Hanja Time – Have a Ball

The Chinese character 球 (구 – “Gu”) means ‘ball’ or ‘sphere’.  Many Korean names for sports and games have this character in them.


야구 “Yagu” (野球) – Baseball

The first sound, 야 “Ya” means countryside, or field.  When 구 “Gu” is added it becomes “Field-ball”, or baseball.


탁구 “Tak-gu” (卓球) – Ping pong/ Table Tennis

The sound 탁 “Tak” comes from the Chinese character 卓 which means ‘table’.  So 탁구 “Tak-gu” literally means “Table-ball”.


축구 “Chuk-gu” (蹴球) – Soccer

The first sound here  축 “Chuk” comes from the Chinese character 蹴 which means “kick”.  So 축구 “Chuk-gu” literally means “Kick-ball”. American football is called 미식축구 “Mi-shik Chuk-gu”.  “Mi-shik” just means “American Style”.


농구 “Nong-gu” (籠球) – Basketball

The first sound 농 “Nong” comes from the Chinese character 籠 which means ‘cage’ or ‘basket’.  So 농구 “Nong-gu” literally means “Basket-ball”.


피구 “Pi-gu” (避球) – Dodgeball

The first sound “Pi” 피 comes from the Chinese character 避 which means ‘avoid’.  So 피구 “Pi-gu” means “Avoid-ball”.


배구 “Bae-gu” (排球) – Volleyball

The first sound 배 “Bae” comes from the Chinese character 排 which means “row, rank, line”, presumably because each team lines up in a row on either side of the net.  So 배구 “Bae-gu” means “row-ball”


The following are just romanizations of English:


Tennis is just 테니스 “Teh-ni-suh”

Handball is just  핸드볼 “Hen-duh-bol”

Badminton is just 배드민턴 “Bae-duh-min-ton”

And my favorite sport Air Hockey is just 에어 하키 “Ae-uh Ha-Ki”.


One other good word to know is the word for Earth.


지구 “Ji-gu” (地球) – Earth

The first sound  지 “Ji” comes from the Chinese character 地 which means “Earth, soil, ground”.  So 지구 “Ji-gu” means “Earth-ball” or “Soil-ball” (which is slightly better than ‘dirt-ball’ I guess!).



  1. Hi Gary ! It’s me. Um…the part about volleyball 배구 is quite off I believe. Rather, 배[排] would mean “to give a push/shove/thrust”, which is some the essence of volleyball, giving the ball a push/thrust above the net and over to the opposite team’s side. This action with the push/thrust of the hand is to be expected from the character since the radical is “hand” 手 – the left-hand portion. 非[비] acts as the phonetic element. One link below confirms my proposition made in this comment. Thanks !



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