Originally published February 2017
This month we are going to look at the character 便 which means convenient. It can also mean side. This character is pronounced 편 (“Pyeon”) in Korean. This character can be found in many Korean words, and knowing its meaning will help you learn these words. We will start by looking at words in which it means side, and then look at the convenient words.
By attaching 편 (便 “Pyeon”) as a suffix to words like ‘front’ and ‘back’ you get words like ‘front side’ and ‘back side’. For example, the word 뒤 (“Dui”) means back. If you attach 편 (便 “Pyeon”) to the end you get 뒤편 (-便 – “Dui-Pyeon”) which means the back side. Notice that there is no Hanja character for 뒤 (“Dui”). That is because it is a “native” Korean word and does not have Chinese origins.
건너편 (-便 – “Geon-Neo-Pyeon”): Other side
맞은편 (-便 – “Maj-Eun-Pyeon”): Opposite side
반대편 (反對便 – “Ban-Dae-Pyeon”): Opposite side
저편 (-便 – “Jeo-Pyeon”): That side
Now lets take a look at the character when it has the meaning of convenient.
For example, the word 편의 (便宜 – “Pyeon-Ui”) means convenience. The first character 便(편 – “Pyeon”) means convenient and the second character 宜 (편 – “Ui”) means right/proper/good. If you add the character for store, 店 (점 – “Jeom”) to the end you get 편의점 (便宜店) which means convenience store.
Another word for convenience is 편리 (便利 – “Pyeon-Li”). Again the first character is 便(편 – “Pyeon”). The second character 利 (리 – “Li”) means profit / benefit / advantage. Similarly, the word 간편하다 (簡便-) means simple / convenient.
By adding 하다 (“Ha-da”) to a word you can make that word into a verb. Adding 하다 (“Ha-da”) to 편(便 – convenient) gives you the verb 편하다 (“Pyeon Ha-da”) which means comfortable / relaxed / easy. If you add the character 不 (불 – “bul”) which means ‘not’ to the front, you get 불편하다 (“Bul-Pyeon Ha-da”) which means uncomfortable / uneasy / awkward.
There are two words related to mail that have this character in them, perhaps because writing letters by mail was such a convenient way to communicate. The first one is 우편 (郵便 – “U-Pyeon”) which means mail and the second is 편지 (便紙 – “Pyeon-Ji”) which means letter.
Here are some other common words that have the character 便(편 – “Pyeon”) in them:
편안하다 (便安 – “Pyeon-An Ha-da”): Peaceful, calm, comfortable, relaxed, easy
남편 (男便 – “Nam-Pyeon”): Husband
상대편 (相對便 – “Sang-Dae-Pyeon”): Opponent, rival, competitor
한편 (-便 – “Han-Pyeon”): Meanwhile
형편 (形便 – “Hyeong-Pyeon”): Circumstances, conditions
Have a word or character that you would like to know more about? Post your questions in the comments.