2

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.

3

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.

| improve this answer | |
  • 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 Jul 6 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? – KrJpnLinguistNoob Jul 7 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 Jul 7 at 4:08

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