While watching your favorite Kdrama shows or other Korean television, you may have come across the word ‘Aish’ many times. It’s possible that you already can infer the meaning of this word when you heard it in context.
To start off, ‘Aish’ is basically a way of expressing frustration or slight anger at someone or a situation. Some beginners learning Korean might think of it as a curse word, but it’s not. However, it’s still not proper to use it towards older people, strangers, or people in the workplace of higher rank than you.
Around your friends? Have at it and express your frustration.
A funny story I can recall is not totally understanding when to use this word, and I used it in front of my mother-in-law expressing my frustration at traffic while driving with Hyo’s family. I thought I was being funny, but she politely told me not to use it so freely around her.
If I could give an exact phrase or words that mean the same in English, it would be something like ‘ah damn’, ‘ah dang’ or ‘ah shoot’.
Now although this word isn’t a curse word, it actually sounds like a shortened form of a very common curse word ‘씨발’ [ssi-bal], which is basically the worst Korean swear words you could use. Pretty much don’t use this curse word at any time unless you want a fight.
This word sounds a lot like the number 18 in Sino Korean, so make sure your pronunciation is on point!
If we write out ‘Aish’ in Hangul it would be:
If we break it down, we have ‘아이’ which is a short exclamation in Korean for expressing frustration, and ‘씨’ which is the first syllable in the above-mentioned curse word ‘씨발’.
Despite ‘Aish’ sounding like a shortened form of the curse word itself, it’s actually not, and people just use the similar sounds to make it seem that way.
If you’re a fan or familiar with the group Itzy, you will know they have a song called ‘ICY’ which sounds like ‘아이씨’ in Korean. It’s sort of a play on words with English which is common in lots of Kpop song titles.
Common phrases you might hear using this word are:
아이씨, 짜증나! (a-i-ssi, jja-jeung-na!) = Dammit I’m annoyed!/this is annoying!
아이씨 진짜…(a-i-ssi jin-jja) = Ah cmon really…
And there you have it! Take note of other contexts for this word whenever you hear it out in public or in TV from now on.