In Korean, I often hear phrases like '저 남자 참 센스 있다.' which literally translates to 'That man has a real "SENSE"'. However, as far as I understand, although '센스' is a transliteration of the English word 'sense', they don't mean the same thing. '센스' means something like 'considerate' or 'has good etiquette'. How did this separation of meaning start and is maintained?

  • He has such a great sense of <positive things> Nov 15, 2017 at 15:32
  • The sentence you gave literally means "That guy truly has a sense!". 참 is an adverb here. Nov 15, 2017 at 15:35
  • 1
    Checking the dictionary, it seems like Japanese has センス sensu with a similar meaning. Any Japanese speaker to confirm this?
    – jick
    Nov 18, 2017 at 4:34
  • “센스” translates to “wit” as for clever word playing (not limited to it though). I cannot say for sure good translations for the word; the ability to catch what others like? Mental sharpness? I don’t know but it’s about that. Aug 21, 2019 at 4:46

2 Answers 2


Native korean here.

센스 has a distinctly different meaning than 'sense', but rather has a closer meaning to センス(sensu), a english-based japanese term. I don't know which came first, 센스 or センス, but they both share the meaning of 'a feel for something'

'Sense' can be directly translated to 감각, which has two large meanings in Korean. The first meaning is simply 'sense(the noun),' while the second is 'a feel' as in 'have a feel for something(know how to do something well)'.

센스 있네 can be translated to 'you have a feel for it.' 센스 없네 would mean 'you don't have the feel for it' or 'you are doing it the wrong way' and so on. Notice that the 'it' in these examples could literally mean anything depending on the situation.

I would say this term probably started being used in the 60s or 70s when a lot of 'Konglish(Korean English)' and 'Japanese English' terms were being invented.


As a retired soldier of korean army, I think sense 센스 meaning "Even if I do not ask for it first, someone do something I will like."

"센스있네", "You have a sense" meaning "That's the way it's done" or "That looks good" or "It is good for me, and I don't want to asking for(because it is annoying or embarrassing), and it was done."

"센스 없게 왜 그러냐?" "Why did you do that without sense?" meaning "I don't like what you did. (Even if it was done well in common sense)" This idiom is used very common in korean army.

  • thanks for providing similar usages. very interesting. But it doesn't answer my etymology question.
    – Memming
    Nov 20, 2017 at 18:03

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