|늬 ←||→ 다|
First attested in the Worin seokbo (月印釋譜 / 월인석보), 1459, as Middle Korean 님〯 (Yale: nǐm), from Old Korean *nirim, transcribed in the eighth-century Japanese history Nihon Shoki as Baekje 二林 (“lord”) and variants.
Per the Japanese sources, the original meaning of the word was "lord; ruler"; thus Middle Korean 님〯금〮 (Yale: nǐmkúm, "monarch") and 님〯잫 (Yale: nǐmcàh, "owner") are almost certainly related. The semantic shift from "ruler" to "beloved" is also found in Japanese 君 (kimi).
The development of a noun for "lord" into an honorific marker is also common; see, for instance, Spanish señor. The development of the Internet slang pronoun arises from speakers adding -nim to the usernames of anonymous addressees in polite speech, leading to nim becoming used as a generic second-person pronoun.
—님 • (-nim)
님 (nim) is more respectful than 씨 (氏, ssi), another suffix equivalent to English "Mr.; Ms." This term is affixed to many kinship terms to make them honorific, often to refer to family members other than one's own.
님 • (nim)
The prescribed South Korean standard of this word is 임 (im), following the South Korean sound rule that Early Modern Korean initial /ni/ is reflected as /i/. But because this word is often encountered in classical works where this rule was not applied, and because of the cultural impact of works using the nim variant such as Han Yong-un's 1926 Nim-ui Chimmuk (The Beloved's Silence) and the 1981 pro-democracy song Nim-eul wihan Haengjingok (Marching Song for the Beloved), the nim variant is actually the more common form.
In North Korea, where the sound rule is not applied, nim is standard prescriptively as well as descriptively.
- 나라님 (naranim, “king”)
님 • (nim)
- Korean: 님 (nim)