Name and Sound of a word?

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Senior Member
British English
I think I have just about come to terms with how chinese words were used and finally converted into Hanja. So for example lets go with the Chinese symbol for Country "" in simplified chinese.

So this symbol in standardized mandarin is "ren" however koreans had their own spoken language and assigned their own sound to this character, "guk", which when Hanja was created was written "


So why when I look up it comes up with both SOUND and NAME. Anyone explain this to me?

  • Sound (hangeul): (revised: guk, McCune-Reischauer: kuk, Yale: kwuk)

  • Name (hangeul): 나라 (revised: nara, McCune-Reischauer: nara, Yale: nala)
  • vientito

    Senior Member
    i don't believe the standard mandarin pronounciation of that character is even close to "ren". In fact, the sound is not too far off from "guk". This is originally a chinese sound and character. The sound was probably replicated and adopted in korean language. That sound in cantonese is likely close to korean than is mandarin.

    The meaning corresponding to that in english is "country" and in native korean is "나라". 국 is just written form of this adopted chinese word rendered by hangul.


    Senior Member
    British English
    Forgive me, it is "Goa". "Ren" is people. I just got confused seen as the only sentence I know is "I am England Person" in chinese haha. But thanks for your reply.


    Senior Member
    British English
    Okay just read it properly, so now which one is in common use, the native korean one or the rendering of the chinese pronunciation?


    Senior Member
    I believe "Name" should be "Meaning" and that should make you little bit clear.
    Unlike Japanese, it will be probably easier for you to consider Hanja and its Korean counterpart as two different words with same meaning.
    Because we simply read as we write.
    If it's written 國, it's always read as 국.
    If it's written 나라, simply 나라.

    That being said, going back to original question of yours:

    That country is Korea.
    나라는 한국입니다. (O)
    국(國)은 한국입니다. (X)
    국가(國家)는 한국입니다. (O).

    It's not about being common or not, it's wrong to use simply 국 to mean country.
    Interestingly as shown in last sentence, when 국 forms a compound word combined with other 한자 (or maybe 한글 at times) it's OK.
    A word with single letter Hanja is rarely used in Korean.

    The reason is probably due to confusion it may cause if single letter is used.
    Chinese has complex intonation system which helps differentiating single syllables from individual letters while Korean doesn't.
    Hence Chinese words that are melt in modern Korean language is almost never a single letter word.
    Of course, there are always exceptions, but where in the world can you find a language without exceptions? :)

    Also another misconception I've seen before is that (every) word/letter that are found in Chinese are also valid to use in Korean.
    It would be more correct to think that Korean language had borrowed some Chinese word/phrases in the past but not all.

    Don't get too confused with the concept of hanja in Korean.
    Take in mind that every Chinese letters aren't necessarily Korean word and every Chinese words/phrases aren't used in modern Korean.
    Just treat Chinese compound words existing in Korean(국가) as synonym for equivalent word in Korean(나라) as if you would do the same with "Humorous" and "Funny" in English.
    They mean the same, but they are different words.

    Anyhow in terms of popularity between 국가 and 나라, I believe 나라 is more popular.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    it's very hard to assign a popularity chart to every meaningful word in korean. There are a lot of vocabulary found in modern usage that could be traced back to its chinese origin. A lot of those words in fact are used in other asian countries as well. Some rough guideline may be useful. Formal situations usually require heavy usage of sino-origin words even if a korean equivalent well exist for the purpose. It is similar to those pompous lawyers in a courtroom who tend to resort to latin based vocabulary. You automatically elevate your status to be treated more seriously. Take this with a grain of salt: it's quite legit to use sino-based words in everyday conversation. You will find a lot of them in dramas so there is never a clear line segregating them. Those words are not just borrowed but they become a part of the language as well.
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