the talking cupboard

Empress.Ki.E51.re.140504.HDTV.MPEG2.1080i-PYUN.ts_001946098

Sageuk Glossary

Do leave your suggestions for words or terms that you think should be added to this list. Questions are also welcomed! 😉

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A

Aba mama (아바마마) – A term of address used by a royal child for his father.

Abanim (아바님) – Archaic term for abeonim (father).

Agasshi (아가씨) – Young Lady or Miss; a term of address used by a servant for the unmarried daughter of his master.

Agisshi (아기씨) – His/Her Young Highness; the style used to address a young prince or princess.

Asshi (아씨) – A shortened form of agasshi.

Awoo (아우) – Archaic term for dongsaeng.

B

Bin (빈, 嬪) – Royal Concubine of the First Senior Rank.

Bin-gung (빈궁, 嬪宮) – lit. Consort’s Palace. Another way of addressing a Crown Prince’s Consort.

Bubuin (부부인, 府夫人) – Grand Princess Consort; wife of a Grand Prince.

Budaebuin (부대부인, 府大夫人) – Grand Internal Princess Consort; consort of a Grand Internal Prince.

Buin (부인, 夫人) – Wife.

Buma (부마, 駙馬) – Royal Son-in-law.

Buwongun (부원군, 府院君) – Internal Prince; father of a Queen Consort.

C

Cheong nara (청(清)나라) – Qing Dynasty of China.

Cheonyeo (처녀, 處女) – Maiden or virgin. A young unmarried lady.

Cheop (첩, 妾) – Concubine.

Chonggak (총각 總角) – Bachelor.

D

Daebi (대비, 大妃) – Queen Dowager; wife of the previous King.

Daegam (대감, 大監) – His/Your Excellency; a term of address used for the First Senior to Second Senior ranks.

Daegun (대군, 大君) – Grand Prince; legitimate son of a King.

Daejang (대장, 大將) – General/Chief/Leader.

Dae-janggun (대장군, 大將軍) – Great General.

Daewang (대왕, 大王) – Great King; a title used to refer to the current King [pre-Joseon] or the deceased kings.

Daewangdaebi (대왕대비, 大王大妃) – Grand Royal Queen Dowager; former Queen Consort that is more senior than the other two queens dowager.

Daewon-gun (대원군, 大院君) – Grand Internal Prince/Prince Regent; the King’s father who has never reigned as King himself.

Dang nara (당(唐)나라) – Tang Dynasty of China

Dong-gung (동궁, 東宮) – Eastern Palace where a Crown Prince resides. Another way of addressing a Crown Prince. [Joseon]

Doryeong (도령) – Bachelor; less formal form of Young Master.

Doryeon-nim (도련님) – Young Master.

Doseong (도성, 都城) – Capital city.

E

Eolja (얼자, 孼子) – Children of a nobleman with his lowborn concubine (slave).

Eoma mama (어마마마) – A term of address used by a royal child for his mother.

Eomanim (어마님) – Archaic term for eomonim (mother).

Eonni (언니) – Older sister or sibling. Also romanized as unni, it is widely used between female siblings in modern settings.

G

Geumsang (금상, 今上) – One of the titles used to refer to the current King.

Gibang (기방, 妓房) – A courtesan house.

Ginyeo (기녀, 寄) – A female entertainer or courtesan during Joseon Dynasty.

Gisaeng (기생, 寄生) – Another name for ginyeo.

Gong (공, 公) – Royal Prince.

Gongju (공주, 公主) – Royal Princess; legitimate daughter of the King.

Goong/gung (궁, 宮) – Royal Palace.

Goongju/gungju (궁주, 宮主) – A title used to refer to the consorts and daughters of the King during Goryeo and early Joseon Dynasties before the system for royal concubines was introduced in Sejong’s 10th year of reign. It was also a way to refer to the illegitimate daughters of the King during King Chungseon’s rule.

Gun (군, 君) – Prince; illegitimate son of the King; son of a Grand Prince.

Gunbuin (군부인, 郡夫人) – Princess Consort; wife of a Prince.

