How to Say “Wow” in Korean: Formal and Informal Ways

Learning how to express your amazement or surprise in different languages can be fun and useful. In this guide, we will explore the various ways to say “wow” in Korean. Korean is a rich language with formal and informal expressions, and we will cover both so that you can choose the appropriate way based on the situation. Let’s get started!

Formal Expressions:

When speaking to someone you are not familiar with or in a formal setting, it’s important to use a polite expression. Here are a few formal ways to say “wow” in Korean:

1. 와우 (wau)

This is a direct loanword from English, and it conveys the same meaning as “wow.” It is commonly used among younger generations in formal situations. For example, if you witness an impressive performance or see something extraordinary in a formal event, you can exclaim “와우!” to express your amazement politely.

2. 정말 대단하다 (jeongmal daedanada)

This expression translates to “really amazing” or “truly remarkable.” It is a more formal way to express your astonishment. You can use this phrase when you want to convey a deeper sense of awe formally. For instance, if you see art or craftsmanship that leaves you speechless, you can say “정말 대단하다!”

Informal Expressions:

When you are speaking with close friends, family, or peers in an informal setting, you can use these more casual expressions to say “wow” in Korean:

1. 와 (wa)

This is a shortened form of “와우” discussed earlier. It is widely used among friends and people of similar age groups. If you witness something surprising or impressive when speaking to your friends, you can simply say “와” to share your excitement casually.

2. 진짜 (jinjja)

The word “진짜” translates to “really” or “seriously” in English. It is commonly used as an exclamation of amazement or disbelief. For example, if your friend tells you an incredible story, you can respond with “진짜?” to show your surprised reaction.

Regional Variations:

Korean, like many other languages, has regional variations. While the phrases mentioned above are widely understood throughout South Korea, specific areas may have their own unique expressions for “wow.” It’s important to note that these regional differences might not be familiar or understood by everyone:

1. 대박 (daebak)

“대박” is a Korean slang term that originates from the gambling game “Hwatu.” It means “jackpot” or “big success.” However, it has evolved to be used as an exclamation of surprise or amazement. This expression gained popularity through various Korean entertainment programs and has now become widely used by people of all age groups throughout South Korea. It is often used casually among friends and family.”

2. 와아 (waa)

This expression is a variation of “와” and is used similarly. It is commonly heard in the Gyeongsang region of South Korea. If you are in that area or speaking with someone from there, you can use “와아” to share your enthusiasm or astonishment informally.


1. Observe Native Koreans:

One of the best ways to learn how to express amazement in Korean is by observing native speakers. Watch Korean dramas, movies, or variety shows to understand the context and the appropriate situations to use these expressions. Pay attention to the nuances of their tone and body language.

2. Practice Pronunciation:

To sound more natural, practice the pronunciation of Korean expressions. Mimic the intonation and rhythm when saying “와” or “진짜.” Try to speak with Korean friends or language partners to receive feedback on your pronunciation and refine your skills.

3. Be Mindful of Formality:

Always consider the relationship and setting when choosing which expression to use. It is crucial to show respect and use formal expressions when required, especially with people you have just met or in professional settings. Being mindful of the level of formality will help you navigate social interactions smoothly.


Now let’s look at a few examples of how to use these “wow” expressions in different situations:

1. Formal:

  • At a formal event, you witness a breathtaking dance performance. You can say, “와우, 정말 대단하다!”
  • If you are attending an art gallery opening, and you see an amazing painting, you can express your admiration by saying, “정말 대단하다!”

2. Informal:

  • You are watching a funny video with your friends, and something unexpected happens. You can exclaim, “와, 진짜!”
  • Your friend shares incredible news about their recent achievement, and you respond with excitement, saying, “진짜? 진짜 대박이다!”

Remember, learning to express yourself in Korean takes time and practice. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and most importantly, enjoy the journey of language learning!

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