32 – 來 – The Future Is Here

(Originally published November 2015).

NOTE: This article marks the 3 year anniversery of Hanja Time!  I didn’t realize it at the time I was writing it.  The very first Hanja Time was published in November 2012.  I can’t beleive it has been 3 years already.  I’m so grateful to all the people who have allowed me to continue to write this article. 

2015-11 Hanja Time – Rae(Future)

This month we are going to take a look at a character 來 which means ‘Future’ and can also mean ‘come’ or sometimes ‘since’. In Korean this character has 2 different pronunciations: if it is the first syllable in a word it will be pronounced 내 (“Nae”), otherwise it will be pronounced 래 (“Rae”). Many Korean words relating to ‘future’ or ‘since’ will have this sound in them. This character has an interesting etymology; it is a picture of a wheat or barley plant. Supposedly, in Ancient China the sound of the word for barley was similar to the word for “come”, so it came to represent the future, which is always coming.

For example, the word 내년 (來年 – “Nae-Nyeon”) means ‘next year’. The first syllable 내 (來 – “Nae”) means ‘future’ or ‘come’ and the second syllable 년 (年 – “Nyeon”) means ‘year’. When you put them together you literally get ‘future+year’.

Similarly, the word for tomorrow is 내일 (來日 – “Nae-Il”). Again, the first character내 (來 – “Nae”) means ‘future’ or ‘come’ and the second syllable 일 (日 – “Il”) means ‘day’. So the the word for ‘tomorrow’ is literally ‘future + day’.

The word for ‘next month’ is 내달 (來- – “Nae-Dal”). This word is unique because the first syllable 내 (來 – “Nae”) comes from Chinese, but the second syllable 달 (“Dal”) is a native Korean meaning ‘month’. When they are combined the form a half-Chinese half-native Korean word.

The next few words will use 내/래 (來 – “Nae”/ “Rae”) as when it has the meaning of ‘since’ or ‘ever since’.

The word본래 (本來 – “Bon-Rae” but generally pronounce like “Bowl-Lay”) means ‘originally’ or something has always been the case naturally. The meaning becomes clearer when looking at the meaning of each syllable. The first syllable 본 (本 – “Bon”) means ‘origin’ or ‘source’, and the second syllable래 (來 – “Nae”) in this case means ‘since’. So 본래 literally means ‘since the origin of’.

Ex.

He is by nature a silent man.

그는 본래 말이 없는 사람이다

“Geu-neun Bon-Rae Mal-ii Eob-neun sa-ram ii-da”

In the example the word implies that he has always been a silent man, since his origin.

A very similar word is 원래 (元來 – “Wueon-Rae” but generally prounounced “weollay”) which also means ‘originally’ or ‘by nature’. The first syllable in this word 원(元 – “Wueon”) means ‘cause’ or ‘origin’, and just like the last word, the second syllable래 (來 – “Rae”) in this case means ‘since’.

The word근래 (近來 – “Geun-Rae” but generally pronounced “Geullay”) means ‘in recent days[years]’ or ‘lately’. The first syllable in this word 근(近 – “Geun”) means ‘nearby’ or ‘close’. So the meaning of근래 (近來 – “Geun-Rae”) literally means ‘nearby’ + ‘since’, or ‘since a recent time’.

Here are some other common words with this character in them:

미래 (未來 – “Mi-Rae”): The future

이래 (以來 – “I-Rae”): Since then, ever since

장래 (將來 – “Jang-Rae”): future, tomorrow

I hope that knowing the meaning of 내/래 (來 – “Nae”/ “Rae”) makes learning these vocabulary words easier. Have a word or character that you would like to know more about? Post a comment!

2015-11_HanjaTimeInside 2015-11_HanjaTimeCover

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