Chimaek: Chicken, Beer, and Korean Word Origins

Chi-maek is a Korean word meaning fried chicken and beer, a now-classic combination in South Korea. We can also use this word as a window into the origins if Korean words, as it contains parts of words from two major sources of Korean vocabulary.

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Today’s word: 치맥

Chi-maek is a portmanteau that means chicken and beer.


chi- comes from chicken, an English word from the Old English originally meaning plural of chicks, as in baby birds – like children or oxen. (

Maek – comes from maekju, the Korean word for beer, a Sino-Korean word. Maek means barley, which much beer is made of.

This word first appears in a newspaper in 2010, in the lead-up to the 2010 World Cup, via BIGKINDS:

Related words:

chi-kol, chicken and cola (kids)

chi-so, chicken and soju – a newer thing

pi-maek, pizza and beer, also a newer thing in Korea


Linguistic element: Word origins and loanwords in Korean

Korean lexicon is about 30% “Native Korean” words, 65% Sino-Korean words, and 5% words with other origins (Sohn, Ho-Min. “Korean in contact with Chinese.” Korean Language in Culture and Society (2006): 44-56.) Alternately, 35%/60%/5% as given by Lee et al. (Lee, E., Madigan, S., & Park, M.-J. (2015). An Introduction to Korean Linguistics (1st ed.). Routledge.


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