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I have been a user of StackExchange for more than a year, but am a new user of Korean Language SE. If my post does not meet the requirements of this site, please kindly offer me an opportunity to edit it before closing it. Thank you.


I am a native Chinese (Cantonese speaker) and a beginner in Korean.

There is a large proportion of Korean vocabulary that is derived from ancient Chinese.

E.g.

Chinese: 男仔 (pronunciation: nam-zai, meaning: boy)

Korean: 남자


Some derivations are a bit more complex.

E.g.

Chinese: 女仔 (pronunciation: nui-zai, meaning: girl)

Korean (supposed to be): 녀자

Due to a rule (in Chinese 頭音法則, if anyone knows its English name please edit it), the ㄴ is dropped, and 녀자 becomes 여자.


It turns out that if I understand the root/derivation of the Korean word, memorizing it is much easier, adding more fun to learning Korean.

Can anyone provide a list/dictionary which clearly explains how each Chinese-rooted Korean word is derived?

Thanks in advance.

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    Welcome to the site. For most words it's quite simple as most Hanja (Chinese character) have a single representation in hangul, and the ones that vary are quite easy to pick up. Are you interested in learning about the exceptions (Hanja that can be represented in more than one way in Hangul), or just more generally about which Korean words derive from Chinese? (If the latter, you might find this simple free app interesting if you happen to have Android: play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=taebongsoft.hanjaobuilder. Disclaimer - written by myself!) – topo morto Dec 28 '18 at 19:05
  • @topomorto I would like both! I will look at the app later, thank you!! – Szeto Dec 28 '18 at 22:34
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    Actually, 남자 is derived from 男子, which in Middle Chinese was /nʌm t͡sɨX/ which was imported into Middle Korean with the "arae a" for 子, which became 남자 over time. – Michaelyus Dec 31 '18 at 11:07
  • It is not the exact answer for you question, but I want to point out that Korean expression for man is 남자 (男子), not 男仔. The same is true for the word 여자 (女子). (I wanted to comment, but I have no privilege to write comment) – z0nam Feb 12 at 8:17
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    @Z0nam Please suggest this as an edit to the question – user17915 Feb 12 at 13:40
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The Naver Korean dictionary is my go-to for any word etymology that I want to find out, as it has information about old forms and from the 표준국어대사전 (Great Dictionary of Standard Korean).

But even the Naver English-Korean dictionary lists the hanja forms online. The dedicated Hanja dictionary is better for trying to explain characters that you already know (especially for traditional CJKV names).

Of course, one would have to be aware of false friends. E.g. 小心, 操心, 無料, 人間

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Koreans call such words 한자어. 한자 = Chinese letters 어 = words

Though the link I provide below is NOT a legitimate dictionary, this could give you a starting point.

나무위키 한자어 목록

나무위키, the website I provided above, is like a "very casual" version of Wikipedia in Korea. Be advised that this site is not legitimate and that many of the words listed there are not meant for language beginners. But I think the link should serve as a reference.

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