Do you find any differences between talking to elders or people with higher social status and talking to your peers? Usually, for the sake of politeness, you do. In Korean language case, the one thing that differentiates between talking to elders and your peers is honorific titles. It is a very crucial thing for Koreans because they highly value respect for elders. More than 5 honorific titles that the Koreans use in daily life, and you will learn them in a Korean class. Here are some of the honorifics and titles you will find.
1. 오빠 oppa
This honorific title literally means ‘older brother’ in Korean and usually used by females to call their older male sibling or older male friend. You will also find it common for a girl to call her boyfriend with this honorific title.
2. 형 hyeong; hyung
This honorific title literally means ‘older brother. Don’t confuse this with ‘Oppa’, ‘Hyung’ is exclusively used by males to call their older male sibling or male friend.
3. 언니 eonnie; unnie
This honorific title means ‘older sister’. Females can only use this honorific title to call their older female sibling or an older female friend.
4. 누나 nuna; noona
Similar to ‘eonnie’, ‘noona’ means ‘older sister’. However, only male friends or male siblings can use this term to call their older female friends or female siblings.
5. 선배 sunbae; seonbae
If a female or male student is calling an older female or male, especially in school or university context, ‘sunbae’ is the appropriate honorific title. You can also use this title to refer to your senior in a Korean class. It is to show respect to the seniors.
6. 씨 ssi
‘Ssi’ is one of the most common honorific titles the Koreans use in their daily lives. You probably hear it mostly in Korean dramas when the actors talk to someone they respect or don’t really know well at work. It is similar to Mr./Mrs/Miss. Put it after their first name, not a surname. Or else, it will be considered as rude or inappropriate.
7. 님 nim
Similar to ‘ssi’, this honorific title is used in the business environment. The level of politeness is higher than ‘ssi’. It’s usually used when we’re talking to the business client.
So, those are the seven honorific titles that you will learn in your Korean class. It’s important to use them in the appropriate context to avoid misunderstanding. Happy learning!