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Lesson 135: 성 – Character or a Range of Quality

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성 (性) = Character or a Range of Some Quality
성 (成) = Completion
성 (誠) = Loyalty, Effort, Devotion




This is another lesson where I back up my grammar with lists of words. Some of the words I use in this lesson are new to you, and some you have already seen. Here is a list of words used in this lesson that have not been introduced previously.

The words are placed in the order that they appear in this lesson, and separated by the different sections in which they appear.

남성 = male
여성 = female
음성 = negative
양성 = positive
인성 = character
정체성 = identity
성향 = one’s tendency, disposition
습성 = habits
개성 = individuality, personality
특성 = characteristic

진실성 = truthfulness
위험성 = dangerousness
관련성 = relevancy
독창성 = creativity, originality
창의성 = creativity
필요성 = necessity
다양성 = diversity
전염성 = contagiousness

찬성 = approval
완성 = completion
미완성 = incompletion
형성 = development
성과 = result
성과급 = bonus, performance related pay
구성 = formation
조성 = construction, creation

충성 = loyalty, allegiance devotion
성의 = sincerity
성실하다 = to be faithful

For help memorizing these words, try using our mobile app.



In this lesson, you will learn about the syllable 성. The purpose of this lesson was to discuss the meaning of 성 when used to indicate a range of some quality. However, I figured while I was discussing this one meaning, I might as well discuss some of the others. In this lesson, I will discuss the following meanings of 성:

성 =性 = Character or a range of some quality
성 =成 = Completion
성 =誠 = Loyalty, effort, devotion

Let’s get started!



() = Character or a Range of Some Quality

You do not particularly need to pay attention to the Hanja characters of each meaning of 성, but I have organized this lesson based on these characters. The first meaning I would like to talk about is when the meaning comes from the Hanja character 性.

One of the most common places you will see this usage of 성 used is in a noun to refer to the characteristic or nature of that particular noun. This meaning lends itself to be used often in words that deal with a person’s (or thing’s) characteristic or identity. A common word where you have seen this meaning of 성 before is in the word 성격 (one’s personality). For example:

저는 외모보다 성격이 더 중요하다고 생각해요
= I think personality is more important than looks

Below is a list of many words where you will see this usage of 성:

남성 = male
여성 = female
음성 = negative
양성 = positive
인성 = character
성향 = tendency, disposition
습성 = habits
개성 = individuality, personality
특성 = special characteristic
정체성 = identity

성 Used with the Noun Form of ~하다 Adjectives

When added to the noun form of –하다 adjectives (or sometimes verbs), the newly created noun usually refers to the range or degree of that particular noun. Let’s look at a couple of examples using words introduced in previous lessons:

가능하다 = to be possible
가능성 = possibility

The word 가능성 refers to the range or degree of something being possible – the possibility of something. When used in a sentence, the speaker would typically indicate specifically where in this range a particular item falls. For example:

내일 비가 올 가능성이 높아요 = There is a high possibility it will rain tomorrow
아빠가 다시 돌아올 가능성이 없어요 = There is no possibility dad will return again

Of course, the speaker could simply refer to the range itself. For example:

우리가 내일 비가 올 가능성을 알아야 돼요 = We need to know the possibility of it raining tomorrow

Below are other examples of –성 used after a noun where the noun also has a –하다 form. In some cases, because of the nature of the noun that is created when removing –하다, it is typically more common to use the -성 version of the noun than the non-성 version of the noun:

Another example from a previous lesson is:

중요하다 = to be important
중요성 = importance

이 문제의 중요성을 알리기 위해 영상을 만들었어요
= In order to inform you of the importance of this problem, I made a video

Below are example sentences following this usage of 성 with new words from this lesson’s vocabulary list:

진실하다 = to be honest, to be truthful
진실성 = truthfulness, sincerity

그 사람의 말은 항상 진실성이 부족해요
= That person’s words always lack sincerity

그 사람이 말할 때마다 진실성이 느껴져요
= Every time that person speaks, you can feel sincerity

위험하다 = to be dangerous
위험성 = dangerousness (danger)

그 나라에 들어가면 위험성이 커요
= There is a high danger if you enter that country

이 약의 위험성을 잘 알려지지 않았어요
= The danger of this drug/medicine was not well known

관련하다 = to be relevant to
관련성 = relevancy

이 사건과 저 사건의 관련성이 아예 없어요
= This incident has absolutely no relevance to that matter

독창하다 = to be creative/original
독창성 = creativity/originality

독창성이 제일 뛰어난 작품을 고르는 것이 이 대회의 목표예요
= Choosing the piece with the most outstanding creativity is the goal of this contest

창의하다 = to be creative
창의성 = creativity

그 아이의 창의성은 매우 뛰어나요
= That child’s creativity is very outstanding

필요하다 = to need
필요성 = necessity

어렸을 때는 돈의 필요성을 잘 몰랐어요
= When we were young, we didn’t know the importance of money

다양하다 = to be diverse
다양성 = diversity

오늘의 수업 주제는 한국 음식의 다양성에 대해 공부하는 거예요
= The subject of today’s class is the study of Korean food diversity

전염하다 = to be contagious
전염성 = contagiousness

독감은 전염성이 매우 강하니 외출 후 손을 꼭 씻어야 돼요
= The contagiousness of the flu is very strong, so after going outside, make sure to wash your hands

I love the word 전염성 in Korean because this translates to a word that I would never say in English. With your new understanding of –and how it is used, you can see why. 전염성 refers to how contagious something is – if it is highly contagious or low. How would we refer to this in English? Contagiousness? What is cool when you are able to communicate in multiple languages is you can pick and choose words depending on their feeling in a particular language. Sometimes it is easier to express a thought/meaning in one language compared to another. 전염성 is a good example, as this is something I would have a hard time representing in English.



