Oxford English Dictionary rides the K-wave with a big Korean update

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Fans await the K-pop boy band BTS visit to the Today show at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City last year.

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Arts & Life
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Terms such oppa and unni have been revised to reflect the changes in their meanings as South Korean culture has spread beyond its borders.

Oppa, which was generally used by a female speaker to address an older brother, friend or boyfriend, has been revised to also refer to an attractive South Korean man. And unni is used by a female speaker to refer to an older sister or female friend; it has been revised to also refer to anyone of any gender addressing their favorite Korean actress or singer.

He’s the type of guy who loves skinship huh?😏😏#CHANSUNG #찬성 #2PM

— Rae 래 🧛🏻‍♀️🎃👻 (@chansunghearteu) October 14, 2021

Not every new entry in the OED update is a Korean word. Fighting, a phrase often heard in K-dramas and variety shows, was added as an interjection to express encouragement and support.

Skinship is a combination of the English words skin and kinship and is used to express affectionate physical touching between parents and children, friends or lovers. K-drama fans might use the term to describe scenes between romantic leads and K-pop fans use it to describe how their favorite group’s members are interacting with each other.

So the next time you watch a K-drama like Squid Game, you might spread the word by telling everybody how daebak it is.

You can find the words in the new OED update here.

Tien Le is an intern on NPR’s News Desk.

  • Squid Game
  • korean
  • south korean
  • Oxford English Dictionary
  • words


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