First attested in the Yongbi eocheon'ga (龍飛御天歌 / 용비어천가), 1447, as Middle Korean 머리〮 (Yale: mèlí).

Also attested in the Worin cheon'gangjigok (月印千江之曲 / 월인천강지곡), 1449, as Middle Korean 마리〮 (Yale: màlí).

Originally identical to the modern animal classifier 마리 (mari).

Beyond Middle Korean, attested in the twelfth-century Jilin leishi word-list as (má dì) *mati, thus a case of intervocalic lenition. Perhaps cognate with Middle Korean ᄆᆞᆮ (mot, eldest child), modern 맞이 (maji), but the vocalism is different.


  • (SK Standard/Seoul) IPA(key): [mʌ̹ɾi]
    • (file)
  • Phonetic hangul: []
Revised Romanization?meori
Revised Romanization (translit.)?meoli
Yale Romanization?meli

South Gyeongsang (Busan) pitch accent: 리의 / 리에 / 리까지

Syllables in red take high pitch. This word always takes high pitch only on the first syllable, and lowers the pitch of subsequent suffixes.


머리 (meori)

  1. head
  2. intelligence
  3. hair
  4. the leader of a group
  5. the radical at the top of a Chinese character
  6. the top or front of an object

Derived termsEdit

See alsoEdit


  • National Institute of the Korean Language (Naver.com mirror) (accessed 2006-12-31), “머리”, in 표준국어대사전[1]
  • Seo Jeong-beom (서정범) (2000), “머리”, in ()()()()()(), Seoul: Bogosa Books, page 246