33 – 手 – Give Me A Hand

(Originally published December 2015)

This month we are going to take a look at a character手 which means ‘Hand’ and can also mean ‘Skill’. Scholars say the character might be a representation of a hand with five fingers, or maybe a picture of the lines on the palm of the hand.

2015-12 Hanja Time – Su (Hand)

This character is pronounced 수 (“Su”) in Korean. Many Korean words relating to ‘hand’ or ‘skill’ will have this sound in them.  In this article we will look at words with the ‘hand’ meaning first, and then the ‘skill’ meaning next.

The word박수 (拍手 – “Bak-Su”) means ‘applause’ or ‘clap hands’. The first syllable 박 (拍 – “Bak”) means ‘tap, clap, or beat’ and the second syllable 수 (手 – “Su”) means ‘hand’.  When you put them together박수 (拍手 – “Bak-Su”) literally means ‘clap + hands’.

A very similar sounding word is 악수 (握手 – “Ahk-Su”) which means ‘handshake, shake hands’. The first syllable in this word 악 (握 – “Ahk”) means ‘grasp, hold’. So the combined word악수 (握手 – “Ahk-Su”) literally means ‘grasp + hands’.

The word세수 (洗手 – “Sae-Su”) means ‘wash up’ or ‘to wash your hands and face’.  The first syllable 세  (洗 – “Sae”) means ‘wash, clean’ and the second syllable 수 (手 – “Su”) means ‘hand’.  After you wash up you will need a towel.  The Korean word for ‘towel’ is수건 (手巾 – “Su-Geon”).  The first syllable수 (手 – “Su”) again means ‘hand’, and the second syllable 건 (巾 – “Geon”) means ‘towel’.

Next we will take a look at some words where수 (手 – “Su”) takes the meaning of ‘skill’.  For example, the word가수 (歌手 – “Ga-Su”) means ‘singer’.  The first syllable 가 (歌 – “Ga”) means ‘singing’ and this time the second syllable수 (手 – “Su”) means ‘skill’ instead of ‘hand’.  When they are combined, the word가수 (歌手 – “Ga-Su”) literally means ‘singing + skill’.

The word선수 (選手 – “Seon-Su”) means ‘player, athlete’, like a baseball player or soccer player.  In this word the first syllable 선 (選 – “Seon”) means ‘choose’ and the second syllable수 (手 – “Su”) means ‘skill’.  So an athlete, or선수 (選手 – “Seon-Su”) could be somebody who is chosen for their skill at playing.

The word for ‘mistake, error’ is실수 (失手 – “Shil-Su”).  The meaning behind this word is charming.  The first syllable 실 (失 – “Shil”) means ‘lose’. So the word for mistake, 실수 (失手 – “Shil-Su”) literally means ‘Lose + skill’.  If you lose your skills you will make a mistake!

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

수술 (手術 – “Su-Sul”): Operation, surgery

수표 (手票 – “Su-Pyo”): Bank check

거수 (擧手 – “Geo-Su”):  Show of hands

포수 (砲手 – “Po-Su”): Hunter

I hope that knowing the meaning of수 (手 – “Su”) makes learning these vocabulary words easier.

P.S. As I write this December article, the November 2015 issue of the magazine is on the stands, and I realize that the very first Hanja Time article appeared in the November 2012 issue, making Hanja Time officially 3 years old.  I’m so grateful to all of the wonderful people at the magazine who allow me to continually write this article.  Thank you!!!!

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