In the Kdrama world, there’s one word that test-takers, job interviewees, athletes,and hopeless romantics know a little too well:
Maybe the eternally unemployed is headed to their 98th job interview. Or the buff MMA fighter is about to enter the combat ring. Tons of Kdrama characters are greeted with ‘Fighting!’ on their way to tough scenes. But ‘Fighting!’ isn’t just a Kdrama thing – it’s an actual expression used by actual Koreans. And what exactly does ‘Fighting!’ mean? Why do Koreans say ‘Fighting!”? Read on to find out!
The Meaning Of ‘Fighting’
In a nutshell, ‘Fighting!’ (pronounced as “hwaiting” or “paiting”) is a word of encouragement. With your fists pumped high, it’s used to cheer someone on, wish them luck, or express your support. Think of saying ‘Good luck!” or ‘You got this!” in English.
Many think that the Korean ‘Fighting!’ came from the same English word. Now you’re probably wondering what the Korean and English versions have to do with each other. Saying ‘Fighting!’ in Korean surely doesn’t mean there’s a fistfight going on!
While it’s not a literal fight where you kick and punch, to say ‘Fighting!’ in Korean is to encourage someone to keep the “fighting spirit” on.
Where ‘Fighting’ Came From?
But there isn’t much agreement with the history of the word. The English ‘fighting’ hypothesis isn’t unquestioned truth. There’s probably as many histories of ‘Fighting!’ as there are situations in which to say the word.
But in one way or another, the different histories of ‘Fighting!’ agree that the expression is derived from the English root word, ‘fight’.
- It came from the English phrase, ‘Fight, team!’ instead of ‘Fighting!’;
- It’s a Korean war invention. During the Korean war, competing Korean merchants reportedly engaged in physical fights. Entertained by the commotion, nearby American troops would provoke the quarreling merchants by chanting, ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’;
- It was popularized by KTF telecom when it coined the slogan ‘Korea Team Fighting!’ during the 2002 Soccer World Cup;
- It first showed up in a 1965 Chosun Ilbo newspaper article about a company sports event;
- It originated from the Japanese ‘fight-o’.
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Is it ‘Hwaiting’ or ‘Paiting’?
So how do you say ‘Fighting!’? Surely you’ve heard (or seen) the word in its dual form. In Korea, “Fighting!” is encountered either as 화이팅 (“hwaiting”) or 파이팅 (“paiting”). Both pronunciations and spellings are correct. But in terms of popularity, “hwaiting” is much more commonly used.
This dual form has to do with the Korean language. Korean has no [f] sound. So when it borrows a foreign word that has an [f], as in ‘fighting,’ it changes the [f] sound to either [p] or /[h]. Why [p] or [h] is a complicated linguistic process. It involves the coordination of the tongue, lips, teeth, and mouth to imitate a sound not present in the Korean language.
And so “Fighting!” isn’t the only borrowed [f] sound that becomes a [p] or [h]. Another example is frying pan, spelled either as 후라이 팬 (“huraipen”) or 프라이팬 (“peuraipen”).
Still not convinced that both “hwaiting” and “paiting” are correct? Check out these videos of Blackpink, IU, and BTS’s V saying “Fighting!”.
When Do Koreans Say ‘Fighting’?
Koreans say ‘Fighting!’ in any situation where they want to express their encouragement. Anytime you want to wish someone luck – an enthusiastic ‘Fighting!’ with your fists pumped is a good start!
If you’re looking for specific situations where a ‘Fighting!’ is appropriate, here are some:
- In sporting events, where the crowd cheers on their favorite team. You might have heard Korean fans shout “대한민국, 회이팅!” (“Daehan Minguk, Fighting!”) to cheer for their national team in international matches;
- Before job interviews and exams;
- Just before live performances, where K-pop idols huddle together and shout ‘Fighting!’ before beginning their shows.
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Other Korean Words for Encouragement
Have lots of support to give? Aside from ‘Fighting!’, here are other Korean words of encouragement to wish the best of luck to your loved ones:
- 힘내세요! (“Himneseyo”) – Cheer up!
- 당신은 할 수 있어요! (“Dangs-hin-eun, hal-su-iss-eo-yo!”) – You can do it!
- 다 잘 될거에요. (“Da jal dwel-geo-e-yo.”) – Everything is going to be fine.
You’ve just learned why, when, and how Koreans say ‘Fighting!’. The English translation might sound a little too violent for non-Korean speakers. But ‘Fighting!’ is an expression loaded with lots of love and sincere support.
So the next time you want to cheer that feisty Kdrama character or your friend, you’re ready to pump your fists and shout a passionate ‘Fighting!”.
Check out our last blog post about how K-pop idols lose weight!