Korean Idiom, hand

Learn Korean with Idioms and Proverbs ④

In the rich tapestry of Korean idiomatic expressions, those related to hands serve as poignant reflections of cultural values and societal dynamics. From the generosity implied in “손이 크다” (having big hands) to the collaborative spirit of “손을 맞잡다” (shaking hands), these idioms weave intricate tales of human connections, actions, and emotions. Whether it’s extending a helping hand (“손을 내밀다”) or releasing one’s grip (“손을 놓다”), these expressions encapsulate the essence of Korean wisdom, offering insights into the importance of cooperation, resilience, and understanding in the hands-on journey of life.

Korean idiom

Learn Korean with Idioms and Proverbs ④

Korean Idioms: Expressions related to Hands

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손이 크다 (Literally: Have big hands):

  • Figuratively, it means being generous or having a willingness to give or help.
  • English Equivalent: “Generous” or “Open-handed”
  • Example: “그는 손이 크기로 유명하다.” = “He’s known for being generous; he has a big heart.”

손을 떼다 (Literally: Take one’s hand off):

  • To withdraw support or involvement. It can also indicate distancing oneself from a situation or relationship.
  • English Equivalent: “Withdraw support” or “Detach”
  • Example: “회사는 논란이 되고 있는 프로젝트에서 손을 떼기로 결정했다.” = “The company decided to take its hand off the controversial project.”
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손을 맞잡다 (Literally: Shake hands):

  • To cooperate or work together towards a common goal. It signifies agreement or partnership.
  • English Equivalent: “Join hands” or “Collaborate”
  • Example: “이 프로젝트를 함께 진행하기 위해 손을 잡자.” = “Let’s join hands to tackle this project together.”

손을 내밀다 (Literally: Extend one’s hand):

  • To offer help or assistance. It implies a gesture of reaching out to someone in need.
  • English Equivalent: “Offer a helping hand” or “Extend assistance”
  • Example:“그녀는 신입사원의 정착을 돕기 위해 손을 내밀었다.” = “She extended her hand to help the new employee settle in.”

손에 땀을 쥐다 (Literally: Hold sweat in one’s hands):

  • To be nervous or anxious. It reflects the physical manifestation of stress or tension.
  • English Equivalent: “Sweat bullets” or “Be on edge”
  • Example: “치열한 협상 속에서 그는 손에 땀을 쥐고 있었다.” = “During the intense negotiation, he was sweating bullets.”

손에 익다 (Literally: Become familiar in one’s hands):

  • To become accustomed to or skilled at something through repeated practice or experience.
  • English Equivalent: “Get the hang of” or “Become accustomed to”
  • Example: “몇 번 시도한 끝에 마침내 새 소프트웨어 사용에 손이 익었다.” = “After a few tries, I finally got the hang of using the new software.”

손에 잡히다 (Literally: Be caught in one’s hand):

  • To be understandable or clear. It often refers to grasping a concept or idea easily.
  • English Equivalent: “Grasp” or “Understand clearly”
  • Example: “마침내 그 개념은 그녀의 손에 잡혔고, 그녀는 그것을 자신 있게 설명할 수 있었다.” = “The concept finally grasped her, and she could explain it confidently.”

손을 씻다, 손을 털다 (Literally: Wash one’s hands):

  • To disengage or distance oneself from a situation, often used when avoiding responsibility.
  • English Equivalent: “Wash one’s hands of” or “Disassociate from”
  • Example: “의견 차이 이후, 그는 모든 상황에서 손을 씻기로 결정했다.” = “After the disagreement, he decided to wash his hands of the entire situation.”

손이 맵다 (Literally: Hands are spicy.):

  • To let go or give up on something. It can also mean relaxing or taking a break from work or responsibility.
  • English Equivalent: “Let go” or “Relinquish”
  • Example:  “그는 내 등을 두드리며 위로했지만 그의 손이 매워서 아팠다.” =  “He comforted me by patting my back, but his hand was so strong that it hurt.”
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손을 놓다 (Literally: Release one’s hands):

  •  the meaning that one has strong hands, particularly when it comes to hitting or giving a massage. It signifies a person’s powerful grip or adeptness in using their hands for forceful actions.
  • English Equivalent: “to have a strong hand” or “to have a firm hand.”
  • Example:  “아프다고 손 놓을 일이 아니다.” =  “It’s not something you should give up just because it hurts.”

손이 모자라다 (Literally: Not enough hands):

  • To lack the manpower or assistance needed for a task. It expresses the inadequacy of available help.
  • English Equivalent: “Short-handed” or “Understaffed”
  • Example: “내일 행사를 위한 손이 모자랍니다. 더 많은 자원봉사자가 필요합니다.” = “We’re short-handed for the event tomorrow; we need more volunteers.”

손이 빠르다 (Literally: Hands are fast):

  • To be quick-witted or agile in action. It refers to someone who is swift and efficient.
  • English Equivalent: “Quick on the uptake” or “Quick-witted”
  • Example: “그녀는 손이 빠르고 즉시 상황을 이해한다.” =  “She’s quick on the uptake and understands things immediately.”

두 손 들다 (Literally: Raise both hands):

  • To surrender or give up. It’s a gesture indicating submission or defeat.
  • English Equivalent: “Throw in the towel” or “Surrender”
  • Example: “몇 시간의 협상 끝에 그들은 두 손을 들고 조건을 수락하기로 결정했습니다.” = “After hours of negotiation, they decided to throw in the towel and accept the terms.”

팔 걷고 나서다 (Literally: Roll up one’s sleeves):

  • To prepare to work hard or engage in a task that requires effort. It suggests getting ready for a challenging situation.
  • English Equivalent: “Roll up one’s sleeves” or “Dig in”
  • Example: “이 프로젝트를 제 시간에 끝내려면 팔 걷고 나서서 작업에 착수해야 합니다.” = “We need to roll up our sleeves and get to work if we want to finish this project on time.”

팔짱만 끼고 있다 (Literally: Clenching only fists):

  • To be idle or inactive, especially when there’s work to be done. It implies a lack of productive effort.
  • English Equivalent: “Sitting on one’s hands” or “Idle”
  • Example: “그는 도와주기는커녕 가만히 팔짱만 끼고 앉아서 우리가 하는 모든 일을 지켜 보고만 있어요.” = “Instead of helping, he’s just sitting on his hands and watching us do all the work.”
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손발이 맞다 (Literally: Hands and feet match):

  • To coordinate well or work smoothly together. It describes a situation where various elements come together harmoniously.
  • English Equivalent: “Mesh well” or “Coordinate smoothly”
  • Example: “그들의 기술과 전문 지식이 손발이 맞아서 훌륭한 팀을 만든다.” = “Their skills and expertise mesh well, and they make a great team.”

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These expressions often use the metaphor of hands to convey various meanings related to actions, cooperation, emotions, and behaviors in different contexts.