There are lots of English acronyms/initialisms that could not usually be used in a polite or professional context, either because they are rude, or because they are not very well known. Some, though, are widely-understood and could be used in an informal polite or professional context, e.g.:

  • BTW - by the way

  • IM(H)O - in my (humble) opinion

  • FYI - for your information

English also has some Latin abbreviations that may even be used in formal contexts, e.g. :

  • et al. - et alii ("and others")
  • cf. - confer ("compare")
  • C.V. - curriculum vitae ("course of life")

(of course e.g. is a Latin abbreviation too!)

There also seems to be lots of examples in Korean. Here are some, but many of those seem only suitable for use between friends.

Are there many (or any) Korean acronyms/initialisms that might be encountered in polite or formal contexts?

5 Answers 5


There are not many abbreviations you can use in polite and formal contexts. I just feel like using abbreviation is not what grown-ups do in Korea.

Only things I can think of are about schools. Instead of saying 서울대학교, it is totally fine to use 서울대 It's like calling University of Virginia, UVA or U.Va, or Univ of Virginia. It applies to highschools and middle schools too.

Unless in academic writing, like in journal paper, I think it's totally fine to abbreviate **대학교, **고등학교, **중학교 as **대, **고, **중


I think your link contains most of frequent Korean acronyms/initialisms you're looking for. I'll only add several.

'ㅇㅈ?', 'ㅇㅈ' -> This is relatively new as far as I know. It stands for '인정', so it means "Do you admit?" or "I admit", respectively. Usually people use this to brag, and in monologue, like

"시험 만점 받았다~ 지리는 각 ㅇㅈ? ㅇㅇㅈ~"
(I got perfect score on the test! Isn't it f***ing great? Yes it is~")

'ㅈㅈ' -> It came from GG(Good Game), which usually means surrender in Starcraft I. As an etiquette, players chatted GG when they surrender and exit. So it means "I give up". For example,

"시험 어땠냐?" "응 ㅈㅈ" means "How was your test?" "I totally gave up"

  • However, it is very hard to see grown-ups using these 'abbreviations'. To me, those things sound similar to using English words without vowels (thx, for example). That means, you never expect to encounter something like ㄷㄷ, ㅇㅈ, ㅎㅇ, ㅇㄷ, and so on, in a formal context. However, you may find abbreviations of long names (defined first and only limited to) in formal articles. For example, 여성가족부 -> 여가부, which is a name of a government department. So shortening words in Korean works a bit different from that of English. Oct 26, 2016 at 17:49

Names of the institutes, tests are commonly used as acronyms in formal ways For example, '노조' = 노동 조합, 한능검 = 한국사 능력 검정 시험 , 수능 = 대학 수학 능력 시험, 한사성 = 한국 사이버 성폭력 대응 센터

Also, there are some words that is pretty formal.(commonly used in news articles.) 모고 = 모의고사, 경단녀 = 경력 단절 여성, 고졸, 대졸= 고등학교 졸업, 대학교 졸업, 취준(생) = 취업 준비(생), 공채 = 공개 채용

Almost all of these are considered formal because they are all made of Chinese characters. One chinese character indicates one meaning by itself. so it is more acceptable to use. (It's my idea but I think it is quite accurate reason.)


Sometimes there are acronyms that they use in Korea that are English based or are based on the romanization of something in Korean. The acronyms are in roman letters, but can stand for something in English or in Korean.

Two simple examples I can think of are KAIST (Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) and SKY (for Seoul National, Korea, and Yonsei Universities).

I do not know how common it is to find acronyms like this, but I have seen them in the tech and education industry.


There actually are many; just not for everything.

I would say there are many; I'm not talking about those slangy words. Think about it ― You are using much more abbreviations than you think.

Ⅰ. Korean uses Chinese letters ― Sino-abbreviation

Lots of Korean words have letters of Chinese, which is known to be semantically dense per letter. So why not abbreviate? Coining Sino-Korean words often involves a bit of abbreviation.

Referring to multiple regions

For example, 경부선 (京釜線, Kyeongbu line, Seoul-Pusan railway.) is so-called because 경 (京) stands for 서울 (Seoul) and 부 (釜) stands for 부산 (Pusan).

Short names for provinces

The initial with its direction.

