Colours in Korean | To the Rainbow and Beyond 🌈

Colours in Korean

When learning a new language, one of the first lists of vocabulary you should be learning are the colours.

So today we’re talking about colours in Korean!

Colours are among the basic building blocks of vocabulary that you’ll use on a regular basis – it’s best to learn them early and learn them well.

In Korean, colours can have multiple names.

This can be a bit confusing for Korean language learners.

For example, in Korean, the word “white” can be 흰 [hyin] or 하얀 [hayan], both of which are commonly used.

There are more words to learn than you might think.

In addition, there are specialised words for certain colours in Korean, indicating a very particular shade or hue.

Don’t worry though, this article has your covered.

That being said – let’s get started!

Colours in Korean | The Word “Colour”

Colours in Korean | Basic Colours

Colours in Korean | Specific Colours

Colours in Korean | Dark vs Light Colours

Colours in Korean | Cultural Meanings

BONUS | Free Quiz

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How to Say the Word “Colour” in Korean

In Korean, the word “colour” is translated as 색깔 [saek-kkal], which is often shortened to 색 [saek].

Colour in Korean is 색 [saek]

This is very important to know, because in Korean, 색 [saek] is often attached to the actual name of the color.

For example, instead of just saying “blue” or 파란 [paran], it’s more common to say “blue colour” or 파란색 [paran-saek].

Keep this in mind as you browse the lists below.

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Basic Colours in Korean

Here are the basic colours in Korean:

EnglishKoreanRomanisationNotes
Black 검은
검은색

검정
검정색
geom-eun
geom-eun-saek

geom-jung
geom-jung-saek
There are two base words for “black” in Korean (검은, 검정), both of which are interchangeable and commonly used
Blue파란
파란색
paran
paran-saek
Brown갈색gal-saek갈색 [gal-saek] should always be used with 색 [saek], never with only the base word
Gray회색 hoe-saek회색 [hoe-saek] should always be used with 색 [saek], never with only the base word
Green 초록
초록색
chorok
chorok-saek
Orange주황
주황색
juhwang
juhwang-saek
Pink분홍
분홍색

핑크
핑크색
bunhong
bunhong-saek

pink
pink-saek
Nowadays, the Korean pronunciation of the English word for pink (핑크) is more commonly used, with 분홍 [bunhong] being considered a bit old-fashioned.
Purple보라
보라색
bora
bora-saek
Red빨간
빨간색
ppalgan
ppalgan-saek
White
흰색

하얀
하얀색
hyin
hyin-saek

hayan
hayan-saek
There are two base words for “white” in Korean (흰, 하얀), both of which are interchangeable and commonly used.
Yellow노란
노란색
noran
noran-saek

Specific Colours in Korean

Now that you know the basic colours in Korean, how about some more uncommon ones?

Korean has a wide range of specialised words for colour, some more literal and obscure than others.

Here is a list of some of the more useful terms:

EnglishKoreanRomanisationNotes
Gold금색 geum-saekThe base word 금 [geum] literally means “gold,” as in the precious metal.
Indigo남색nam-saek
Light green연두색yeondu-saek
Mint민트색minteu-saekThis is a relatively new word in the Korean lexicon, based on the English word “mint”.
Silver은색eun-saekThe base word 은 [eun] literally means “silver,” as in the precious metal.
Sky하늘색haneul-saekThe base word 하늘 [haneul] literally means “sky,” so if you’re referring to a sky blue colour, be sure to classify it with 색 [saek].
Rainbow무지개색 mujigae-saekThe base word 무지개 [mujigae] literally means “rainbow,” as in the natural phenomenon.
Turquoise청록색 chungnok-saek

Dark Colors vs. Light Colours in Korean

In Korean, there is an easy way to specify whether a colour is light or dark.

To specify a light/pale colour, add 연 [yeon] to the beginning of the word.

To specify a dark colour, add 진 [jin] to the beginning of the word.

Let’s put it in practice.

Take the Korean word for “purple,” which is 보라색.

  • If we want to say “light purple,” then we would add 연 [yeon] to the front, changing the word to 연보라색.
  • If we want to say “dark purple,” then we would add 진 [jin] to the front, changing the word to 진보라색.

Use these modification rules for any other colours in Korean.

You can now specify whether it’s light or dark. It’s as simple as that!

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The Meaning of Colours in Korean Culture

What does a bibimbap, a Hanbok and the Korean flag have in common?

Sure, they all come from Korean, but they also follow a very specific colour pattern!

Let me explain.

In the Korean colour symbolism, five specific colours hold great importance. They are called 오방색 obangsaek, or Five Direction Colours.

The five traditional Korean colours (오방색) are white, black, blue, yellow and red

Each colour corresponds to an element, a direction and a season:

WhiteBlackBlueYellowRed
WestNorthEastCenterSouth
MetalWaterWoodEarthFire
AutumnWinterSpring/Summer

The obangsaek colours each have their own meaning:

  • White | The most important colour. Represents truth, humility, purity, non-possession, as well as the origin of all things.
  • Black | Represents wisdom, darkness and death.
  • Blue | Represents integrity, brightness and clarity.
  • Yellow | Represents wealth, sun brightness and protection.
  • Red | Represents creation, passion and love.

These five colours hold such great importance in the Korean culture, that it is found in painting, architecture, clothing, food and many more aspects of life.

Including these colours in your food was believed to ensure a healthy life!

Ogansaek 오간색 is another set of five colours made from a mix of the five original ones.

Ogansaek colours are: green, light blue, light red, dark yellow, violet.

Obangsaek and Ogansaek colours make a traditional colour palette used in traditional Korean arts such as architecture, clothing as well as food.

Obangsaek & Oyansaek

BONUS – TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE

Now that you’ve come this far, it is time to check if you really paid attention to all colours in Korean!

This short quiz will take 5 minutes to complete, and the results are immediate.

Welcome to our Korean Colours quiz! Enter your first name and email to begin. Don't worry you can unsubscribe at any time!

First Name
Email
How do you say Orange in Korean?

How do you say Green in Korean?

What colour represents Love in the Korean culture?

How do you say Red in Korean?

How do you say Blue in Korean?

What colour represents Purity in the Korean culture?

How do you say Black in Korean?

How do you say Silver in Korean?

How do you say Gold in Korean?

How do you say Sky colour in Korean?


Fancy levelling up your language skills even more? Check out…

Colours in Korean – FAQ’s

How do you say Colour in Korean?

Colour in Korean is 색깔 [saek-kkal], which is often shortened to 색 [saek].

How do you say Red in Korean?

Red in Korean is 빨간색 [ppalgan-saek].

How do you say Yellow in Korean?

Yellow in Korean is 노란색 [noran-saek].

How do you say Blue in Korean?

Blue in Korean is 파란색 [paran-saek].

What is ‘Obangsaek’ in Korean culture?

Obangsaek 오방색, also called Five Colour Directions, are the five traditional Korean colours which are white, black, blue, yellow and red.

You will notice them in a lot of places in Korea, such as architecture, food and clothing.

What is ‘Ogansaek’ in Korean culture?

Ogansaek (오간색) is another set of five colours made from a mixture of the five original ones.

The 오간색 colours are green, light blue, light red, dark yellow and violet.

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