Originally published June 2017
This month we are going to look at the character 口 which means mouth or entrance. It comes from a pictograph of an open mouth. This character is pronounced구 (“Gu”) in Korean. This character can be found in many Korean words, and knowing its meaning will help you learn these words. We will look at the words with the mouth meaning first, then the words with the entrance meaning.
The most common usage of the mouth meaning is referring to people. For example the word 가구 (家口 – “Ga-gu”) means household. The first character 家 (가 – “Ga”) means family and the second character 口 (구 – “Gu”) means mouth. Together they mean “family-mouths” or a number of ‘mouths’ living together.
이 마을에는 20가구가 살고 있다
(“Ee Ma-eul-ae-neun 20 Ga-gu-ga Sal-go It-da”)
There are 20 households living in this village.
The word 식구 (食口 – “Shik-gu”) is another formal term which means family member. The first character 食 (식 – “Shik”) means meal or food, and the second character口 (구 – “Gu”) means mouth. When put together it literally means ‘food-mouth’ perhaps implying that a family member is one with whom you share meals.
해리슨은 여섯 식구 중 막내입니다
(“Hae-ri-seun Yeo-seos Shik-gu Jung Mak-nae Ib-ni-da”)
Harrison is the youngest of six family members.
The word인구 (人口 – “In-gu”) means population. The first character 人 (인 – “In”) means person and second character口 (구 – “Gu”) means mouth.
그 나라는 인구가 적다
(“Geu Na-ra-neun In-gu-ga Jeok-da”)
The country has a small population.
Now we will look at口 (구 – “Gu”) when it has the meaning of entrance, or more specifically a place for going in and out. The word 입구 (入口 – “Ip-gu”) means entrance. The first character 入 (입- “Ip”) means enter and the second character口 (구 – “Gu”) means entrance. So in the case the combination literally means “Enter-entrance”. Similarly the word for exit is출구 (出口 – “Chul-Gu”). In this case the first character 出 (출- “Chul”) means go out. So when combined it literally means ‘go-out-entrance’.
The word창구 (窓口) means window as in a ticket window or a drive through window. The first character 窓 (창 – “Chang”) means window and the second character口 (구 – “Gu”) means entrance. So together it literally means ‘window-entrance’.
카밀은 매표창구에 서 있다.
(“Ka-mil-eun Mae-pyo-Chang-gu-ae Seo It-da”)
Camille is standing at the ticket window.
Finally, the word항구 (港口 – “Hang-Gu”) means port, or harbor. The first character 港 (항 – “Hang”) means harbor and the second character口 (구 – “Gu”) means entrance.
I hope that learning the character口 (구 – “Gu”) will make remembering all these different vocabulary words easier!
And on a personal note, I have written this article in airports and hotel rooms before, but this time I’m writing it from the Swiss town of Zermatt, at the bottom of the Matterhorn. It is definitely one of the stranger places I’ve written Hanja Time!