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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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