I think the words 목표 and 목적 have slightly different nuances. Which word would be better to describe the goal of a new plan? Is there some other word that would be even better?

I've heard one of these is used more for a numerical outcome (like quarterly sales targets) while the other is used more for qualitative goals (like release a new product).

3 Answers 3


There's some overlap between them and the nuances are difficult, but I think some major differences can be summarized as:

목적 is often the objective or purpose of something. It is thus often used in form X의 목적, meaning the purpose of X:

인생의 목적 (the purpose of life)

안전의 목적으로 ... (for the purpose of safety)

이 연구의 목적은 ... (The purpose of this study is ...)

목표 is a goal or target. If you're talking about sales goals, that's a target, so it's better to use 목표. If you're talking about your goals in general (not for a specific purpose) then it's better to use 목표.

내년의 목표는 ... ([My] goals for next year are ...)

However, I believe there will be a lot of overlap in these cases, and 목적 may be acceptable when talking about "objectives" in general.

  • Can you include a few examples where the two words overlap? I don't think there will be a lot of overlap.
    – user7
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 12:03
  • 목적 drives you forward to help reach your 목표.
    – Q20
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 12:06

It is really difficult to tell the difference by looking at the dictionary definitions.

목적 目的:

실현하려고 하는 일이나 나아가는 방향.


어떤 목적을 이루려고 지향하는 실제적 대상으로 삼음. 또는 그 대상. [비슷한 말] 표목2(標目).

도달해야 할 곳을 목적으로 삼음. 또는 목적으로 삼아 도달해야 할 곳.

'목표' has a Chinese character 標 (표) which literally means 'table'. If you can think of your target or objective you need to achieve as a 'table', '목표' could be used. For example:

이번 3분기 회사의 실적 목표는 무엇입니까? What is your sales target in the third quarter?

You can't use '목적' in the above sentence as '목적' is rather qualitative rather than quantitative.

그는 불순한 목적을 가지고 그녀에게 접근했다. He approached her with impure intention (ulterior motive).

You can't use '목표' in the above sentence.

'목적' is philosophical and abstract and '목표' is rather concrete and achievable.

삶의 목적은 여러가지 목표를 가지고 그것들 (목표들)을 이루어 가는 것이다. The purpose (meaning) of living a life is to have various goals and achieve them.

  • Correct me if I'm wrong. character 標 (표) is not a table but a mark (for example, where archers practice shooting); and one of its meaning is "prize; award". Also, etymology of also means target. They seem to be very close but I too couldn't understand them well. I am Vietnamese and we use both with these meanings: '목적' (purpose, intention) and '목표' (goal, target).
    – Long
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 3:01

목표들 사람이 살아가면서 가지고 있는 의지 어떤 것을 성취하려고 시도하는 일이나 목적과 같은 것

예 삶의 목표나 목표를 이루고 실현하기 위해서 계획을 세우고, 정보를 찾고, 노력하고, 일을 성취하고, 성취감을 얻는다

목표와 목적이 있을 때, 사람은 그것을 하려고 노력한다

한국의 20대 청년

goals the will one has in one's life such as the work or purpose of attempting to achieve something

example In order to gain enlightenment and create a goal or purpose in life and achieve it Make a plan, find information, attempt it, achieve it, and achieve a sense of accomplishment.

When there is a goal and a purpose, one tries to do it

a young man in his 20s in Korea

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