Gungnyeo (궁녀, 宮女) – Court Lady.

Gunju (군주, 郡主) – Legitimate daughter of a Crown Prince.

Gun-ui (군의, 君尉) – Prince Consort. Consort of a Royal Princess.

Gwa-in (과인, 寡人) – lit. Morally Deficient One. A title used by a King to refer to himself during a conversation with his subjects.

Gwi-in (귀인, 貴人) – Royal Concubine of the First Junior Rank.

Gyebi (계비, 繼妃) – Queen consort from the King’s second, third, etc marriage.

Gyusu (규수, 閨秀) – Lady or maiden. An accomplished maiden from a decent background.

H

Halba mama (할바마마) – A term of address used by a royal child for his grandfather.

Halma mama (할마마마) – A term of address used by a royal child for his grandmother the Queen/Queen Dowager/etc.

Han nara (한()나라) – Han Dynasty of China.

Harabanim (하라바님) – Archaic term for harabeonim (grandfather).

Hugung (후궁, 後宮) – Royal Concubine.

Hwanggung (황궁, 皇宮) – Imperial Palace.

Hwanghu (황후, 皇后) – Empress.

Hwangja (황자, 皇子) – Imperial Prince.

Hwangje (황제,  皇帝) – Emperor.

Hwangnyeo (황녀,  皇) – Imperial Princess.

Hwangsang (황상, 皇上) – lit. Radiant Highness. A title used to address the current Emperor by more senior members of the Imperial Family.

Hwangsil (황실, 皇室) – Imperial House (family).

Hwangtaehu (황태후, 皇太后) – Empress Dowager/Grand Empress.

Hwangtaeja (황태자, 皇太子) – Imperial Crown Prince.

Hwangtaejabi (황태자비, 皇太子妃) – Imperial Crown Princess Consort.

Hwangtaeje (황태제, 皇太弟) – Imperial Crown Brother; brother of the current Emperor designated as an heir to the throne.

Hyeong-nim/hyeong (형님/형) – Older brother or older sibling. Nowadays, it is used between male siblings.

Hyeonju (현주, 縣主) – Illegitimate daughter of a Crown Prince.

I

Imgeum (임금) – King.

Imja (임자) – Wife; a way to address a person not familiar to someone; a way of addressing someone’s wife that is older than him.

J

Jaga (자가) – The style used to address a Princess after she gets married. [Joseon]

Janggeun (장군 將軍) – General.

Jeguk (제국, 帝國) – Empire.

Jeoha (저하, 邸下) – The style used to address a Crown Prince.

Jeongbi (정비, 正妃) – Queen consort from the King’s first marriage; King’s legal wife.

Jeonha (전하, 殿下) – Can be translated as His/Your Majesty. The style used to address the King or an Imperial Crown Prince.

Jewang (제왕, 帝王) – Emperor/King.

Jiabi (지아비) – Archaic term used by women to refer to their husbands.

Jibang (지방) – Province/Countryside.

Jim (짐, 朕) – lit. Royal We. It is used by an Emperor to refer to himself.

Jumo (주모) – Owner of a tavern.

Jungjeon (중전, 中殿) – lit. Central Palace. Another way of addressing a Queen Consort. [Joseon]

Jusang (주상, 主上) – The title used to address the King.

Mama (마마, 媽媽) – His/Her/Your Royal Highness.

Ma-nim (마님) – Milady; a term of address used by a servant for the wife of his master.

Mudang (무당) – Shaman.

Myeong nara (명(明)나라) – Ming Dynasty of China.

N

Naeuri (나으리) – A variation of nari.

Nain (나인, 內人) – Palace maid or court attendant.

Nangja (낭자, 娘子) – Lady/ Maiden/ Virgin.

Nanggun (낭군) – Husband; an affectionate term used by a younger wife to address her husband.

Naratnim (나랏님) – Another way of referring to the King.

Nari (나리) : A term used to officially address official of the Third Senior to Ninth Junior ranks. It is also used generally by the commoners or lower class citizens to address the aristocrats.

Nu-i (누이) – Archaic term for nuna.

Nunim/nuna (누님/누나) – Older sister.

