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연세 is more honorific than 나이, and I could often hear people use these two words. However, I am a bit lost as to the occasions to use these two.

I could only say 나이 is used to describe a third party when talking to friends.

춘추 also made me confused. This word tends to be more honorific than 연세, but rarely can I hear people use this. So I am also confused at which occasions using this word will be appropriate.

  • See the answers about your question. I'll let you know why 춘추 means 'age.' 춘추 is made of Chinese letters. 춘(春) means Spring and 추(秋) means Autumn. So 춘추 implies the variation of seasons and it has the meaning of age. – dextto Jul 20 '16 at 7:31
  • @Gel Boy. Opps, you are a Chinese, haha. Sorry if you felt my explanation was too rude. But your comment with Chinese is not good either, BOY!! – dextto Jul 20 '16 at 8:08
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Good afternoon!

나이 is a general word for 'age'. 연세 is a popular word for 'age' which is more honorific. 춘추 is also an honorific word for 'age', but it is rarely used these days. For daily lives, there is almost no chance of using 춘추 in conversations. 춘추 is an old-fashioned word. People understand what it means but usually do not use it. (I'm not saying people do not use it entirely! Some people use it.)

Let me add more information for daily lives: some people will not be happy when their ages are mentioned as 연세 because that word makes them feel like they are old!

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    krdic.naver.com/rescript_detail.nhn?seq=4982 It clearly states that you can use "연세' and "춘추" all when 나이를 묻는 대상이 어르신인 경우. – user7 Jul 20 '16 at 5:59
  • @Rathony Adding to your comment, it also states "춘추" has narrower meaning and limited usages compared to "연세". For example, to express that someone is old in an honorific way, you can say "연세가 들다", but not "춘추가 들다" – Stephen Cheong Jul 20 '16 at 7:20
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    @StephenCheong I agree. It has limited usage than "연세" and it is more broadly used when asking a question, but it is incorrect to say "there is almost no chance of using 춘추 in conversations. 춘추 is an old-fashioned word." – user7 Jul 20 '16 at 7:22
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    My local friendly Korean felt that 나이, 연세, 춘추 represented a gradient, 춘추 being more honorific than 연세. She was happy with the idea of using 춘추 for, say, her 할아버지, but warned that 춘추 could be rude if you used it for an unfamiliar stranger who turned out to be younger, saying that 연세 is the much safer option in general. Just another data point! – topo Reinstate Monica Jul 20 '16 at 7:22
  • @topomorto I confirm this, too. – Stephen Cheong Jul 20 '16 at 7:49
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'연세' means:

‘나이1(사람이나 동ㆍ식물 따위가 세상에 나서 살아온 햇수)’의 높임말.

연세가 많다. (Subject) is old. It is more honorific than '나이가 많다'.

할아버지께선 연세가 어떻게 되십니까? How old is your grandfather? It is impolite to use '할아버지 나이가 어떻게 되십니까?" and no Korean in their right mind would use '나이' in this sentence.

의사가 할머니의 연세가 높아서 쉽게 회복되기는 어렵다고 했습니다. The doctor said it would be difficult for my grandmother to recover easily due to her age. No Korean would use '나이' here.

'춘추' is more honorific than '연세':

어른의 나이를 높여 이르는 말.

나는 먼저 그녀의 아버님께 춘추가 어떻게 되시는지 여쭈어 보았다. First, I asked her father how old he was.

According to the linked article about the usage of '연세' and '춘추' in 우리말 바로쓰기

'연세(年歲)'는 '나이’의 높임말이고, '춘추(春秋)'는 어른의 나이를 높여 이르는 말이므로, 나이를 묻는 대상이 어르신인 경우, '연세'나 '춘추'를 모두 쓸 수 있을 것입니다. 다만 '연세'와 '춘추'의 뜻풀이를 고려할 때, '연세'에 비해 '춘추'가 쓰이는 범위가 한정되는 것으로 보입니다.

Short summary:

'연세' is an honorific word for '나이 (age)' and '춘추' is an honorific word for '어른의 나이 (age of an adult)'. You can use both of them when you ask old people how old they are. However, considering the difference in their meaning, the usage of '춘추' is more limited than that of '연세'.

As @topomorto and I commented to the other answer,

  1. '춘추' is less broadly used than '연세' and it is more likely to be used in asking a question than in a declarative sentence such as

할아버님 춘추(연세)가 어떻게 되세요? 아버님 춘추(연세)가 어떻게 되세요?

In the sentence above, '춘추' sounds more honorific than '연세'.

  1. '춘추가 많으신' is used in a declarative sentence to modify old people such as '노인', '할아버지', '할머니'. Again, it is far less broadly used than '연세'.
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