When you find yourself in a bar in South Korea, surrounded by locals raising their glasses in celebration, knowing how to say “cheers” in Korean will not only help you connect with others but also enhance your overall experience in this vibrant country. In this guide, we’ll explore various ways to say “cheers” in Korean, delve into the pronunciation and meanings of these words, and provide you with examples to master the art of toasting like a local.

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“건배” (geonbae) – The Classic Korean Cheers

The most common and traditional way to say “cheers” in Korean is “건배” (geonbae). This word literally translates to “empty glass,” which is reminiscent of the English expression “bottom’s up.” It carries the spirit of raising one’s glass to toast and enjoy the company of friends and family.

Pronunciation: 건배 (geonbae): Pronounced as “gun-bae,” with a soft “g” sound similar to the English “g” in “good.”

Usage and Examples:

When proposing a toast:

  • “모두 건배해요!” (modu geonbaehaeyo!) – Let’s all raise our glasses!
  • “건배합니다!” (geonbae hamnida!) – Cheers!

In a celebratory toast:

  • “우리의 건강을 위하여 건배” (uriui geongangeul wihayeo geonbae) – To our health, bottoms up!
  • “여기요, 모두 건배해요!” (yeogiyo, modu geonbaehaeyo!) – Here, let’s all raise our glasses!

Other Ways to Say “Cheers” in Korean

Aside from the classic “건배” (geonbae), there are a couple of other phrases used to toast in Korean, each with its unique nuances.

“위하여” (wihayeo)

This word translates to “for the sake of.” It is commonly used by businessmen, especially after making a lengthy speech while drinking.

Pronunciation: 위하여 (wihayeo): Pronounced as “we-ha-yeo.”

Usage and Examples:

Toasting for a cause:

  • “한 번에 마셔! 위하여!” (han beone masyeo! wihayeo!) – Drink it in one shot! For the sake of [the occasion]!
  • “회의가 성공적으로 끝났습니다. 위하여!” (hoe-ega seong-gong-jeok-euro kkeutnassseumnida. wihayeo!) – The meeting has successfully concluded. Cheers to that!

“원샷!” (wonsyat)

Derived from the English word “one-shot,” this phrase indicates that you should drink your whole drink in one go. Beware; it may lead to a headache the next day if you’re not careful!

Pronunciation: 원샷! (wonsyat): Pronounced as “won-syat.”

Usage and Examples:

Rallying the group for a shot:

  • “이번에는 원샷으로 마시자!” (ibeoneun wonsyat-euro masija!) – Let’s drink it as a one-shot this time!
  • “원샷으로 건배!” (wonsyat-euro geonbae!) – Cheers with a one-shot!

Be Careful with Romanization

As you explore the Korean language, you may come across Romanization, which is a way of representing Korean sounds using the Latin alphabet. While Romanization can be helpful for beginners, it is essential to make the transition to Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, as it will significantly enhance your language learning experience.

An infographic that gives an aswer to the question how to say cheers in korean
Text: ling-app.com

Learning Hangeul allows you to read signs in Korean, improve your pronunciation, and easily learn new words. It is surprisingly simple to learn and will only take a few hours of your time.

Wrap Up

Now that you’ve learned various ways to say “cheers” in Korean, you’re ready to immerse yourself in Korea’s bar and restaurant culture. Remember, whether you use the classic “건배” (geonbae) or the more casual “원샷!” (wonsyat), the spirit of toasting remains the same – to celebrate and enjoy the company of friends, colleagues, and loved ones.


What is the partying culture in South Korea?

South Korea has a vibrant partying culture, especially in cities like Seoul. People often gather in bars, clubs, and karaoke rooms to socialize, celebrate, and have fun. Korean parties often involve drinking, singing, and dancing.

Do drinking preferences differ in South Korea and the USA?

Yes, drinking preferences differ in South Korea and the USA. While beer and cocktails are popular in the USA, South Korea is known for its love of soju, a traditional Korean alcohol. Soju is often consumed in shots and is an essential part of Korean drinking culture.

How can I pass as a native speaker when partying with Koreans?

To pass as a native speaker when partying with Koreans, try to pick up common Korean phrases used during toasting, like “건배” (geonbae) for “cheers.” Embrace Korean drinking etiquette, such as pouring drinks for others and accepting drinks with both hands. Engage in conversations with locals and show genuine interest in Korean culture.


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