Let’s Talk About: Honorifics and Titles


Okay, so originally I was going to talk about numbers: That turned out to be a LOT more confusing than I had realized. There is a lot to go into and I have no idea when to use which number system yet (there are two but it is boggling my mind).

I was also going to work on the next TTMIK Podcast information, but decided to touch another subject that I have been super curious about (and was mentioned previously). I know a lot of us have heard of certain titles and honorifics.

And me being the nerd I am, couldn’t wait for that lesson. So let’s get started for my little nerd heart!


First let us start with some phrases we constantly hear between members, or in K-Dramas: 오빠, 언니, 형, 누나. Then we will touch “titles” and endings that people add to names (아/ 야/님/씨, etc).

Let’s break them down, shall we?

Keep in mind, these ‘family’ titles we are about to share aren’t only used to talk to “family members”. It also is used as a ‘term of endearment’ between people as well. Someone you are close to or even in a relationship with.

I have seen guys go crazy when BlackPink says “오빠” in their song.

Common Romanization: Oppa
Said by: Females
To: An older male.
Means: Brother

Looking at it, you may be surprised at seeing ㅃ in there. We associate the sound with ‘b’ but remember, that is the double version which means it is a hard ‘b’ which can easily sound like a ‘p’ sound. Saying it both ways with a hard sound sounds similar so I tend to not be as picky about it.  Try it a few times, you’ll see what I mean.


Common Romanization: Unnie/Eonnie
Said by: Females
To: An older female
Means: Sister

When I was originally trying to figure out how to write this, I was so lost, because I could not figure the “u”. Take a look at the word: It actually has more of an ‘o’ from “odd” rather than a u. But put it all together: eon-nee! Said it faster. Sounds really close/similar to Unnie! Right? I have changed how I say it slightly, but it still has the same effect. Even watching the mouth on the GIF helps to confirm a little bit.


Common Romanization: Hyung
Said by: Males
To: An older male
Means: Brother

This one seems to be easier for me to figure out. As soon as I see it, I know exactly which one it was without having to sound it out much. Hyong.


Common Romanization: Noona/Neuna
Said by: Males
To: An older female
Means: Sister

I want someone to call me this, because that would be cute. But how I pronounce it sounds a little different now now that I saw the spelling for it. Even though I changed it a little bit, it still sounds very similar and to those who didn’t know, they wouldn’t hear much of a change. Now it sounds more like N-ew-nah. (But combine the first two ‘sections’ into one sound/syllable.)

Seems like a little brother move.

Common Romanization: Dongsaeng
Said by: Anyone
ABOUT: An younger person
Means: Younger Sibling

Now, I want you to notice something: I capitalized ABOUT for a reason. You do not talk to someone and call someone them 동생. Not like how you would call someone 누나 while you are talking TO them. This word is only to be used when talking ABOUT someone. “Oh, JK is my 동생 – though he doesn’t tend to give me any sort of respect.”
(Just an example, okay? Don’t get mad at me please. xD)
Now would I say “동생” when calling over JK? No. The source I have for this information (This awesome explanation) says that is not done. Incorrect.

Now, in regards to how I pronounce/would write this out, this one seems to go right with what I am used to hearing and how I would Romanize it.

Got them straight now? Good!


Let us go to some other titles and adding fun things to the end of someone’s name!


Now, I could go over stuff like manager, teacher, and doctor (Covered very well here at 90DayKorean), but the ones I know most people listen/notice are these two I am about to mention right now:

When someone says “Sunbae,” a lot of people think of him!

Common Romanization: Sunbae/Seonbae
Said by: Anyone
To: Someone more “senior” than them in school/company
Means: “Elder/Senior”

I think 90DayKorean sums it up perfectly:

“used to refer to a person at school who is older than you or in a more senior year than you” except I have heard it in work situations as well (but not as often).

The one always calling for her “Sunbae”

Common Romanization: Hubae/Hoobae
Said by: Anyone
To: Someone more “junior” than them in school/company
Means: “Junior”

Opposite of 선배. Again, because of ㅜ I have adjusted my pronunciation but it does not sound extremely different.

Now, I know we have been wanting to add cute little suffixes to our friend’s names like they do in the KDramas!

“Sunbae-nim!”/ “선배님!”

But I don’t want to force it or make this too long (since I am pretty sure some people are just quickly reading for something for the day or will want to focus on what we have mentioned above really quick) so I will stop here for today BUT I will definitely have an entry to talk about those Suffixes and how to use them!

Plus, I bet some of y’all might be tired.


I know some of you already knew all of this, but this seemed like a good place to start. Or can be used as a refresher or even just to double check. I have known some who mix these words up and sometimes it is nice to double check.

Plus gave me great reasons to use some of these GIFs.

That is all I have for now! Next time on “Let’s Talk About,” we will be addressing suffixes!

안녕히 가세요!

Next time on TTLK: Let’s Talk About: Korean Suffixes (Name Endings “attachments”)


2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About: Honorifics and Titles

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