How to Say ‘Happy Birthday’ in Korean

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One day that is special for everyone is his or her birthday. It’s an important day to celebrate, so make sure you mark your calendars!

But how do we say ‘Happy Birthday’ in Korean?

Not only will we explain that phrase, but we’ll also teach you the famous Happy Birthday song!

Let’s get to it.

*Can’t read Korean yet? Click here to learn for free in about 60 minutes!


‘Happy Birthday’ in Korean Explanation

First, let’s start with the word ‘birthday’ itself. ‘Birthday’ is one of those special Korean words that have an honorific version of the word, which is used when talking to people about generation (or more) older than you.

Some other nouns with this honorific form include ‘age’, and ‘house’. Some verbs with an honorific form include ‘to exist’, ‘to eat’, and ‘to sleep’.

The regular word for birthday is 생일 (saeng-il). You can use this word when referring to your own birthday. You can also use it when referring to the birthday of somebody who is of a similar or younger age to yourself.

However, if you want to refer to the birthday of somebody who is a lot older than you then you should use the word 생신 (saeng-shin) instead.


Formal ‘Happy Birthday’ in Korean

생신을 축하드립니다! (saeng-shin chuk-ha-duh-rim-ni-da!)

You can use this phrase when saying ‘happy birthday’ to people who are much older than you. It uses the formal word for birthday.


Standard ‘Happy Birthday’ in Korean

생일 축하합니다! (saeng-il chuk-ha-ham-ni-da!)

This is a set phrase and can be used in most occasions. It is also the version of ‘happy birthday’ that appears on birthday cards and in the Korean version of the ‘happy birthday’ song.

The word 축하합니다 means ‘congratulations’. You can say this word on its own if you want to congratulate somebody on achieving something. If you only want to learn one way of how to say ‘happy birthday’ in Korean, then learn this phrase.


Informal ‘Happy Birthday’ in Korean

생일 축하해! (saeng-il chuk-ha-hae!)

You can use this when saying ‘happy birthday’ to very close friends of a similar age.


Birthdays in Korea

Usually on people’s birthdays, their friends or co-workers will buy them a birthday cake. The cake is then eaten as a group.

When buying a cake in Korea, you will often be asked how many candles 양초 (yang-cho) you need. These candles, along with some matches, will be placed inside the cake’s box.

People often eat seaweed soup 미역국 (mi-yeok-guk) on their birthday as this is a food that mothers often eat during pregnancy in Korea.

In the past, infant mortality was very high in Korea, so traditionally, a child’s first birthday is very important. Parents will throw a huge party, called a 돌잔치 (dol-jan-chi) on this day. They will invite lots of people. If you live in Korea, you might end up being invited to such a party.


How to Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ in Korean

This follows the same tune as ‘happy birthday’ in English and is very easy to learn:

생일 축하합니다

생일 축하합니다

사랑하는 (insert name) 씨

생일 축하합니다


Saeng-il chuk-ha-hamnida

Saeng-il chuk-ha-hamnida

Sa-rang-ha-neun (insert name) sshii

saeng-il chuk-ha hamnida


Now that you know how to say AND sing ‘happy birthday’ in Korean, it’s time to go out and celebrate!

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