It seems to me like all the common Chinese character-based words in Korean I've encountered are, in themselves, nouns (though many of them can be used with 하다 to create verbs).

Even 'sayings' like 천고마비 seem to be used like nouns - e.g. '천고마비의 계절'.

So, are all 한자어 nouns, insofar as they would be used as nouns in a sentence?

  • 1
    It's actually a very common pattern across many languages that loanwords are almost exclusively nouns. Arabic, Hebrew, and Japanese also follow the pattern. Of course there are exceptions, or words which are first borrowed as nouns that later develop verb forms. Examples include "to telephone" in the former languages and "to Google" in the latter. Jun 30, 2016 at 1:28

2 Answers 2


No. There are some adverbs (부사) that are 한자어:

역시 (亦是) - also, likewise

내일 (來日) - tomorrow (this is sometimes a noun, sometimes an adverb)

심지어 (甚至於) - even as far as

항상 (恒常) - always

Also, numbers are considered to be 수사 or 관형사, not 명사, so the numbers 일, 이, 삼 etc. are all 한자어.

I could find one other 관형사 that is a 한자어:

순 (純) - pure:

순 한국식 (pure Korean-style)

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    Wow, I'd never have thought that yeoksi was not pure Korean or at least didn't have a pure Korean ending... It fits the speech patterns so perfectly! Jun 26, 2016 at 14:20

Yes, most of them are used as nouns, but as @gaeguri explained, there are some exceptions.

Chinese characters are used in adjectives, too. You mentioned "though many of them can be used with '하다' to create verbs", but adding '하다', '스럽다', '답다' to Chinese characters create adjectives, too. For example:

귀 (貴) 하다: precious

거대 (巨大) 하다: very big

왜소하다 (矮小) 하다: very short or small

강 (強) 하다: strong

엄격 (嚴格) 하다: strict

원망 (怨望) 스럽다: resentful, reproachful

남자 (男子) 답다: manly

There are many other compound adjectives that start with Chinese characters.

  • The way I learned to categorise Korean words, I would still think of these as verbs, albeit descriptive verbs (형용사) Jun 26, 2016 at 7:34
  • @topomorto You can make a 하자 form with verbs (공부하자 0), but you can't make it with adjectives (귀하자 X, 거대하자 X)
    – user7
    Jun 26, 2016 at 7:43
  • Yes, there are quite a few differences between 동작동사 and 형용사/상태동사 - I'm just saying that I was already personally including 상태동사 in what I meant by 'verbs' in the question... does that make sense? Jun 26, 2016 at 7:56
  • I thought all of your examples are 상태동사 (apart from possibly the 남자 답다 construction, that I'm not familiar with). Am I wrong there? Jun 26, 2016 at 8:30
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    @topomorto: In most languages, adjectives are more or less a kind of noun or a kind of verb. In most European languages they have similar inflectional endings to nouns. In most Asian languages they behave more like verbs. Exceptions include Japanese, which has both types, and English where adjectives lost their noun-like inflectional endings and instead have inflections of their own for comparative and superlative. For Asian languages you'll find a full range of claims from "adjectives are different to verbs" right up to "there are no adjectives, only verbs". Depending on tradition & opinion. Jun 30, 2016 at 1:35

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