This is one of the questions from the definition phase and I would like to get asked in the main site. (It has also be asked and answered in Linguistics.se)

When transliterating English words to Korean, why do some F sounds in the beginning of the word turn into a ㅎinstead of ㅂ or ㅍ? For example,

Family Mart -> 회미리 마트 Foundation -> 화운데이션

This does not happen to the F sound in the middle or end of a word coffee -> 커피 golf -> 골프

  • I know it was answered elsewhere, but just looking a bit on naver, I see it is shown with both ㅎ and ㅍ, while they do have different sounds, i think its mostly based on how they entered the language "리퀴드운데이션(1회 출현) 리퀴드운데이션메이크업(1회 출현) Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 0:36

2 Answers 2


Using ㅍ for all /f/ sounds is the standard, and should be preferred.

Using 후/호 for /f/ sounds comes from Japanese. Japanese doesn't have /f/, rather they have /ɸ/. So they use /ɸ/ for transliterating /f/ sounds from English. Korean doesn't have /ɸ/, so we use the closest sound to tranliterate from Japanese, which is 후/호(/hw/).

So "family"(/fӕməli/) became /ɸemiri/ in Japanese, then borrowed into 훼미리/hwemiri/ to Korean. The correct transliteration is 패밀리.


Family Mart is a Japanese company whose name is ファミリーマート (훼미리- 마-또) and 훼미리 is a transliteration of Japanese, not English.

화운데이션 also comes from Japanese ファ(ウ)ンデーション (화운데-숀).

Japan ruled Korea from 1910 to 1945 and many Korean words were influenced by Japanese or borrowed from it. The F sound is one of them.

Nowadays, f sound is always transliterated to ㅍ as in

'Fighting (Way to go, Keep it up, Go go) is transliterated to 파이팅 even though it is pronounced '화이팅' by most Korean people.

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