Words Used for Monarchs in the Korean Silla Dynasty

The current Korean word for king is 왕, and this is the word that has been used most frequently throughout the dynasties. However, during the Silla Dynasty, the words used for ‘king’ changed over time.

In the book Korean History in Maps, the author compiles a list of the monarchs who ruled in each time period. In each dynasty throughout Korean history, the word 왕 was used. However, during the Silla period, the words used varied, so I am sharing that chart specifically.

I will later post a very broad overview of Korean history and the dynasties/geography, but that should be in a post by itself. So, for now, here are the monarchs of Silla:

거서간

This was the first word used to refer to the kingdom’s first monarch, 혁거세. I asked a Korean, and she said that she thinks this word is only used to refer to him and doesn’t have another meaning, unlike the others.

차차웅

Shaman

차차웅 literally translates to ‘shaman’ and was the title used to refer to the second ruler of Silla, 남해. This is not the word that is currently used to mean ‘shaman’, and is only used when referencing 남해. (The current word for shaman is 무당)

이사금

Elder

Again, this is a word that is only used to refer to Silla era monarchs. It translates naturally to ‘elder’, but more literally means ‘a person with many teeth’, which is indicative of the wisdom one gains as they age.

마립간

King (Silla Dynasty)

This word simply meant ‘king’, and was used throughout the reigns of multiple kings. While it’s meaning is simply ‘king’, it is no longer used. It was only used during a period of time during the Silla Dynasty.

King

This is the word that, historically, has been most commonly used to refer to Korean monarchs. It is also the word that is, in modern times, used to mean ‘king’.

여왕

Queen

As you can see, some of the rulers were female. 여왕 is a combination of 여, meaning ‘female’ and 왕, meaning ‘king’. This is the current Korean word used to refer to queens.

~ Hannah

Published by Satyanghae Korean (Hannah & Shelbi)

We are just 3 students who wish to share the love and joy of learning Korean through lesson posts and translations! We are doing this for fun, based on our experience and questions we ask native speakers. We are not fluent! Just passionate  ~ Hannah, Shelbi, and Jordan

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