Fill in the Gaps: Common Korean Filler Words

Fill in the Gaps: Common Korean Filler Words


 

When you think of someone who’s fluent in a language, you probably picture someone speaking perfectly, without stops or pauses. In reality, a lot of filler words are used to fill silences.

You already use English fillers without realizing it. When you can’t think of the word you want, you might say “Um…” This gives you a break without an awkward, silent pause.

Filler words don’t add any particular meaning to a sentence, but they allow speakers to keep going while coming up with the next thought. Korean does this, too. You’re allowed to pause and think, be unsure of the best response, or even forget the word you’re looking for. The trick is knowing the appropriate filler to use while you put your thoughts together.

Learning Korean filler words makes you sound like a native speaker in no time at all. I’ve listed the common fillers here.

 

Note: The filler words used in polite speech (존댓말) are marked with an asterisk *.

Filler WordsPronunciationMeaning 
음..[eum]Um..
어..[eo]Uh..
그..[geu]Uh..
저..[jeo]Well..when thinking, hesitating
[mak]carelessly, recklessly
(short form of 마구 [magu])
similar to the filler word ‘like’
자![ja]Ok!to get listeners’ attention in a speech
뭐지..[mweoji]What was that..?, You know..when you can’t think of something
뭐더라..[mweodeora]What was that..?, You know..when you can’t think of something
뭐랄까..[mweoralgga]How can I explain this..?
뭐?[mweo]What? What did you say?
뭐라고?[mweorago]What? What did you say?
*네?[ne]Pardon? What did you say?
*예?[ye]Pardon? What did you say?
그게..[geuge]That is..
그러니까..[geureonigga]I mean..
그냥[geunyang]just, for no reason
있잖아[itjana]Hey, listen to thisto draw attention
*저기요[jeogiyo]Excuse meto draw attention of an unfamiliar person
에이~[ei]Come on~when you don’t believe what someone is saying
[ya]Hey, Hey you
진짜[jinjja]really
정말[jeongmal]really
맞아[maja]right
*맞아요[majayo]right
*네[ne]I see
*예[ye]I see
*네~[ne]Yes, go on~
*예~[ye]Yes, go on~
그렇구나[geureotkuna]I see
*그렇군요[geureotkunnyo]I see
오![o]Oh!
아![a]Ah!
우와![uwa]Wow!
[jom]please, if you wouldn’t mindto soften requests
참![cham]Oh I just remembered!
아야![aya]Ouch!
글쎄..[geulsse]Well.., I'm not sure.., Let me see..
*글쎄요..[geulsseyo]Well.., I'm not sure.., Let me see..
그래?[geure]Is that so?
*그래요?[geureyo]Is that so?
설마[seolma]No way
세상에[sesang-e]Oh my god
에휴..[ehyu]Oh man..
쉿![shwit]Shh!
그럼[geureom]then, in that case
말하자면[malhajamyeon]in short
아이고![aigo]Oops!
어머나![eomeona]Oops!usually used by women
어머![eomeo]Oops!usually used by women
아무튼[amuteun]anyway
어쨌든[eojjetdeun]anyway
그다지[geudaji]not really, not much
별로[byeollo]not really, not much, not particularly
솔직히[soljikhi]honestly

 

Reference:

  1. “Filler (Linguistics)”. En.Wikipedia.Org, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filler_(linguistics). Accessed 20 Aug 2018.
  2. “A Linguistic Anthropologist Explains Why, Um, “Filler Words” Are OK To Use”. Quartz, 2018, https://qz.com/921004/lets-stop-demonizing-filler-words/. Accessed 20 Aug 2018.
  3. “Category:Korean Interjections – Wiktionary”. En.Wiktionary.Org, 2018, https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:Korean_interjections. Accessed 20 Aug 2018.