Being a new K-pop fan can be a little overwhelming. There are so many names and faces to learn and incredible bands to discover—and then there’s all that pesky vocab.
Understanding all of the terms used in the world of K-pop literally entails learning a new language, but you don’t have to become fluent in Korean to become a true fan. This glossary of 23 terms is a great place to start.
4D refers to four-dimensional, as in a 4D personality. While people with 2D personalities can appear to be a little flat and lifeless, 4D people have double the star factor. They’re completely original and have unique, quirky personalities that are all their own. When it comes to K-pop idols, being out there can be a very good thing.
Aegyo is a noun describing a certain brand of charming cuteness that’s common among K-pop girl groups. It refers to a child-like cuteness and innocence and is often characterized by using baby voices alongside dainty facial expressions and flirty yet wholesome behavior.
This may sound intimidating, but all it means is that a song has reached the top spot on all seven of Korea’s major music charts.
Calling someone a bagel may not sound all that flattering at first, but it’s actually a portmanteau combining the word “baby” and “glamorous.” It refers to an attractive person who has a cute baby face as well as a toned, glamorous bod. For many fans, it’s the perfect combo.
Historically, the word “bias” referred to the favoritism a person might feel toward a certain person or thing. Recently, the term has morphed to refer to the favored person themself. In the K-pop world, your bias is simply your favorite member in the group. Chances are that you’re quite loyal to your bias, and you discuss them a lot.
If your bias is your group fave, what exactly is a bias wrecker? All this means is that another member of the group has stepped up their game and started to appeal to you almost as much as your bias. They’re making you reconsider your staunch admiration of your bias, and might even make you think about changing your bias.
Daebak is a simple slang term that means something is captivating, successful or otherwise awesome. It can be used either as a noun or as an interjection of greatness.
The Daesang Award is the grand prize at the annual Seoul Music Awards, marking the winners as the Artist of the Year. Taking it home marks a huge achievement in the Korean music industry. BTS has won for the last two years.
Literally dongsaeng refers to a younger sibling, but it can be used as a term of endearment to refer to anyone who’s younger than you. People often feel protective of their dongsaengs, looking out for them as a real big sibling.
Dugeun Dugeun (두근 두근)
Dugeun dugeun is an onomatopoeia for the sound of a loudly beating heart. It turns up often in K-pop tracks about love and the thrill of being around the person who makes your heart skip a beat.
In K-pop, a hoobae is someone who’s junior to someone else in terms of experience. Hoobaes are expected to treat the more senior sunbaes with respect, using honorific language to address them.
Hwaiting! is a term of encouragement. It’s often used to cheer someone on during a tough sports match, or to tell your fellow teammates to do their very best. It originally derives from the English word “fighting” and refers to taking on a fighting spirit and channeling your inner strength.
Hyung is a word which males use to refer to their older brother, or a close male friend who’s something like an older brother to them. It’s very common to hear it used by the members of boy groups.
Though maknae originally specified the youngest son or daughter in a family, it’s come to also refer to the youngest person of a group. In K-pop, it’s a name for the youngest member of the band, who’s often treated as the baby of the group and looked over by the other members.
Netizen means a citizen of the internet, but among K-pop fans, it’s often used in a derogatory sense. It refers to online fans who sometimes together to gossip and bully idols (usually the women) over small, insignificant details, starting online feuds. Because most fans would prefer to keep things positive, it’s best to avoid becoming a netizen.
Noona is a word used by males to refer both to their older sisters and to close female friends who might as well be their older sisters. In K-pop, it’s commonly used in male-female idol friendships.
Oppa is a word for an older brother (or other elder male friend) used by females, and is another common term among friendly boy groups and girl groups.
A point dance is a set of dance moves specifically choreographed to match the tone and tempo of a song, instantly linking the memorable and visually compelling movements to the track. Usually, these are also designed so that fans can learn the moves without too much difficulty so they can also dance along with their favorite songs.
You might hear the word saranghae often in your favorite K-pop tracks, and for good reason. It translates to “I love you.”
No one wants to become a sasaeng. The word refers to an obsessed fan who crosses the line with their favorite idol, usually participating in stalking or other another invasion of privacy.
Selca is short for “self-camera” and is the Korean word for a selfie (even if it predates the term by a few years). They’re often characterized by great angles, ultra-glowy lighting and tons of cute stickers.
A sunbae is the opposite of the previously discussed hoobae. They are those with more skill experience in a certain field, giving them seniority. They’ve earned their more respected places, and expect respect from the less accomplished hoobaes.
While Unnie originally was a word a female used to describe an elder sister, it’s now used more widely to also describe a strong friendship with an elder female. It’s quite common to hear this used by idols in girl group.
Just getting introduced to the world of K-pop? Click HERE to find out which K-pop girl group you should join.