Alternative forms




First attested in the Seokbo sangjeol (釋譜詳節 / 석보상절), 1447, as Middle Korean 아ᄒᆡ〮 (Yale: àhóy), from earlier Old Korean 阿孩 (*ahoy). While the word is native, the second syllable was identified already in the 8th-century hyangga poem Anmin-ga with Middle Chinese (ɦʌi, child). Historically, the word was often mistakenly perceived as Sino-Korean, with the spelling 兒孩, a phono-semantic matching. See 아해 (ahae).


  • (SK Standard/Seoul) IPA(key): [a̠i]
    • Audio:(file)
  • Phonetic hangul: []
Revised Romanization?ai
Revised Romanization (translit.)?ai
Yale Romanization?ai
  • South Gyeongsang (Busan) pitch accent: 이의 / 이에 / 이까지

    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)

  1. child, kid
    Synonym: (polite) 어린이 (eorini)
    아이가 무엇을 가지고 놉니까?Aiga mueoseul gajigo nomnikka?What is a kid playing with?
  2. (endearing) Used to refer to objects, typically in casual but polite settings such as when persuading a customer to buy a product.
  3. Less colloquial form of (ae, guy; person).

Usage notes


(guy; person):

  • As (ae, guy; person) is extremely colloquial, 아이 (ai) is sometimes used to replace it in less colloquial writing, especially in the pronominal forms (gyae), (yae), (jae). This is less common in speech.
  • Such a replacement is even rarer when (ae) is being used non-pronominally, because 아이 (ai) is perceived as being neither sufficiently colloquial as (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 미국 (miguk ae-deul), but 미국 아이 (miguk ai-deul) will usually refer specifically to American children.