I know that 대여섯 means five or six, but I'm wondering why the '대' takes the meaning of 'five' here? Are there other words similar to this that mean 'A and A+1'. Thanks a lot.


1 Answer 1


There are actually words like this all the way to at least 8:

  • 한두, 한둘: 1 or 2
  • 두세, 두셋: 2 or 3
  • 서너, 서넛: 3 or 4
  • 네댓, 네다섯: 4 or 5
  • 대여섯: 5 or 6
  • 예닐곱: 6 or 7
  • 일여덟: 7 or 8

In each case, the two numbers are compounded, with the first one reduced to just one syllable. In some cases, a contraction seems to have altered the first syllable - as in 대여섯 and 예닐곱 - but I'm not sure the mechanism that brought about this sound change.

  • There are words like 대엿, 일고여덟, 여덟아홉 (= 엳아홉), and 여남은, too. There are also non-standard variations such as 다서여섯 and 여서일곱. The standard dictionary provides the etymologies of 대엿 and 예닐곱.
    – Klmo
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 2:27
  • Ah thanks a lot! I've actually heard 한둘 and 두세 before but they've never sounded strange to me haha. I haven't heard of the higher numbers before? Do people use the irregular forms in conversation or are people more likely to say, for example, 여서일곱 instead of 예닐곱? Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 0:37
  • @KrJpnLinguistNoob For 서너, you can hear it from the song, "내 동생": 이름은 하나인데 별명은 서너 개. Those who know 대여섯 and 예닐곱 do not use 다서여섯 and 여서일곱, but it is true that a lot of people use 다서여섯 and 여서일곱 in conversation. I have never heard anyone say 대여섯, 일여덟, or 엳아홉. One of the reasons seems to be that people almost never use the unit 자, which is used as 대 자 and 예 자.
    – Klmo
    Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 4:08

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