O

Ongju (옹주, 翁主) – Illegitimate daughter of the King.

Orabeoni (오라버니) – Archaic term for oppa (older brother).

Orabi (오라비) – A variation of orabeoni,

P

Pyeha (폐하, 陛下) : lit. Bottom of the Steps. The title used to address the Emperor, Empress, Empress Dowager, and King [pre-Joseon].

S

Sadaebu (사대부, 士大夫) – Aristocrats/Noblemen; people of the governing class.

Sabu-nim (사부님) – Master/Teacher; a person who teaches something to someone.

Saekshi (색시) – Maiden/young woman and wife. Also used for new brides, sae saekshi (새 색시).

Sahyeong/ sahyung (사형, 師) – A term used by Confucian scholars to address their seniors, whom they regarded as brothers under the same tutelage. Derived from the Chinese term of the same meaning shige (师哥).

Sanggam (상감) – Another way of referring to the King.

Sanggung (상궁, 尙宮) – Palace Matron/ Chief Court Lady; the highest rank attainable by a court lady.

Sangwang  (상왕, 上王) – King Former. A living king who voluntarily abdicated for the current King to rise to the throne.

Seja (세자, 世子) – Prince Successor; a shortened form of wangseja.

Sejabin (세자빈, 世子嬪) – Princess Successor Consort; a shortened form of wangsejabin.

Seobang-nim (서방님) – Husband.

Seoeol (서얼, 庶孼) – A collective term from seoja and eolja, used for children of a nobleman with his concubines, which made them illegitimate.

Seoja (서자, 庶子) – Children of a nobleman with his freeborn concubine (commoner).

Seonbi (선비) – Scholar.

Seondaewang (선대왕, 先大王) – Great Predecessor King; a title used to refer to a deceased King.

Seongnim (성님) – A dialect from Chungcheondo Province to address one’s older brother or sister.

Seson (세손, 世孫)  – Grand Heir; a shortened form of wangseson.

Sesonbin (세손빈, 世孫嬪) – Grand Heir Consort; a shortened form of wangsesonbin.

Seuseung-nim (스승님) – Master/Teacher; a person who teaches something to someone.

Shincheop (신첩, 臣妾) – A term used by the consorts and concubines of a king to refer to herself when speaking to her husband.

Socheop (소첩, 小妾) – A term used by the wife of an aristocrat to refer to herself when speaking to her husband.

Soin (소인, 小人) – A term used by a man to refer to himself when speaking with the King.

Soja (소자, 小子) – A term used by a young man/prince to refer to himself during a conversation with his parents and/or his teacher.

Sonyeo (소녀, 少女) – lit. girl. A term used by a young girl/daughter/princess to refer to herself when speaking to her parents or anyone with higher status than her.

Song nara (송()나라) – Song Dynasty of China.

Soshin (소신) – A term used by a man to refer to himself when speaking with the King.

So-ui (소의, 昭儀) – Royal Concubine of the Second Senior Rank.

So-won (소원, 昭媛) – Royal Concubine of the Fourth Senior Rank.

So-yong (소용, 昭容) – Royal Concubine of the Third Senior Rank.

Suk-ui (숙의, 淑儀) – Royal Concubine of the Second Junior Rank.

Suk-won (숙원, 淑媛) – Royal Concubine of the Fourth Junior Rank.

Suk-yong (숙용, 淑容) – Royal Concubine of the Third Junior Rank.

T

Taeja (태자, 太子) – Crown Prince; a shortened form of hwangtaeja.

Taejabi (태자비, 太子妃) – Crown Princess Consort; a shortened form of hwangtaejabi.

Taeje (태제, 太弟) – Crown Brother; a shortened form of hwangtaeje.

Taenyeo (태녀) – Crown Princess.

Taesangwang (태상왕, 太上王) – Grand King Former. A title used to address an abdicated king that is more senior than sangwang.

U

Uibin (의빈, 儀賓) – Son-in-law of the king.

W

Wang (왕, 王) – King.

Wangbi (왕비, 王妃) – Queen Consort.

