Hanja

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Hanja (한자, 漢字) is the Korean name for Chinese characters. More specifically, it refers to those Chinese characters borrowed from Chinese and incorporated into the Korean language with Korean pronunciation. Hanja-mal (한자말) or hanja-eo (한자어, ) refers to words which can be written with hanja, and hanmun (한문, ) refers to Classical Chinese writing, although "hanja" is sometimes used loosely to encompass these other concepts. Han here () means Chinese. Because hanja never underwent systematic reform, they are almost entirely identical to traditional Chinese and kyūjitai characters. Only a small number of hanja characters are modified or unique to Korean. By contrast, many of the Chinese characters currently in use in Japan (kanji) and Mainland China have been simplified, and contain fewer strokes than the corresponding hanja characters. Unlike Japanese, Korean does not give Chinese characters native readings: they are used only for words directly borrowed from Chinese. Native Korean words are always rendered solely in hangeul.

Hanja Lessons

  • Beginners 한자
  • Intermediate 한자
  • Advanced 한자

Hanja for 한자 시험

These are the hanja grouped by levels of the 한자능력검정시험. Although the test is entirely in Korean, the English definitions are in parentheses as an aid. The definitions and "long sound" associations are complete for levels 8 ~ 3I. Those hanja which only occasionally have a long sound have not been marked as such. Completing the radicals is on the to-do list.

Hanja characters

Misc

Common Hanja used in names

Surnames Hangeul/한글 Hanja/한자 Rough Meaning(s)
Kang 姜/ 剛/ 康/ 強/ 彊/ 江 ginger/ hard, tough, rigid, strong / peaceful, quiet; happy, healthy / strong, powerful, energetic / stubborn, uncompromising / Large river, yangtze
Kim, Gim Gold
Park, Bak, Pak Simple, Unadorned
Lee, I Plum; Judge
Yoo Kill/Destroy
Yoon Govern
Jung, Jeong 鄭/丁 Henan State / male adult; robust, vigorous; 4th heavenly stem
Given Names Hangeul/한글 Hanja/한자 Rough Meaning(s) Gender Association
Eun Kindness, Mercy, charity female?
Kyeong, Kyung Scenery, view, conditions  ?
Keun root, basis, foundation Male?
Geum Gold Unisex
Gwang Light Unisex
Rim/Lim Beautiful Jade, gem Female?
Myung Bright, Wisdom, Ming Dynasty Unisex
Mi Beautiful Female
Hyung 炯/亨 bright, brilliant, clear/Smooth, progressing, no trouble
Hye favor, confer kindness, benefit female?
Hwa 花/火 Flower/Flame Female/Male?
Suk, Seok 碩/ 錫 great, eminent, big / boundless, widespread Male
Su name of a river in Shandong Unisex
Yoon Bright Unisex
Yong (Ryeong) 용, 령 龍/竜 Dragon Male
Jae Be at, in, on; consist in, rest Unisex?

FAQ

What is the point in learning Hanja?

1. A great deal of Korean words are made up of hanja. Learning the hanja will allow you to memorize the words more quickly, as knowing the roots will assist you in this process. In English, it can be equated to knowing Latin and Greek root words. Knowing the root of a word can help you understand its meaning and remember it later.

2. This will also serve you well in other countries. If your visual memory is strong, the hanja you learn in Korea can be found (with some differences) in Japan, China and Taiwan. Thus even a limited grasp of hanja is useful when traveling in Asia. For example, numbers for dates, times, and prices.

3. There are also a lot of hanja the average person is expected to know, for example man (男) and woman (女), so a door might be labeled with the hanja characters on a rest room door. This would be a good time to know hanja so you don't walk into the wrong bathroom! For real life images of hanja in use, see: Category:Hanja images

4. It will really help your pronunciation. Ask yourself, can you discern between the following: 권 (5 hanja for level 3) and 관 (9 hanja for level 3) e.g. ... do you say 관력 as a mistake for 권력 (power)? 정 and 청 ? e.g. do you say 정소 or 청소 for 'to clean'? 장 and 창 ? e.g. do you say 청와대 or 정와대 for 'the Korean presidential mansion, the so-called 'blue house ?

Hanja study will help supplement your weak areas. When pronuncing words, you may be slurring them, but you will never pass a hanja test without knowing which is which?

5. Finally, it will increase your vocabulary because even though you may be aware that 손바닥 장 (掌) means 'palm' in English, do you know what palm is in Korean? And, do you know the differnce between 이르다 and 이루다 ? Here, studying hanja will help teach you the meaning of Korean vocabulary you otherwise may not have studied so in depth.

Does every Hanja character have only one sound representation?

