(Originally Published August 2016)
This month we are going to look at the character 主 which means owner, master, or main. The ancient oracle bone inscription form of this character was a picture of a person:
The oracle bone form eventually evolved in this seal form:
The seal form eventually evolved into the form we know today. This character is pronounced 주 (“Ju”) in Korean and can be found in many common Korean words. Knowing the meaning of this character will help you learn these words.
For example, the Korean word 주인 (主人 – “Ju-In”) means owner. The first character 主 (주 – “Ju”) means owner. The second character 人 (인 – “In”) means person. When combined the word literally means “owner-person”.
The word 민주 (民主 – “Min-Ju) means democracy. The first character 民 (민 – “Min”) means ‘the people’. The second character 主 (주 – “Ju”) means owner. Together they literally means ‘the people – owner’. In other words, in a democracy the people are in charge, or the government is owned by the people.
Speaking of politics, the word 사회주의 (社會主義 – “Sa-Hoi Ju-Eui”) means socialism. This four syllable word is actually just two two-syllable words put together. The first word 사회(社會-“Sa-Hoi”) means society. The second word 주의 (主義 – “Ju-Eui”) means belief, but it can actually hold the same meaning as “ism” in english; for example:
제국주의 (“Jae-Guk Ju-Eui”)— Imperialism
자유주의 (“Ja-Yu Ju-Eui”) – Liberalism
권위주의 (“Gueon-Ui Ju-Eui”) – Authoritarianism
To break 주의 (主義 – “Ju-Eui”) down even further, the first character 主 (주 – “Ju”) means owner and the second character 義 (의 – “Eui”) means right, proper, or just.
The word 주로 (主- “Ju-Ro”): means mostly or mainly (as in I mainly write articles about Hanja). The first character 主 (주 – “Ju”) means owner, but the second syllable 로 (“ro”) is not Hanja at a all. It is a grammatical marker meaning ‘toward’ but in this instance it has a meaning similar to putting “ly” at the end of a word in English.
Here are some other common words with the character 主 (주 – “Ju”) in them:
공주 (公主 – “Gong-Ju”): Princess
위주 (爲主 – “Ui-Ju”): Oriented on, centered on
주관적 (主觀的 – “Ju-Gwan-Jeok”): Subjective
주부 (主婦 – “Ju-Bu”): Housewife, homemaker
주요 (主要 – “Ju-Yo”): Major, main, primary
주장하다 (主張 – “Ju-Jeong Hada”): Claim, insist
주제 (主題 – “Ju-Jae”): Subject, topic