Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What does 넉살이 좋다 mean?

My dictionary defines 넉살 as follows:
  • shamlessness; impudence; cheekiness; brazen-facedness; sauciness; sassiness

It defines 넉살이 좋다 as follows:

  • behave shamelessly [saucily]; act brazenly [audaciously]

If a foreign student of Korean were to look at just the above definitions, he might assume that 넉살이 좋다 could substitute for 뻔뻔하다, but he would be wrong because 넉살이 좋다 has a positive connotation while 뻔뻔하다 has a negative one.

넉살이 좋다 is used to refer to thick-skinned people who are not easily embarrassed or offended. Such people would probably laugh off an insult and ask questions that some may consider to be too bold or too personal.

Based on my understanding of the expression, I think I have met many Koreans who I would describe as 넉살이 좋다. For example, I would use it to describe the curious Korean taxi driver who asks questions that some might consider to be too bold or too personal. I would also use it to describe the Korean student who comes up to me on the street and asks if he or she can practice English with me. Some foreigners may be annoyed by such people and consider them to be 뻔뻔하다, but I am somewhat impressed by the boldness and straightforwardness of such people and would, therefore, probably consider them to be only 넉살이 좋다.

I am not sure of the orgin of 넉살, but I remember it by translating it as "four skins," which implies "thick skin." A thick-skinned person is someone who is "not easily offended."

Here is a Korean explanation: '넉살'과 '언죽전죽'


  1. 안녕하세요 Gerry씨,
    아무렇지 않게 써왔던 "넉살"의 어원이라.
    생각치도 못한 것이었어요.
    그래서 인터넷으로 알아보았습니다. 저도 처음 알았어요. :p

    It's not "four skin", it's "four bamboo frame of a kite."

    자세한 내용은 다음 인터넷 주소를 참조하여 주세요.

    for more information,

    도움이 되셨으면 좋겠어요. ;)

  2. ARAM,

    Yes, I saw that kite definition of 넉살, too, but how does the "bamboo frame of a kite" evolve to the meaning of "shamelessness"? The definition did not explain that, so I am suspicious of it. There could be more than one meaning for 넉살.

    Anyway, my translation of "four skins" is only to help me remember the word. I did not mean to say that "four skins" was the original meaning.


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