Wangdaebi (왕대비, 王大妃) – Royal Queen Dowager; a former Queen Consort that is more senior than Queen Dowager.

Wanghu (왕후, 王后) – lit. Queen. The suffix attached to the posthumous name of a Queen Consort.

Wangja (왕자, 王子) – Royal Prince or simply Prince.

Wangnyeo (왕녀, 王女) – Royal Princess or simply Princess.

Wangseja (왕세자, 王世子) – Royal Prince Successor. The official heir to the throne.

Wangsejabin (왕세자빈, 王世子嬪) – Royal Prince Successor Consort. The consort of Royal Prince Successor.

Wangseje (왕세제, 王世弟) – Royal Brother Successor. The brother of the current King who is the official heir to the throne in case the current King has no son of his own.

Wangsejebin (왕세제빈, 王世弟嬪) – Royal Brother Successor’s Consort.

Wangseson (왕세손, 王世孫) – Royal Grandson Heir Apparent. The firstborn son of the Prince Successor and the eldest grandson of the current King. The next in line to the throne after his father.

Wangsesonbin (왕세손빈, 王世孫嬪) – Royal Grandson Heir Apparent’s Consort. The wife of Royal Grandson Heir Apparent.

Wangsil (왕실, 王室) – Royal House (family).

Wangson (왕손, 王孫) – Royal grandson.

Won nara (원(元)나라) – Yuan Dynasty of China.

Wonja (원자, 元子) – First Son/ Prince Royal. The title given to the firstborn son of the current King before his inauguration as the Prince Successor.

Y

Yangban (양반, 兩班) – Aristocrats/Noblemen; elite class of the Joseon Dynasty.

Yeonggam (영감) – A title used to address the officers of Second Senior to Third Senior ranks.

Yeowang (여왕, 女王) – Queen Regnant.

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source | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |

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29 thoughts on “Sageuk Glossary

  1. This is soooo helpful for me to write my drama…. thank you sooo much….

  2. Question: in say “Empress Ki,” it sounds like they refer to Empress Ki as Kibi mama or gwibi mama…. is that a specific word or are they literally inserting her name into the title? if so what does bi mean in this case?

  3. Question: what about the eunuchs and maids? What would they be called? And is there any rank difference?

    Also what is sangsang?

    • About the palace maids and their ranks, I’ve written about them in this post: https://thetalkingcupboard.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/women-of-the-joseon-dynasty-part-1/
      Scroll down a bit and you’ll see more ranks for the palace maids from the usual sanggung you hear in the sageuk.

      Eunuchs also had different ranks and the common term to address them was naegwan (내관), which also means ‘inner officers’ since they worked inside the palace, but they were commonly known as naesi (내시). The ranks for the eunuchs are:
      2nd junior: sangseon (상선) – You’ll hear the king calling his eunuch using this title once in a while.
      3rd senior: sangon (상온), sangda (상다)
      3rd junior: sangak (상닥)
      4th senior: sangjeong (상정)
      4th junior: sangchaek (상책)
      5th senior: sangho (상호)
      5th junior: sangtang (상탕)
      6th senior: sangse (상세)
      6th junior: sangchok (상촉)
      7th senior: sanggeo (상거)
      7th junior: sangseol (상설)
      8th senior: sangje (상제)
      8th junior: sangmoon (상문)
      9th senior: sanggyeong (상경)
      9th junior: sangwon (상원)

      Not sure if that’s a rank or not, but sangsang can also mean ‘imagine’. Where did you hear it from?

      • Thank you for the detailed answers. Also sangsang, i hear it a couple of times as the king addresses some of his officials. Not sure it’s a title though.

        Also i forgot about guards in my earlier comment. Did the kings and concubines have their own guards?

        • Maybe the title was meant for the eunuch 🙂

          I’m not really sure about the concubines since they did not have the need for their own guards, because they rarely left the palace. The kings had a special group of guards called naegeumwi (내금위) which was led by the Chief of Royal Guard, naegeumwijang (내금위장). The crown princes also had their own group of guards, called igwisa (익위사).

        • Thank you. I love your posts. How do you know so much?