No, some Hanja characters have more than one representation.

In some cases the pronunciation depends on where it appears in a word. For example the character (year) is pronounced as 연 if it appears at the beginning of the word, and 년 if it appears elsewhere. This is the result of a historic sound change where /l/ and in certain cases /n/ dropped at the beginning of words (hence the name Lee being written in Hangeul as 이). This sound change did not take place in northern Korean, however, and the readings remain formally unified in the North (hence 리 rather than 이). In standard South Korean, then, any Sino-Korean lexeme that begins with ㄹ when word-medial or word-final will begin ㅇ when word-initial, i.e. a character with a reading beginning with ㄹ will always lose that ㄹ at the beginning of a word. In certain cases a character with a historic (etymological) reading beginning with ㄹ is given the reading ㄴ, as in former President Roh Moo-hyun's surname 노. In the special case of the morphemes 률 and 렬, the ㄹ will drop after a vowel or after ㄴ. Occasionally the character is subject to other general phonetic variations that occur in Korean. In these cases the divergent readings will closely resemble each other.

In other, unpredictable, instances the character may have (or have had) more than one reading in standard Chinese.

See the table below:

Character South Korean representation Notes Examples
年 (year) 연, 년 Pronounced 연 at the beginning of a word, 년 elsewhere
  • 연초 <年初> - the beginning of the year
  • 연말 <年末> - the end of the year
  • 작년 <昨年> - last year
  • 내년 <來年> - next year
立 (stand, establish ) 입, 립 Pronounced 입 at the beginning of a word, 립 elsewhere
  • 입식 <立式> -
  • 독립 <獨立> - independence
  • 조립 <組立> - construction, set-up
女 (girl, woman) 여, 녀 Pronounced 여 at the beginning of a word, 녀 elsewhere
  • 여자 <女子> - woman, female
  • 여학생 <女學生> - a female student
  • 소녀 <少女> - a young girl
  • 미녀 <美女> - a beautiful girl
不 (negation) 불, 부 No rule, some words just use one or the other
  • 부정 <不正> - unlawfulness, dishonesty
  • 부득이 <不得已> - unavoidably, inevitably
  • 불편 <不便> - discomfort
  • 불가능 < 不可能 > - impossibility

How do I find a certain character in a dictionary?

Depending on dictionary, there are a number of ways to look up a character, especially in electronic ones. They can sometimes be found in the 국어 (language) menu.

Normal look up (한글->한자)
This is probably the easiest way to find one in daily use in Korea. This type of look up is for Sino-Korean vocabulary (words of Chinese origin). For example, to see which characters make up the word 무한 (), just type in the words as you would in a normal Korean vocabulary look up and the characters should appear next to the Korean word. Some electric dictionaries will have separate look up methods, one for normal Korean usage, and one that will break down each character and will give meanings for each character.

By Pronunciation/음 (한글->한자)
Type in the pronunciation, for example 무, and anywhere from 10 to 60 different characters will be shown that has that pronunciation. Although a clear demonstration as to the need for hanja for clarification, this is a fairly tedious way to find characters.

By Stroke/획수 (한자->한글)
For many simple characters and beginners, it is easiest to count the number of strokes and putting that number into the search. "총획수" indicates that the number of strokes you put in is the number of strokes for the entire character.

By Radical/부수 (한자->한글)
For more complex characters and those familiar with hanja, it is easiest to look up by number of strokes in the radical (부수획수). Correctly identify the number of strokes in the radical and type that into the search. Then type the number of strokes in the rest of the character (잔여획수).

In what order are the strokes for a character?

How do I type a Hanja character?

For Windows

Undocked language bar panel on Windows 7
Docked language bar panel on Windows 7

Type in the Korean 한글 equivalent of the word for which you want the hanja form. While the the character is still "active" (meaning you can still see the line underneath the character), click the [漢] icon (in the language toolbar) and a small menu of the all the possible hanja characters should pop up. Type the designated number or click the desired character and it should replace the Korean 한글 with hanja. Alternatively, you can click on the bucket icon to draw the hanja you want.

For Mac OS X

Hanja selection list in Mac OS X TextEdit.
Various Hanja-related preferences. Can be accessed through the flag icon at the top-right of screen.

First, enable 한글 typing in the language system preferences; the keyboard input method doesn't matter. Just like in Windows, the "active" character is represented by an underline. While a character is still active, press the key combination "Option-Return." A list of potential Hanja shows up for that character.

You can also change the way Hanja characters are displayed, such as having the 한글 preserved while parenthetically adding Hanja. This and several other Hanja-related settings can be accessed by clicking the flag drop-down menu in the upper-right of the Mac screen.