korean, and locals live by them. Whether from you are from the West or East, Korean wisdom is universal.

Literal translation: "At the end of hardship comes happiness." This proverb is employed during hard times with the intention of encouraging someone to keep working hard and keep striving.

Literal translation: "A dragon rises up from a small stream." Although myth seems to suggest that dragons rise up from the depths of the sea, this analogy is used to the describe the formation of a great woman or man from a humble start.

Literal translation: "When you want to find even dog poop to use as medicine, there isn't any." This proverb is pretty straightforward and what it means is that what you need is never there when you want it.

Literal translation: "Write hanja in front of Confucius." This proverb refers to a person who is so arrogant that he dares to attempt to teach an expert how to do something. You wouldn't teach Confucius how to write Chinese characters.

Literal translation: "Eating rice cakes while lying down." This proverb is used to refer to something that is very easy. The equivalent in English would be "piece of cake."

Literal translation: "It's dark under the lamp." This proverb conveys that in occasions we disregard an answer because it's too obvious, but just because it's right under our noses, it's no less legitimate.

Literal translation: "Glasses in my eyes." Meaning: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Literal translation: "If you eat a pheasant, you also eat the egg." Meaning: "Kill 2 birds with 1 stone."

Literal translation: "Rome wasn't made in one morning." You can probably guess that one. Well if you can't, it obviously is "Rome wasn't built in a day."

Literal translation: "Good looking ddeok (rice cake) tastes good." Meaning: "What looks good tastes good."

Literal translation: "A widower knows a widow's sorrow." Meaning: Misery loves company.

Literal translation: "Birds hear the words spoken in the day, and mice hear the words spoken at night." Meaning: the walls have ears.

Literal translation: "If it becomes a distant from your eyes, it also becomes distant from your mind (heart)." Meaning: Out of sight, out of mind. Just like in English, this proverb is used to convey the idea that when either someone or something cannot be seen, it is easy to forget or leave behind.

Literal translation: "You can lead a horse and go to a stream but you can't make it drink water through its own will." Meaning: "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. This proverb is used, for instance, when two mothers can't convince their children to do their duty. It means that you can enable someone to do something, but you can't force them to do it.

Literal translation: "If you lift together, it's better - even if it's a sheet of paper." Meaning: Two heads are better than one. Just like in English, this proverb is used to make the point that no matter how easy a task may be, teamwork is almost always better than going it alone.

Literal translation: "If you are hard up for something, it will open up." Meaning: There is always a way out. This is like necessity driving genius. In Korean, it refers to the motivations someone might have to make something work. If the motivations are good enough, you'll find a way.

Literal translation: "In the place there is a way, there a way" Meaning: Where there's a will, there's a way. If you are motivated enough to make something work, you'll make it work, no matter how difficult this might be.

Literal translation: "It is spilt water." Meaning: There is no use crying over spilt milk. If the water is already spilt, there is no point or no use in making fuss, as there's nothing you can do about it and making a big deal is not going to solve it.

Literal translation: "It is like a blind man touching an elephant" Meaning: "It is like a blind man describing an elephant." A blind mind may touch and feel an elephant, but that's not enough for the blind man to describe how large the elephant is. This is to refer to someone who acts like an expert despite not knowing much about the subject.