I was listening to a rap song with Korean lyrics where one of the lines uses the prefix 처 in a way I hadn't seen before:

돈 자랑, 몸 자랑, 인맥 자랑, 네 자랑, 잠이나 자라

From my understanding, 처 can be affixed to the front of any verb (처먹다, 처박다, ...) to make the action sound more aggressive or pejorative.

Out of my own curiosity, I was wondering if anyone knows or could find where this comes from or how recently the prefix began to be used. A cursory search shows that it is defined on Naver and Daum though without an evident etymology, and while Namuwiki contains a bit more detail, it only offers the observation that 처 is often wrongly assumed to be related to the verb 치다 when written as 쳐.

Are there any other similar prefixes that can be attached prior to the verb in this way? It would also be interesting to hear if this prefix is used differently in other regions of Korea outside of Seoul.

1 Answer 1


The article here I managed to find explained the etymology of '처-' as below:

‘처-’는 ‘치다’의 어간에 연결어미 ‘-아/어’가 이어진 형태 로 어원어의 형태와 유사한 형태의 접사이다. ‘처-’는 ‘손이나 손에 든 물건으로 세게 부딪게 하다’의 의미에서 ‘마구’, ‘많이’의 의미로 추상화 과정을 걸쳐 의미가 변화되었다. 후행어근의 의미에 ‘마구’의 의미를 더하여 새말을 생성하고 있어서 접사로 처리할 수 있다.

To translate, the prefix '처-' originated from '치다' which means 'to hit hard with one's hand or an object held in one's hand.' The meaning was transformed from 'hit hard' to 'a lot' but in a more aggressive way.

I cannot come up with a prefix that can perfectly replace '처-', but you can use '존나' as an adverb in front of the verb, which more closely means 'fucking'. Using '개-' in front of '처-' strengthens its meaning, too. For example,

쟤는 하루 종일 먹기만 하네. (That guy is just eating all day long.)

can be much more violent and aggressive by saying

쟤는 하루 종일 존나 개처먹기만 하네.

It feels like who says this is super angry with the eating guy.

But these '존나' and '개처-' do not sound natural in an imperative sentence. In the case of your example, native people hadrly use '개처자라' or '존나 처자라.'

People living in Korea outside of Seoul must understand '처-' in a similar way. But you should be careful not to confuse it with some verbs beginning with '쳐': for example, 쳐들다/쳐올리다 (to raise up), 쳐들어가다 (to invade), 쳐들어오다 (to get invaded), 쳐내다 (cut out), 쳐주다 (to yield), 쳐부수다 (to destroy) are informal words just like the words starting with '처-', but they sound much less aggressive. And unlike '처-', '쳐' is not a prefix so you cannot add it in front of any verb but there are a limited number of words starting with '쳐.'

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