There are at least five Korean words that are now part of the English language: soju, taekwondo, kimchee, hangul and hapkido.

The earliest Korean word spotted in the United States was “kimchi” (pronounced gimchee) in 1898. A magazine listed it as one of the world’s healthiest foods, identifying it as the national dish of Korea. American GI’s serving in South Korea facetiously declare that they’re “in deep kimchi” when the American equivalent is to say they’re in deep excrement.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary notes that the word “hangul” (meaning the Korean language) entered the English lexicon in 1946.

The third Korean word to enter the English language seems to be “taekwondo” in the late 1960s. And with the growing popularity of Bruce Lee’s movies in the United Sates (yes, he was Chinese), another Korean form of martial arts joined English vocabularies in the early seventies: hapkido.

Finally, in 1978, the Korean vodka soju made its debut in an American English dictionary.

Our Korean vocabulary lesson:

  • hangeul (한글)
  • soju (Hangul 소주; Hanja 燒酒)
  • tae kwon do (Hangul 태권도; Hanja 跆拳道)
  • hap gi do (Hangul 합기도; Hanja 合氣道)
  • kimchi (Hangul 김치; no Hanja because its is a native Korean word)

UPDATE: I just came across an English word with an interesting Korean origin. The hantavirus was named after the Hantan River (한탄강 / 漢灘江) in South Korea — near the place where Westerners were first infected by the virus in the 1950s.