14 – Strong Language 力

(Originally published March 2014)

The native Korean word for strength or power is 힘 (‘heem’) and when talking about strength in general this is the word you would use most often. But many other Korean words related to strength will have the sound 력 (‘ryeok’) or 역 (‘yeok’) in them. This sound comes from the Chinese character 力 which means ‘strength’.


For example the word for ‘physical strength’, or ‘stamina’ is 체력 (體力 – ‘Chae-Ryeok’). The first syllable 체 (‘Chae’) comes from the character 體 which means ‘body’. When combined with 력 (‘Ryeok’ -strength) it literally means ‘body-strength’.

The verb 노력하다 (‘No-Ryeok Hada’) means to ‘make an effort’ or ‘work hard’. The first syllable노 (‘No’) comes from the character 努 which means ‘strive, endeavor’, and the second syllable of course means strength.

The word 매력 (魅力 – ‘Mae-Ryeok’) means “charm, appeal, attraction, magnetism”. It is a combination of the character 魅 (‘Mae’) which means ‘fascination’ and 力 (‘Ryeok’ -strength)- in other words somebody who has the power to fascinate you!

The word 경쟁 (競 – ‘Kyeong-Jaeng’) means ‘competition’. When 력 (力 – ‘Ryeok’) is added to the end you get the word 경쟁력(競力 – ‘Kyeong-Jaeng-Ryeok’) which means “competitiveness” or “competitive strength”.

The word 상상 (想 – ‘Sang-Sang’) means imagination. When , When 력 (力 – ‘Ryeok’) is added to the end you get the word 상상력 (想力 – ‘Sang-Sang-Ryeok’) which means ‘power of imagination’ or ‘imaginative ability’.

Hopefully now you will begin to recognize the 력 (‘Ryeok’) sound in Korean words relating to strength, power, and this will make those new words easier to remember.

I’m going to end this article with a quiz. The character 能 (능 – ‘Neung’) means “Able”.

Knowing that, can you guess what 능력 (能力 – ‘Neung-Ryeok’) means? Send your answer to newhanja@gmail.com. A winner will be picked from among the correct answers and will be announced in next month’s article!

Congratulations to Erin M. Suazo who was able to answer the last quiz!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s