When somebody is very good at something (e.g. a video game, a musical instrument) they may be called 고수.


What words are typically used to describe situations of not being 고수? For example, what do we call somebody that tries very hard, but doesn't do so well. What is a n00b (초보자)?

  • 1
    BTW, your second example "그리고 학생이 고수가 돼", sounds like you're talking about, say, a high school student who practices for months to become a master taekwondo/go/starcraft player. Note that 학생 usually means a school student, while the original English sentence most likely means "someone who is learning."
    – jick
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 4:41
  • Related: urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=gosu Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 1:03

2 Answers 2


고수 : expert
중수(joong soo) : intermediate
하수(ha soo) : beginner

However, in the same way, 초보(chobo) is typically more used as Ha Soo

고/중/하 mean high/mid/low. means a hand which could mean a level in some case.

These words are very old but still popular in Go, martial art or video games.

  • I've seen 중수/하수 used only in the context of e-sports. They may be used in some other cases, but they are newly invented words following the pattern of 고수, and some people might even object that they aren't "real words". Actually, if you ask an ordinary Korean what is 중수/하수 without any context, their first guess is likely to be "heavy water (중수)" and "sewage (하수)".
    – jick
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 4:22
  • @jick I am a native korean. 고/중/하 mean high/mid/low. They have been used for long time. 수 doesn't mean water. 수 mean a hand which could mean a level in some case. Especially, In Go(board game) or Martial Art, when people want to roughly make classes, they use this word.
    – Sung
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 16:56
  • Just checked Naver dictionary and found 하수 is actually in the dictionary. Sorry for the wrong comment. (However, I couldn't find 중수 - I still think the word is used only in some circles, but it's possible I'm just old-fashioned.)
    – jick
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 1:11
  • @jick krdic.naver.com/user.nhn?docid=e8472b72b57b6c6bfa91e34f1acf7bd1
    – Sung
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 1:16
  • @jick Actually, 중수 is more used than 하수. humble people who are actually 초고수 always say " I am just 중수 " lol
    – Sung
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 1:22

Adding to @Sung's great answer, there is no word in Korean (as far as I know) that describes "somebody that tries very hard, but doesn't do so well." other than "(아무리) 노력해도 안되는 사람".

아무리 is an adverb which works as an intensifier and you can drop it when you don't want to emphasize it.

For example: 세상에는 아무리 (열심히) 노력해도 안되는 사람들이 많아. There are many people who can't make it no matter how much (hard) they try.

I don't think there is a word that can replace "노력해도 안되는 사람" in the above example.

As @jick commented, 중수 and 하수 are not very popular, though they will make perfect sense in some contexts.

"초보자" is the word for a beginner and the slang term is "초짜".

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