Does 가락 have any meaning by itself? Are 손가락 and 발가락 related to 숟가락 and 잣가락? I can imagine 숟가락 meaning 'round finger (extension)'and 젓가락 meaning 'long finger (extension)'. At least I'll use that to remember this set of words. Do 숟 and 젓 have any meaning by themselves? Google Translate translates 숟 as 'spoon', in which case why is 숟가락 necessary? (I don't want to rely on Google Translate.)

2 Answers 2


-가락 (suffix) denotes bar-like shape that is long and thin, such as fingers. It can also be used as a unit word that can count objects in that shape.

  • 국수 한 가락 (a single thread of noodle)

Naturally, 손가락 and 발가락 represent those bar-shaped parts of and .

Interestingly, it is often used to count songs. This 가락 is a homonym that means a melody.

  • 노래 한 가락 (a song)
  • 구슬픈 가락 (a plaintive melody)

Now regarding 숟가락 and 젓가락, 가락s here are from the first meaning above (bar-shaped object).

숟가락 is combination of and -가락. is an old Korean word for spoons that is no longer used today (see below and K._ 's comment). You might wonder why by combining and 가락 we get *숟*가락. This is because of a phonological transformation called 사잇소리. (see below)

Finally, 젓가락 is ()+-가락. Unlike , here is a Chinese word for chopsticks. Again, see this link on 사잇소리 (specifically, 사이시옷 part), if you wonder why we have between and -가락.

edited: Today, as spoon is used only as a unit word when measuring uncountable substance by a spoon.

  • 밥 한 술 (a spoonful of rice)

edited: It is not 사잇소리 phenomenon that +가락 becomes 숟가락. There are just some compound words where at the end of predecessor becomes sound. See 한글맞춤법 (article 29) for more examples like this.

  • For your Korean kitchen vocabulary: 1 큰(big) 술(spoon) - 1 tbsp, 1 작은(small) 술(spoon) - 1 tsp. Mar 6, 2018 at 8:35
  • 1
    Thank you for your explanation. Some Australian Indigenous languages have unit words, and songs (traditionally) and cassette tapes (in modern times) were counted using that word.
    – Sydney
    Mar 18, 2018 at 6:37

(1) 손 - hand, 손가락 - finger

가락 - stick.

( off topic : Here my curiosity is about chop stick. chop stick does not contain any meaning for meal )

From three word and their relations, 손가락 is plausible.

(2) 수저 : Tool for eating. Usually, it is union of spoon and chop stick.

(3) As like hand, 수저가락 (not used in commonly. I introduce for explaining) indicates 숟가락 or 젓가락.

Conclusion : 손 <-> 수저, thumb, forefinger, ... <-> 숟가라, 젓가락

(4) Frequently, 수저 is used for indicating spoon.

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