The word 나름, as in ~기 나름이다 or 나름대로, appears to be formed by nominalizing 나르다. Is this the correct etymology or does 나름 come from something else?

  • I don't know the correct etymology but as far as I know, 나르다 has nothing to do with 나름.
    – Absol
    Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 3:21

1 Answer 1


The bound noun 나름 has been used for at least a century. Nonetheless, Korean dictionaries and several books I consult provide no etymology for it, which means either or all of the following:

  1. 나름 has always been 나름 from the beginning (No characters have changed).
  2. 나름 is originally a nominalization of the verb 나르다.

According to the standard dictionary, 나르다 was 나ᄅᆞ다 in the early 17th century; however, I could not find 나ᄅᆞᆷ in old documents. If it is true that 나ᄅᆞᆷ never existed (In other words, if Number 1 is true), it means that 나름 was formed after 나ᄅᆞ다 had become 나르다. Considering that the nominalizing suffix -ㅁ was used even in the 15th century (그림 is an example), it is practically impossible for me to say when people started using 나름 as either a nominalization or a bound noun.

For Number 2, this is part of the guidelines for compiling the standard dictionary:

... 표제어가 크게 형태적 변화를 겪은 경우에 어원적 분석을 제시하되, 다음과 같은 경우는 원칙적으로 어원적 분석을 하지 않는다.

가) 용언이 포함된 복합어에서 용언의 활용형을 어간과 어미(또는 접사)로 분석하여 어원 정보로 제시하지 않는다. 어미 ‘-(으)ㅁ’이 결합되어 형성된 명사의 경우나 ‘용언의 활용형+(보조)용언’의 구성을 갖는 합성동사의 경우가 그것이다. ...

Briefly, it says that in principle, they do not analyze etymologically the headword that is a noun made from a verb/adjective stem + -(으)ㅁ. Because some other bound nouns (for example, 두름) are originally nominalizations (두르- (the stem of 두르다) + -ㅁ = 두름), I believe that 나름 can be explained as 나르- + -ㅁ.

You might think that 나름 does not relate semantically to 나르다. Then, you should also think about how far 두르다 and 두름 are. There is a reason I mentioned the two terms: bound nouns and nominalizations. If bound nouns were not different in meaning or usage from nominalizations, why would lexicographers have listed bound nouns? There must be differences.

If we consider the nominalization 나름 and some nouns containing 운(運), such as 운반 and 수운, we can say that 나름 and 운(運) have the same primary meaning. Although 운 alone means luck (when it is used as a whole word), it originally means carrying (Regarding why 運 means luck, please refer to this). When 운길 means 물건을 운반하는 길, it is a synonym for 나름길, the compound of 나름 and 길. What I would like to say is that like 운(運), 나름 can have a meaning that is different from the primary meaning and may not be easily understood.

The nominalization 나름 (carrying) refers to an action, then it is natural to think about the method, environment, or result, which leads to the bound noun 나름. It is defined as follows:

  1. A bound noun used to indicate that something depends on the extent or shape of something else or how something else is done.

  2. A bound noun used to refer to one's unique way of doing something, or his/her personality or situation.

Haven't you noticed that carrying something means doing something or having something here? I think it makes quite a bit of sense. Coincidence or not, English sentences like "I carried out the task," and "These procedures carry no risk," also say that carry can sometimes be understood as to do or to have. I am not saying that what I have said is the correct etymology (Actually, who knows?) but that you can understand the meanings of the bound noun 나름 in this way.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.