Everyone knows the surname , which is in hanja. However, is written as everywhere except the surname, e.g. 금요일 Friday, 금성 Venus, 백금 platinum, 합금 alloy, 기금 fund. Why is the surname written differently?

1 Answer 1


Like Chinese and Japanese, Korean also has two or more ways (음훈) to pronounce one Chinese character.

The Chinese character '金' is pronounced as '김' only when it is used as a family name and some city names such as 김해시(金海市), 김포시(金浦市). In other context, it is always pronounced as '금'. That's the way it is and the family name is not the only name that is pronounced as '김'.

The first person who used the family name '김' is 김수로왕 and it has been around since AD 42 when he was born. According to the myth, six golden eggs came down from the sky and 김수로왕' was born out of one of them.

Another interesting Chinese character that is pronounced in two ways is :

아닐 ,아닐 : 불가피, 부동산

  • I think 数 is also an example, but 金 seems much more exceptional for only names use it, almost as if this eumhun was specifically assigned for names.
    – busukxuan
    Jun 27, 2016 at 10:29
  • 1
    @busukxuan The only reason I can think of (I don't have reference) is the phonetic pronunciation '김' was there before the Chinese characters were introduced to Korea and it adopted the character for '김'.
    – user7
    Jun 27, 2016 at 11:37
  • well, /i/ is indeed quite close to /ɯ/
    – busukxuan
    Jun 27, 2016 at 11:40
  • 1
    @busukxuan Yes, exactly. It could have been even closer a long time ago.
    – user7
    Jun 27, 2016 at 13:15

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