Sunday, January 16, 2005

What does 기상천외 mean?

기상천외(奇想天外) literally means "strange ideas from beyond the heavens." It is often used in the form of 기상천외의 to mean "most fantastic." Here is the example sentence from my dictionary:

그것은 기상 천외의 생각이다.
It is a most unexpected idea.

The Korean example sentence seems redundant since 기상천외 already includes the meaning "생각" (想). Why not simply say the following?
그것은 기상 천외이다.
The Korean definition for 기상천외 is "아주 기발하거나 엉뚱한 것," which, as you may notice, does not mention anything about 생각. Since 생각 is not mentioned in the Korean definition, it would probably be prudent to use my dictionary's example sentence instead of the one I suggested above.


  1. 奇想天外 is also an expression in Japanese. One possible explanation of why "생각" is not redundant is because (at least in Japanese) 奇想天外 is more an adjective than a noun. So it's not necessarily redundant if you want to specify that it's an idea that's bizarre. I think.

  2. Wouldn't "strange ideas from beyond the heavens" be 奇天外[之]想?

  3. Annonymous,

    Wouldn't 奇天外[之]想 more likely translate as "foreign ideas from strange heavens"?

    In 4-character idioms (사자성어), a noun and its modifier are usually placed next to each other; therefore, if you write 奇 (strange) and 天 (heaven) together, wouldn't it translate as "stange heaven," instead of "strange ideas"? Likewise, wouldn't 外想 translate as "outside ideas," or something like it?

    By the way, here are some words that use 천 as a reference point:

    천외(天外) beyond the heavens
    천상(天上) the heavens
    천하(天下) the earth; the world

  4. Your correction is well taken. I think that I should have written 天外[之]奇想. But that wasn't the point I was trying to make. You seemed to be indicating that you thought 想 should be a noun. What I was trying to say was that, in this phrase, it doesn't look like a noun to me.