        • You’re welcome 😉 It’s all thanks to the dramas and my fascination in history..plus, I really love reading and writing, so I gather what I found into posts to be shared here 😀

  4. Hi! Question what are the rankings of the palace guards?

    Thank you in advance. 🙂

    • Hello 🙂
      As far as I know, the Chief/Commander of Royal Guard (naegeumwijang) held the highest rank (junior 2nd rank, later senior 3rd rank during Yeongjo’s reign) but I couldn’t find out about the others..

  5. Why in Goong s does the queen mother address the empress as hwangsa instead of hwangsang?

    • Imperial titles for Korean Empire are quite complicated, so I can’t be sure if what I found is correct.
      ‘Hwangsa’ is a variation of title for an emperor (hwangje)’s successor. So it could be that the Grand Empress is calling her daughter using the Empress’s old title. But then, a naver blogger pointed out that the drama made some mistakes in assigning the titles for the Imperial family members (like Kang Hoo’s supposed to be called ‘gongja-nim’ instead of ‘gongja mama’), so there might be confusion regarding the titles to be used. Plus, there was no Empress regnant in Korea’s history, so the drama might have used the liberty to assume the title..

      Hope that can answer your question! 🙂

  6. annyeong ^_^
    Thank you for keep sharing such article. It’s really helpful.
    However, it’s still hard for me to get any information about names of year during Joseon era.
    Just like kyongjin year (1760), sinsa year (1761). If you have any article about it, will you please kindly tell me? ^__^

    • Hello 🙂
      You’re welcome!
      I am in the middle of writing the article actually..are you reading my mind? 😀
      The year names are actually based on the Chinese Sexagenary Cycle, or Ganji in Korean. The names repeat themselves every 60 years, so you’ll find similar names even when the years are different.
      To determine the name for a particular name, you can use this formula. For example, let’s use the year 1760:
      1. 1760 – 3 = 1757 (“subtracting 3 from the Gregorian year”)
      2. 1757 ÷ 60 = 29 (“divide by 60 and discard any fraction”)
      3. 1757 – (60 × 29) = 17 (“taking the remainder”)
      4. Open the table ‘Sexagenary Cycle’ here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexagenary_cycle#Twelve_Earthly_Branches (the one with the ‘Stem-Branch’) and look for the 17th name = gyeongjin.

      It’s the simplest way to find out the year name used in Joseon 😀

  7. What is the term that Tal Tal and Bayan addressed Baek Ahn by? It sounds like Sabu-nim but I’m not sure if that’s what it is.

  8. Can you explain the role of court ladies (were they used as concubines)? In dramas, they seem to be more like palace staff to serve food, yet, they are forbidden male relationships or to marry (see, A Frozen Flower; The Princess’ Man).

    If they’re not used as concubines, why are they denied marriage to other men?

    • Hi Beez,

      I have written a post about Joseon ladies including court ladies here: https://thetalkingcupboard.com/2014/06/15/women-of-the-joseon-dynasty-part-1/.

      Court ladies, or gungnyeo, were the working ladies of the palace, so they did everything: from cleaning to serving food, and their tasks were not limited to the inner chambers. There were a lot of departments and a variety of ranks, and they were all considered the king’s women, hence the marriage ban for all gungnyeo. I believe that the practice of marriage ban was originated from Chinese Dynasties, and it was a way to ensure that there won’t be anything to prevent the court ladies from serving their masters, as well as preventing information leak since they knew a lot of things going inside the royal palace. After all, these maids lived inside the palace most of the time, and their energy was all expected to be spent on their tasks.

      Although they were considered as such (the king’s women), in practical, the king could not make them serve him intimately just like that. There were customs to be adhered to; for instance, when the court ladies were serving the king’s elders (Queens Dowager or Kings Former, who were the king’s parents and above), he could not touch them because it was considered being rude to his elders, since the maids were considered as the elders’ people.

      Hope that helps 🙂

  9. I heard this phrase 대리청정 being used in Love in the Moonlight to refer to a prince taking over the current ruling king. I think it’s a more exact definition of the term “prince regent”, according to what I read online

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