  • 도 (道, South Gyeongsang province.) → 경남 (慶南)
  • 도 (道, North Gyeongsang province.) → 경북 (慶北)
  • 도 (道, South Chungcheong province.) → 충남 (忠南)
  • 도 (道, North Chungcheong province.) → 충북 (忠北)
  • 도 (道, South Jeolla province.) → 전남 (全南)
  • 도 (道, North Jeolla province.) → 전북 (全北)

Referring to multiple countries

  • 시아·본(本) 전쟁 (Russo–Japanese war) → 러일 (러日) 전쟁
  • 청(淸)·본(本) 전쟁 (Sino–Japanese war) → 청일 (淸日) 전쟁
  • (新당(唐) 전쟁 (Silla–Tang war) → 나당 (羅唐) 전쟁
  • 국(國)·국(國)·본(本) → 한중일 (韓中日, CJK.)
  • 국(國)·국(國) 동맹 (U.S.–South Korea alliance) → 한미(韓美) 동맹
  • 한(韓)·한(韓) 정상 회담 (Inter-Korean summit) → 남북(南北) 정상 회담


  • 비에트(維埃, Soviet.) 방(邦, Union.) → 소련 (蘇聯)
  • 국 (大國, Empire of Japan.) → 일제 (日帝)
  • 동남아시아 (東南아시아, Southeast Asia.) → 동남아 (東南아)
  • 주식 (株式, stock.) → -주 (株)
  • 공개 채용 (公開採用) → 공채 (公採)
  • 특별 채용 (特別採用) → 특채 (特採)

Ⅱ. Initials are handy! Why care about letters?

And the news often uses initialisms, even when they make no sense by their letters. So it's more like English abbreviation where an abbreviation likely doesn't hold its meaning by its letters. E. g. “NATO” means a thing but the letters “N,” “A,” “T,” and “O” don't.

The names of exams

  • 국사 정 시험 (國史定試驗, Korean History Proficiency Test.) → 한능검 (韓能檢)
  • 대학 력 시험 (大學力試驗, College Scholastic Ability Test.) → 수능 (修能)
  • 험 (驗, bar examination.) → 사시 (司試)
  • 가 (價, mock exam.) → 모평 (模評)

Organization names

  • 동 조합 (同組合, Agricultural cooperative.) → 농협 (農協)
  • 산업 동 조합 (産業同組合, National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives.) → 수협 (水協)
  • 모 본부 (謀本部, Republic of Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff.) → 합참 (合參)
  • 상물 원회 (像物員會, Korea Media Rating Board.) → 영등위 (映等委)
  • 임물 원회 (임物員會, Game Rating and Administration Committee.) → 게임위 (게임委) · 게관위 (게管委)
  • 합 (合, Labor union) → 노조 (勞組)


  • Abbreviations for the government departments, provided by law.

School names

  • 관 학교 (官學校, Korea Armed Forces Nursing Academy.) → 국간사 (國看士)
  • 합 학교 (合學校, Korea National University of Arts.) → 한예종 (韓藝綜)
  • 한국 외국어 학교 (韓國外國語學校, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.) → 한국 외대 (韓國外大)
  • 학교 (學校, Yonsei University.) → 연대 (延大)
  • 관 학교 (官學校, Korea Military Academy.) → 육사 (陸士)
  • 관 학교 (官學校, Republic of Korea Naval Academy.) → 해사 (海士)
  • 관 학교 (官學校, Korea Air Force Academy.) → 공사 (空士)

  • 대학교 (大學校, university.) → 대학 (大學) → -대 (大)

  • 고등학교 (高等學校, high school.) → -고 (高)
  • 중학교 (中學校, middle school.) → -중 (中)
  • 초등학교 (初等學校, elementary school.) → -초 (初)


  • 학교 업자 (university graduate) → 대졸
  • 등학교 업자 (high school graduate) → 고졸
  • 등학교 중자 (high school dropout) → 고퇴
  • 학교 업자 (middle school graduate) → 중졸
  • 등학교 업자 (elementary school graduate) → 초졸

  • (, job seeker.) → 취준생 (就準生)

  • 성 (性) → 경단녀 (經斷女)

Ⅲ. What Korean doesn't abbreviate

Unlike English that can abbreviate almost everything, including phrases, there're what Korean tends to abbreviate and what it doesn't.

  • “BTW” (“by the way”)
  • “IM(H)O” (“in my (humble) opinion”)
  • “FYI” (“for your information”)


The Korean language abbreviates the names of things, but not phrases; ……at least when formal. Phrasal abbreviations are only found in slangs.

  • “솔까말” (“솔직히 까고 말해서”) (slang)

See also

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