It’s been a long time since I last made a 漢字 배우자! post! This time, we’re going to be looking at characters referring to things that we can find in nature, and nature itself.
The Korean word for “nature” is 자연. Let’s look at the characters in that word first:
스스로 ([by] oneself) 자 自, 그러할 (like that; as it is) 연 然
Looking at the meanings of the two characters, can you see how they combine to make “nature”? When we read the meanings together, we end up with something along the lines of “like that by oneself.” Nature is just how it is on its own!
The characters in 자연 can also be found in other words. Let’s check them out:
스스로 자 自
자립 自立 — 스스로 자 自, 설 (to establish, stand up, erect) 립 (입) 立
Being able to stand on one’s one is self-reliance.
자신 自身 — 스스로 자 自, 몸 (body) 신 身
This word refers to one’s own body or, in other words, oneself. For example, one can decide to 자신에게 잘해 주다, or to treat oneself well.
그러할 연 然
당연하다; 당연히 當然 — 마땅할 (suitable, proper) 당 當, 그러할 연 然
Something that is suitable or proper just as it is could be said to be natural or even certain. For example, perhaps you have a friend that always expects you to come to their aid whenever they need it. Fed up with this state of affairs, you could say to your friend, “내 도움을 너무 당연하게 생각하는 거 아냐?” (Are you not taking my help for granted?)
Other nature-related characters
Now, let’s learn some other nature-related characters. We already learned a few when we looked at dates and the days of the week: all of the days are related to some natural thing. Starting with Sunday, we have:
날 (day) 일 日, 달 (moon; month) 월 月, 불 (fire) 화 花, 물 (water) 수 水, 나무 (wood/tree) 목 木, 쇠 (metal) 금 金, 흙 (earth) 토 土
For our new characters, let’s look at 석 石, 산 山, and 화 花!
돌 (stone) 석 石
This simple character means “stone.” It appears in words that, of course, are related to rocks or stones! For example:
화석 化石— 될 (to become) 화 化, 돌 석 石
Something that has become a rock is a fossil!
석유 石油 — 돌 석 石, 기름 (oil) 유 油
Put together, these characters represent oil that comes from rocks, or the oil/petroleum we extract from the ground.
뫼 (mountain) 산 山
This character is shaped like what it represents. We can see 산 in place names like 부산 釜山 or in words like 설산 and 화산.
설산 雪山 — 눈 (snow) 설 雪, 산 山
a mountain covered with snow
화산 火山 — 불 (fire) 화 火, 산 山
a mountain of fire, or a volcano!
꽃 (flower) 화 花
화병 花甁 — 꽃 화 花, 병 (bottle) 병 甁
A flower bottle is better translated in English as a flower vase!