Key Korean Prefixes: 재, 재, and 재

my daneo jjang

Like my previous post addressing the useful Korean prefix 되, this post identifies another Korean prefix that functions like the Latin-based English prefix “re”. For example, English has words like replay, reorganize, and recycle; Korean, too, has prefixes that can help you figure out what a word means. Unlike 되, this one comes from a Chinese character or 한자.

(as a prefix) = again

What’s the difference between 되 and 재 as prefixes? 되 is natural Korean, which means it does not originate from a 한자 or Chinese character. 재 does: 再.

재 = 再

Additionally, 되 seems to have broader usage than 재, which almost exclusively means “again”.

Let’s take a look at some Korean words that reflect this specific usage and 再 character, and then we’ll examine other possible 한자 and associated meanings for 재. 

  • 정비 reorganization, rearrangement, realignment (정비 means “organization/alignment” or “maintenance”)
  • 도전 (to take on a) challenge again (도전 is “challenge”; you’ll see 재도전 frequently in variety show subtitles when someone fails a mission and wants to try it again with a new tactic)
  • 생 recycling, playback, or regeneration (if your music player is in Korea, you’ll see this word on your screen i.e. 재생 목록 is “playlist”)
  • 활용 recycling (활용 is “application” or “practical use” so 재활용 is literally “putting to practical use again”)
  • 확인 reconfirmation (확인 means “confirmation” and it is one of the most common words to encounter while using technology or filling out paperwork)
  • 회 reunion (회 here is the 회 of togetherness or community, composing other Korean words like 사회, 회의, 회식, etc.)
  • 활 rehabilitation (활 here is the same 활 used in 활동 or “activity” and “movement”, making this literally “to be active or to move again”)
  • 독하다 to reread, to read over again (this 독 comes from the 독 in 독서, which means “reading”)

주의: This does not mean that all Korean words that start with 재 automatically mean “again” or that the 재 spelling is functioning as this specific 재~ prefix.

For example, 재산 (property/wealth) and 재료 (material/ingredient) both begin with 재. But each of these comes from a completely different 한자: (materials) or (financial). They are thus different from the “again” 한자 of (재). Though the Korean spelling and pronunciation are identical, the meanings are completely different.

Wait, so what’s the point if you don’t memorize the 한자 or if 한자 aren’t provided in the text? How can you know which 재 it is? Context is key, my friend. Look at the surrounding text to figure out if the 재 at the beginning of an unfamiliar Korean word makes more sense as “again”, “material”, or “financial”.

읽어 주셔서 감사합니다.


지금 재생 중


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