A shibboleth is (according to Wikipedia)

a word or custom whose variations were used to differentiate members of ingroups from those of outgroups

The English Wikipedia also has a long list of examples, but neither there nor in the Korean one (which contains a Japanese example used against Koreans) or elsewhere could I find an example that was used by Koreans. Any pointers?

  • 3
    Well that's a new word. Hey why am I learning English here?
    – user12
    Jun 21, 2016 at 21:21
  • 3
    Such an interesting way to tell apart a group of language speakers! This requires investigation. Jun 21, 2016 at 21:42
  • I don't think it exists in Korean, because as far as I know, there was no great need to distinguish Koreans from foreigners throughout history.
    – MujjinGun
    Jun 22, 2016 at 3:23
  • 1
    The English-language edition of Wikipedia mentions shibboleths used against Koreans in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Korean_sentiment#Japan
    – Golden Cuy
    Mar 25, 2017 at 4:44

2 Answers 2


People from Gyeongsangdo can easily distinguish '2'(이) and 'e'(이), while people from other places cannot. Actually it was a big issue on the internet a few years ago!

So, for example, Gyeongsangdo people can distinguish the following four: 2^2, e^2, 2^e, e^e

But for other Koreans from other regions like me, everything is just "이(2, e)의 이(2, e)승." You can find many interesting videos by searching with the keyword "이의 이승"!

  • Fascinating! I've learned a new thing today. +1 Jun 22, 2016 at 21:40
  • I had fun watching some of these videos - thanks! Jun 23, 2016 at 0:00

In answering this question on the difference between 에 and 애, I began to realize that the pronunciation of these two vowels is sometimes a shibboleth.

While I (and some Koreans even) cannot tell the audible difference between these two vowels, there are still Koreans (especially the elderly) who claim there is a distinct difference and that they can hear it.

  • Thanks - that's an interesting one too. Unless they have additional information (e.g. while sitting in a 보신탕집), they can probably only hear the difference between 개고기 and 게고기 if someone pronounces these differently, which brings us right back to the potential use as a shibboleth. Anyone got a recording where the two are (said to be) pronounced differently? Jun 23, 2016 at 0:24

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