First attested in the Seokbo sangjeol (釋譜詳節 / 석보상절), 1447, as Middle Korean 아ᄒᆡ〮 (Yale: àhóy). The word is native, but the second syllable was perhaps reshaped under influence from Chinese 孩 (“child”), whose Middle Korean reading was ᄒᆡ〮 (Yale: hóy). Historically, the word was often mistakenly perceived as Sino-Korean, with the spelling 兒孩.
|Revised Romanization (translit.)?||ai|
- South Gyeongsang (Busan) pitch accent: 아이의 / 아이에 / 아이까지
Syllables in red take high pitch. This word always takes high pitch only on the first syllable, and lowers the pitch of subsequent suffixes.
아이 • (ai)
- child, kid
- Synonym: (polite) 어린이 (eorini)
- (endearing) Used to refer to objects, typically in casual but polite settings such as when persuading a customer to buy a product.
- Less colloquial form of .
- As 애 (ae, “guy; person”) is extremely colloquial, 아이 (ai) is sometimes used to replace it in less colloquial writing, especially in the pronominal forms 걔 (gyae), 얘 (yae), 쟤 (jyae). This is less common in speech.
- Such a replacement is even rarer when 애 (ae) is being used non-pronominally, because 아이 (ai) is perceived as being neither sufficiently colloquial as 애 (ae) nor sufficiently non-colloquial as e.g. 사람 (saram). It is very normal, if highly colloquial, to refer to American people in general as 미국애들 (migugaedeul), but 미국 아이들 (miguk aideul) will usually refer specifically to American children.