How to Say ‘Life’ in Korean


Whether you want to understand basic words in K-pop or K-dramas, impress your Korean friends, or simply deepen your connection to the Korean culture, the Korean Language Starter Pack ensures that you quickly learn and retain the most commonly used Korean words and phrases today. Click here to learn more.

What is the meaning of life? Depending on your beliefs, this could vary. But let’s not get into deep topics like that here πŸ™‚

Today, we’re covering five words that convey ‘life’ in Korean. Each one has a slightly different nuance and is used differently from one another. If you mistakenly use one meaning when you were supposed to use another, most Koreans will understand what you’re saying. However, you want to be as accurate as possible in order to get better at the language.

So let’s get started with today’s words!

인생 (in-saeng)

This word for life can only refer to the life that humans live. It can’t be used when referring to animals or plants. So for our example above, if you were talking about the purpose or meaning of life, then 인생 would be used. Let’s take a look at some example sentences.

λ‚΄ 전체 인생은 엉망이야. (nae jeon-che in-saeng-eun eong-mangi-ya) = My entire life is a mess.

λ‹€μ‹œ λ‹ˆΒ μΈμƒμ„ μ±…μž„μ Έ (da-si ni in-saeng-eul chaek-im-jyeo) = Take charge of your life again.

κ·Έλ…€λŠ” λ‚΄Β μΈμƒμ˜ 전뢀이닀. (geu-nyeo-neun nae in-saeng-ui jeon-bu-i-da) = She’s my whole life.

λ‚˜λŠ”Β μΈμƒμ„ ν—ˆλΉ„ν•˜κ³  μžˆλ‹€. (na-neun in-saeng-eul heo-bi-ha-go i-tta) = I am wasting my life.

μ‚Ά (sam)

If you want to think of life as an idea or the act of being alive, then this version of the word would be appropriate. Here are some example sentences for this word:

λˆ„κ°€ κ·ΈλŸ°Β μ‚Άμ„ μ‚΄ 수 μžˆμ„κΉŒ? (nu-ga geu-reon sam-eun sal su i-sseul-kka) = Who can live such a life?

λ‚˜λŠ”Β μ‚Άμ˜ λ°©κ΄€μžκ°€ λ˜μ—ˆλ‹€. (na-neun sam-ui bang-gwan-ja-ga dwi-eot-ta) = I became a spectator of life.

ν–‰λ³΅ν•œΒ μ‚Άμ€ ν‰λ²”ν•œΒ μ‚Άμ΄λ‹€. (haeng-bok-han sam-eun pyeong-beom-han sam-i-da) = A happy life is a simple life.

λ‚˜μ˜Β μ‚Άμ˜ 열정은 좕ꡬ이닀. (na-ui sam-ui yeol-jeong-eun chuk-ku-i-da) = My passion in life is football.

μƒν™œ (saeng-hwal)Β 

This word for life is related to the actions and what someone does while they are alive. So if you were training to be an Olympic athlete for swimming, and you practiced swimming every day, then you could say swimming is your μƒν™œ. Here are some example sentences:

κ²°ν˜ΌΒ μƒν™œμ€ μ–΄λ•Œ? (gyeol-hon saeng-hwal-eun eo-ttae) = How is married life?

λ„ˆλ¬΄ λ°”λ₯ΈΒ μƒν™œ ν–ˆμ–΄μš”? (neo-mu ba-reun saeng-hwal hae-sseo-yo) = Do you lead a disciplined life?

μ €μ˜ ν•™κ΅μƒν™œμ€ μ—„μ²­ μ’‹μ•„μš”. (jeo-ui hak-gyo-saeng-hwal-eun eom-cheong jo-a-yo) = My school life is very good.

μ œκ°€Β μƒν™œμ„ ν•  수 μžˆμŠ΅λ‹ˆλ‹€. (je-ga saeng-hwal-eul hal su i-sseum-ni-da) = This is how I make my living.

생λͺ… (saeng-myeong)Β 

Think of this word as more of a “life force” meaning. The reason or drive for someone to go on living, or the strength and power the drives a person or animal to live. Let’s take a look at some examples for this word.

생λͺ…λ ₯이 μ°Έ κΈ΄ μ‚¬λžŒμ΄μ£ . (saeng-myeong-nyeok-i cham gin sa-ram-i-jyo) = He is full of vitality.

물이 생λͺ…에 μ—„μ²­λ‚˜κ²Œ μ€‘μš”ν•œ κ±°μž–μ•„μš”. (mul-i saeng-myeong-e eom-cheong-na-ge jung-yo-han geo-jan-a-yo) = Water is really important for our health.

μ§€λ‚œ 밀에 당신은 λ‚˜μ˜Β μƒλͺ…을 κ΅¬ν–ˆμ–΄μš”. (ji-nan bam-e dang-sin-eun na-ui saeng-myeong-eul gu-hae-sseo-yo) = You saved my life last night.

κ·Έ μƒμ²˜λŠ”Β μƒλͺ…에 μœ„ν˜‘μ μ΄μ§€ μ•Šμ•˜λ‹€. (gue sang-che-neun saeng-myeong-e wui-hyeop-jeok-i-ji a-ntta) = The wound was not life-threatening.

λͺ©μˆ¨ (mok-sum)Β 

Our last and final word refers to the act of breathing and its importance to living. Think of it as referring to the basic function of living. Let’s look at some sentences for our last word.

λ‚˜λŠ” λ„€Β λͺ©μˆ¨μ„ ꡬ해주고 μ‹Άλ‹€. (na-neun mok-sum-eul gu-hae-ju-go sip-da) = I want to save your life.

μ‚¬λžŒλ“€μ€Β λͺ©μˆ¨μ„ μžƒμ„κΉŒλ΄ λ‘λ €μ›Œν•˜κ³  μžˆλ‹€. (sa-ram-deul-eun mok-sum-eul il-eul-kka-bwa du-lyeo-weo-ha-go i-tta) = People are in fear of their lives.

λ‚΄ 아이듀은 λ‚΄Β λͺ©μˆ¨κ³Ό κ°™λ‹€. (nae a-i-deul-eun nae mok-sum-gwa ga-tta) = My children are my life.

λͺ©μˆ¨μ„ κ±Έμ–΄. (mok-sum-eul geo-leo) = Risk your life.

Hope you enjoyed this post and learned something new! These may be confusing at first, and the usages may sound similar, but with practice, you will pick up when to use them easily.



Whether you want to understand basic words in K-pop or K-dramas, impress your Korean friends, or simply deepen your connection to the Korean culture, the Korean Language Starter Pack ensures that you quickly learn and retain the most commonly used Korean words and phrases today. Click here to learn more.