how to call Nuna, Oppa,Hyung(Hyung-Ah), Unnie, Dongsang properly

1. The case of calling someone Nuna:

Because the most common meaning of nuna is ‘older sister,’ in Korea, a younger brother will most likely call his older sister ‘nuna’ instead of calling her by her real name. However, when Korean people get close to someone, they tend to call that person by the closer, family style of title, to show that they are like family. It is important that you don’t get freaked out if a Korean calls you by one of these titles, as if you were family to them. They don’t mean that you’re part of their real family, just that you are a very close person to them.


//(This popband sings a song about Nuna who they are in love with.)
(Title: Nuna is so pretty)

Some Korean guys don’t like calling a girl that they really like ‘nuna,’ because it makes them feel that they are nothing more to that girl than a young boy. Others, however, don’t mind calling a girl ‘nuna’ that they like. Once they get used to calling her ‘nuna,’ he can seek a brother-sister style relationship with her.

Even if you learn a lot about this cultural difference, it’s best if you do not call an older girl by ‘nuna’ because calling someone ‘nuna’ is acceptable only between the closest of friends.

2. The case of calling someone Oppa:

If you’re a guy, and you have a close Korean friend, and it’s a younger girl than you, she will probably eventually start to call you ‘oppa.’ Among all of these titles, ‘oppa’ is perhaps the most important of these, as it sometimes implies some sexual meanings as well. Even so, ‘oppa’ usually means ‘older brother to a girl.’

The title ‘oppa’ is used mostly when a girl wants to sound cute to the person that they are using it on. This is because Korean guys love cute girls that act like little sisters, and perhaps they want these girls that have this sweet, charming type to be their girlfriends.


(Tittle: Oppa is bad)

It’s for this reason that some Korean girls call close older people ‘oppa.’ This is always right in any situation, even without the intention to be viewed as a charming girl and they want to convey the meaning of ‘you’re like a brother to me’

Dong-Bang-Shkinki, the most famous boyband in Korea ,they’re also called ‘oppa’ by many teenaged girls

3. Hyung:

There’s no korean guy that would let his younger brother call him by name in person, because if they do, it seems like a challenge of the older brother’s authority.

If the age gap is small, the younger guy calls the older guy ‘hyung,’ but if the age gap is large, he should use ‘hyungnim’ (Nim is a word for respect in the Korean language, i.e. sunsang means teacher, but a student always calls a teacher ‘sunsangnim’ to show respect).

Little kids use the term ‘hyung-ah,’ but if an adult uses it, it might sound very childish.

4. Unnie:

A younger sister calls her older sister ‘unnie’ just like a young brother calls her ‘nuna’ instead of her real name. A girl may also call another girl that isn’t related to her, but is very close ‘unnie’ as well.

5. Dongsang

This is what older people call their younger siblings.
If you are older than someone, you don’t even have to give them a title, you can just use their real name once you’re sure that they are younger than you. But you may also call them dongsang, but it doesn’t sound as natural, unless you are introducing them to someone as ‘this is my dongsang.’

This was all about how to use the complicated titles used in Korean culture due to the concept of a hierarchy between people based on age. If you are ever confused about which one to call them, just don’t use it though. Call them by their real name. :P

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3 Responses to how to call Nuna, Oppa,Hyung(Hyung-Ah), Unnie, Dongsang properly

  1. julie89vn says:

    Interesting~~~~~. It’s as complicated as Vietnamese haha. We have many titles to address someone :-).

  2. nyko119 says:

    thanks for clearing this up haha :3

  3. Loan says:

    iam agree with julie , hahaha.

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