I know that 소절 (小節) is a Sino-Korean word for 마디, and 단어 (單語) is that for 낱말. The thing is, utterly almost every Korean-English dictionary says that those all are meaning a word! I was literally perplexed. Seriously, four synonyms? It's too much! There must be a difference (at least a tiny bit of it) between them. Could you please explain it?

2 Answers 2


Such a good question! I'm going to explain it for you, myself; or for you, reading this.

By definition, 마디 and 소절 (小節) are synonyms and literally mean a chunk in a speech, writing, or song. However, those two have different usages. Practically 소절 (小節) is used only for meaning a chunk of a song, i.e. a piece of song.

노래 한 소절 불러 보게나.

Why don't you sing a piece of song.

And 마디 is used for meaning a chunk, of a speech or writing, separated by spaces. (Actually I think of a bamboo when I see this word.)

이 문장은 여섯 마디로 이루어져 있다.

This sentence consists of six chunks.

마디 also means a little part of a speech.

말 몇 마디만 하겠습니다.

I'd like to say something briefly.

Note that 한마디 (마디) is one compound word meaning a brief line. Do not space it when you write this one. It's one noun word. It's not an adjective nor an adverb.

한마디(의) 조언을 하자면……, 그냥 좀 !

I give you a little advice: JUST DO IT!

낱말 and 단어 (單語) have no usage difference and both mean a single independent meaningful element or an element weakly attached to such an element, of speech or writing, that consists of one or more morphemes, by definition.

아마 다섯 단어가 아닐는지.

It's probably five words.

Isn't it the same meaning with 마디: a chunk, of a speech or writing, separated by spaces? Well, in English, it might be, in Korean, nah. The sentence above has 4 마디s (아마, 다섯, 단어가, 아닐는지.), but 5 낱말s: 아마, 다섯, 단어, , 아니다 (It's quite tricky: subject marker is considered to be a 낱말, but modifier -ㄹ는지 is not.).

You may just take 낱말 and 단어 (單語) as a semantic word, 마디 as a syntactic word or an orthographic word. And 소절 (小節) has nothing to do with any linguistic meaning.

Hope you get it!


If your dictionary translates 마디 to "word", it might not be very good. :/

Just looking at, say, Naver dictionary, you can easily see that 마디 has tons of meanings unrelated to speech, and even when referring to speech or written passage, it doesn't mean "word".

Also, 소절 is not a commonly used word, and I think it's almost exclusively used for "a passage in a song". (Try not to think these words as "exact matching pairs". 마디 and 소절 are no more "same words" than English "see" and "regard", or "door" and "portal".)


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