Glossary of Korean Idioms
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- 가는 말이 고와야
오는 말이 곱다
- If you're nice to others, they'll be nice to those they meet, as well.
- 낮 말은 새가 듣고
밤 말은 쥐가 듣는다
- What you say in the morning the birds will hear, what you say at night the mice will hear; i.e. secrets don't stay secrets
- 등잔 밑이 어둡다
- It's dark right below the lamp post; i.e. What you're looking for is right under your nose
- 말 한 마디로 천냥 빚을 갚는다
- If you speak well, even difficult tasks become simple.
- 백지장도 맞들면 낫다
- = Two heads are better than one.
- 서쪽에서 해가 뜨겠다
- The sun rises in the West; i.e. the impossible is occurring
- 지렁이도 밟으면 꿈틀한다
- Even earthworms will get upset if provoked too much; i.e. even the most mild-mannered person has feelings.
- 콩으로 메주를 쑨 대도 곧이 듣지 않는다
- If people can't trust you in ordinary times, they won't trust you in an emergency. (i.e. the boy who cried wolf)
- 핑계 없는 무덤 없다
- Used when people don't take responsibility for their actions
- 하늘의 별 따기
- To pluck a star from the heavens; i.e. to do something very difficult/impossible
- 꿀 먹은 빙어리
- "a deaf-mute who ate honey"; an expression to ridicule someone who can't open his heart to another
- 낫 놓고 'ㄱ'자도 모른다
- Sickles don't know 'ㄱ'
(even though they're shaped like one)
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