Why do Koreans say amma and appa?

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Language is a beautiful reflection of culture, and every culture has unique linguistic nuances. One intriguing aspect of the Korean language is the use of the terms “amma” and “appa” to refer to mother and father, respectively. These words hold special significance in Korean culture and have deep historical and cultural roots. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons behind why Koreans say “amma” and “appa,” diving into the linguistic, cultural, and historical factors that contribute to this linguistic phenomenon. Join me on this enlightening journey as we uncover the fascinating origins of these endearing terms.

Why do Koreans say amma and appa?

The Korean Language and Its Ties to Culture

A. The Richness of the Korean Language: The Korean language, known for its unique grammar and vocabulary, reflects the rich cultural heritage of the Korean people. Language serves as a medium through which individuals express their thoughts, emotions, and cultural identity. Korean society places great value on respect for family and the importance of kinship, which is reflected in the language itself.

B. Cultural Significance of Familial Terms: In Korean culture, the family holds a central position, and the language used to address family members reflects this deep-rooted respect and filial piety. The terms used to address parents, such as “amma” and “appa,” carry a sense of familiarity, warmth, and respect that encapsulate the Korean values of honoring and cherishing family ties.

Unveiling the Origins of “Amma” and “Appa”

A. Historical Influence: The use of “amma” and “appa” in the Korean language can be traced back to ancient times. The Korean language, influenced by Chinese characters and cultural exchanges with neighboring countries, has undergone various transformations throughout history. The terms “amma” and “appa” have evolved from the Chinese characters “阿媽” (ama) and “阿爸” (apa), respectively, which were used to address parents or elders in Chinese culture.

B. Linguistic Evolution: Over time, as the Korean language developed independently, it incorporated these borrowed terms, adapting them to fit the phonetics and linguistic structure of Korean. The Chinese characters “阿媽” and “阿爸” gradually transformed into “amma” and “appa,” respectively, while still retaining their original meaning of addressing parents or elders with affection and respect.

Cultural Significance and Emotional Connection

A. Filial Piety and Respect for Elders: In Korean culture, filial piety and respect for parents are deeply ingrained values. The use of “amma” and “appa” as terms to address one’s parents embodies this cultural emphasis on respect, gratitude, and honor towards those who have nurtured and guided them. These terms serve as a linguistic manifestation of the reverence and love Korean individuals hold for their parents.

B. Emotional Bond and Intimacy: Beyond the cultural significance, “amma” and “appa” also represent the emotional bond between parents and their children. These terms evoke a sense of intimacy, warmth, and familiarity that strengthens the parent-child relationship. Using these endearing terms creates a sense of closeness and reinforces the deep emotional connection between family members.

Linguistic Diversity and Regional Variations

A. Dialectal Differences: While “amma” and “appa” are widely used in the Korean language to address parents, it is important to note that there can be regional variations and dialectal differences across different parts of Korea. Some regions may have alternative terms or pronunciations for “amma” and “appa,” adding to the linguistic diversity within the Korean language.

B. Generational Shifts: As with any language, linguistic changes occur over time, and younger generations may adopt alternative terms or pronunciations influenced by cultural shifts and global influences. This generational shift may lead to variations in how individuals address their parents, while still preserving the essence of respect and familial love.


The use of “amma” and “appa” to refer to mother and father in the Korean language is a testament to the deep-rooted cultural values of respect, filial piety, and the significance of family in Korean society. These terms not only carry linguistic and historical significance but also embody the emotional bond between parents and children. Through the evolution of language and cultural influences, “amma” and “appa” have become endearing expressions of love, warmth, and respect towards parents. As we delve into the intricacies of the Korean language, we gain a deeper understanding of the cultural fabric that binds Korean society together.

Why do Koreans say amma and appa?
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