I don't have any problem remembering the natural Korean numbers up to 12, as they are used in telling the time - and it's easy to work out those up to 19. But I have problems remembering 스물 (20), 서른 (30), 마흔 (40) and so on. Is there any underlying meaning or other logical way I could remember these numbers more easily when I use them so rarely?

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    Asking a way to remember something easily may be primarily opinion-based, I think. Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 8:09
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    @choco_addicted I prefer to think that questions that are primarily opinion based are ones that are somewhat personal (like 'what's your favourite number') or where there's no possibility of making your case with any evidence. It's common to think that making connections between facts makes them easier to remember, and jungyh0218's answer is quite useful from that point of view, I think? Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 5:12

1 Answer 1


흔 means ten in obsolete Korean. These words still have the influence of '흔'.

  • 서른(서흔->설흔->서른)
  • 마흔
  • 예순(엿흔->예순)
  • 일흔 여든(여흔->여든)
  • 아흔

And 열(10), 스물(20) don't follow this rule because the origin of these two words are totally different from others. There are other 'pure Korean' numbers like 온(100), 즈믄(1000) but modern Koreans do not use them anymore. Only from 열 to 아흔 are used now. So it is much easier to just memorize them because you have to remember only nine cases. With the examples I showed you, we can easily figure out that pronunciations and notations have changed a lot from its original form. So if you try to remember it with any logic, it may confuse you more.

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    From 60 to 90, the first syllable is related to the numbers 6 to 10 (여섯 > 예순, 일곱 > 일흔, 여덟 > 여든, 아홉 > 아흔). That doesn't help remembering the second syllable, for which there seems to be no pattern.
    – Sydney
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 7:19

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