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Hanja (한자, 漢字) is the Korean name for Chinese characters. More specifically, it refers to those Chinese characters borrowed from Chinese and incorporated into the Korean language with Korean pronunciation. Hanja-mal (한자말) or hanja-eo (한자어, ) refers to words which can be written with hanja, and hanmun (한문, ) refers to Classical Chinese writing, although "hanja" is sometimes used loosely to encompass these other concepts. Because hanja never underwent major reform, they are almost entirely identical to traditional Chinese and kyūjitai characters. Only a small number of hanja characters are modified or unique to Korean. By contrast, many of the Chinese characters currently in use in Japan (kanji) and Mainland China have been simplified, and contain fewer strokes than the corresponding hanja characters.

Hanja Lessons

  • Beginners 한자
  • Intermediate 한자
  • Advanced 한자

Hanja By Level

With English interpretation of Korean meanings, and supplemental meanings. (needs to be reformatted)

Hanja characters


Common Hanja used in names

Surnames Hangeul/한글 Hanja/한자
Jung 鄭/丁
Given Names Hangeul/한글 Hanja/한자
Hyung 炯/亨


What is the point in learning Hanja?

A great deal of Korean words are made up of hanja. Learning the hanja will allow you to memorize the words more quickly, as knowing the roots will assist you in this process. In English, it can be equated to knowing Latin and Greek root words. Knowing the root of a word can help you understand its meaning and remember it later. This will also serve you well in other countries. If your visual memory is strong, the hanja you learn in Korea can be found (with some differences) in Japan, China and Taiwan. Thus even a limited grasp of hanja is useful when traveling in Asia. For example, numbers for dates, times, and prices.

There are also a lot of hanja the average person is expected to know, for example man (男) and woman (女), so a door might be labeled with the hanja characters on a rest room door. This would be a good time to know hanja so you don't walk into the wrong bathroom! For real life images of hanja in use, see: Category:Hanja images

Does every Hanja character have only one sound representation?

No, some Hanja characters have more than one representation.

In some cases the pronunciation depends on where it appears in a word. For example the character (year) is pronounced as 연 if it appears at the beginning of the word, and 년 if it appears elsewhere. Their pronunciations, though, often closely resemble each other. See the table below:

Character Korean representation Notes Examples
年 (year) 연, 년 Pronounced 연 at the beginning of a word, 년 elsewhere
  • 연초 <年初> - the beginning of the year
  • 연말 <年末> - the end of the year
  • 작년 <昨年> - last year
  • 내년 <來年> - next year
立 (stand, establish ) 입, 립 Pronounced 입 at the beginning of a word, 립 elsewhere
  • 입식 <立式> -
  • 독립 <獨立> - independence
  • 조립 <組立> - construction, set-up
女 (girl, woman) 여, 녀 Pronounced 여 at the beginning of a word, 녀 elsewhere
  • 여자 <女子> - woman, female
  • 여학생 <女學生> - a female student
  • 소녀 <少女> - a young girl
  • 미녀 <美女> - a beautiful girl
不 (negation) 불, 부 No rule, some words just use one or the other
  • 부정 <不正> - unlawfulness, dishonesty
  • 부득이 <不得已> - unavoidably, inevitably
  • 불편 <不便> - discomfort
  • 불가능 < 不可能 > - impossibility

How do I find a certain character in a dictionary?

Depending on dictionary, there are a number of ways to look up a character, especially in electronic ones. They can sometimes be found in the 국어 (language) menu.

Normal look up (한글->한자)
This is probably the easiest way to find one in daily use in Korea. This type of look up is for Sino-Korean vocabulary (words of Chinese origin). For example, to see which characters make up the word 무한 (), just type in the words as you would in a normal Korean vocabulary look up and the characters should appear next to the Korean word. Some electric dictionaries will have separate look up methods, one for normal Korean usage, and one that will break down each character and will give meanings for each character.

By Pronunciation/음 (한글->한자)
Type in the pronunciation, for example 무, and anywhere from 10 to 60 different characters will be shown that has that pronunciation. Although a clear demonstration as to the need for hanja for clarification, this is a fairly tedious way to find characters.

By Stroke/획수 (한자->한글)
For many simple characters and beginners, it is easiest to count the number of strokes and putting that number into the search. "총획수" indicates that the number of strokes you put in is the number of strokes for the entire character.

By Radical/부수 (한자->한글)
For more complex characters and those familiar with hanja, it is easiest to look up by number of strokes in the radical (부수획수). Correctly identify the number of strokes in the radical and type that into the search. Then type the number of strokes in the rest of the character (잔여획수).

In what order are the strokes for a character?

How do I type a Hanja character?

For Windows

Undocked language bar panel on Windows 7
Docked language bar panel on Windows 7

Type in the Korean 한글 equivalent of the word for which you want the hanja form. While the the character is still "active" (meaning you can still see the line underneath the character), click the [漢] icon (in the language toolbar) and a small menu of the all the possible hanja characters should pop up. Type the designated number or click the desired character and it should replace the Korean 한글 with hanja. Alternatively, you can click on the bucket icon to draw the hanja you want.

For Mac OS X

Hanja selection list in Mac OS X TextEdit.
Various Hanja-related preferences. Can be accessed through the flag icon at the top-right of screen.

First, enable 한글 typing in the language system preferences; the keyboard input method doesn't matter. Just like in Windows, the "active" character is represented by an underline. While a character is still active, press the key combination "Option-Return." A list of potential Hanja shows up for that character.

You can also change the way Hanja characters are displayed, such as having the 한글 preserved while parenthetically adding Hanja. This and several other Hanja-related settings can be accessed by clicking the flag drop-down menu in the upper-right of the Mac screen.