성 Used with nouns that feel like adjectives but don’t have a ~하다 adjective form

Below is a list of nouns that 성 is commonly attached to. In this list, 성 is attached to nouns that don’t have a –하다 form  (or at least, not a common one):

산성 = acidity
지성 = intelligence
적성 = aptitude
관성 = inertia
감성 = sensitivity
극성 = polarity
독성 = toxicity
효율성 = effectiveness
사회성 = sociability

Because these words don’t have a ~하다 form, there is no natural adjective-form for those nouns. For example:

중요성 translates to “importance.” If the importance is high, you could say that it is “important.” Important in Korean is “중요하다.”

위험성 translates to “dangerousness.” If the dangerousness is high, you could say that it is “dangerous.” Dangerous in Korean is “위험하다.”

You can’t do this with the words in the previous list. That is, these are not adjectives that describe the respective property from above:

Some of these are actually words, but words that have an entirely different meaning than above.


Although these –성 words don’t have a natural adjective form in Korean, most of them have a perfect adjective form in English. For example:

If something has a high acidity, it is acidic

If something has a high sensitivity, it is sensitive

If something has a high toxicity, it is toxic

If something has a high efficiency, it is efficient

In Korean, you cannot use the words 산하다, 감하다, 독하다 and 효율하다 to describe mean acidic, sensitive, toxic and efficient. Instead, with these words – and the others described along with them – other adjectives must be used along with them to describe their property. For example:

산성이 높은 비를 산성비라고 해요
= Rain with a high acidity is called “acid rain”

내 아이를 지성이 높은 아이로 키우고 싶어
= I want to raise my child as a child with high intelligence

적성이 맞는 일을 찾는 게 제 목표예요
= It is my goal to find a job that is right for me

Here is another Korean idea that is hard to translate to English. 적성이 맞다 is used to describe a job that is perfect for one particular person’s interests and abilities.

관성이 큰 물체는 움직임을 멈추는 게 어려워요
= Stopping an object with a high (a lot of) momentum is difficult

저는 다른 사람들보다 감성이 더 섬세해요
= I have a more delicate sensitivity than other people

몇몇 뱀은 독성이 강해서 물리면 죽을 수도 있어요
= Some snakes have a high toxicity (are highly toxic), so if bitten, a person could even die

가정제품을 살 때는 효율성이 좋은 제품을 사야 돼요
= When you buy appliances, you should buy products with a good efficiency (efficient products)

물은 극성이 있는 분자예요
= Water is a molecule with polarity (a polar molecule)

Another common noun that is similar to those above is 참을성.

참을성 translates to “patience.” If one’s patience is high, you could say that he/she is “patient.” Patient doesn’t have a commonly-used single-word-translation in Korean. Just like the words discussed above, other adjectives are used along with 참을성 to indicate that one is patient. For example:

그 사람은 참을성이 부족해서 못 기다렸어요 = That person is not patient (lacks patience), so he could not wait





성 (成) = Completion

Another meaning of 성 (derived from the Hanja character 成) is to indicate the completion of something.

I talk about the Hanja usage of this character in Hanja Lesson 37.

You have seen this character used in the word 성공 which translates to “success.” For example:

성공을 하기 위해서는 포기해야 할 것들이 있어요
= In order to succeed there will have to be sacrifices

Here is a small list of new words that also containing this usage of 성:

찬성 = approval
이 의견에 대해 찬성을 하는 사람은 손을 들어 주세요
= People in agreement about this opinion, please raise your hands

완성 = completion
작품을 완성하자마자 바로 저에게 알려주세요
= As soon as you have completed this piece, please let me know

미완성 = incompletion
몇몇 훌륭한 화가들의 작품은 아직도 미완성으로 남아 있어요
= The works of some great artists are still left incomplete

형성 = development
아이들의 성격 형성에 매우 중요한 것은 부모님의 관심이에요
= The personality development of one’s child is a very important interest of parents

성과 = result
오랜 노력 끝에 좋은 성과를 내서 기분이 매우 좋아요
= The results at the end of a long period of effort were favorable, so I’m in a great mood

성과급 = bonus/performance related pay
이 프로젝트의 성과가 매우 좋아서 특별 성과급을 받았어요
= The project results were exceptionally good, so I received a special performance bonus

구성 = formation
이 소설의 인물 구성은 다른 작품들과는 매우 다르기 때문에 인물에 더 집중을 해서 읽어야 해요
= Since this novel’s character formation is so different from other works, it’s necessary to read it with more concentration and focus on the character

조성 = construction, creation
좋은 학습 분위기 조성을 위해서는 선생님의 역할이 중요해요
= The role of the teacher is important in the creation of a good learning atmosphere



성 (誠) = Loyalty, Effort, Devotion

Another meaning of 성 (derived from the Hanja character 誠) is to indicate or describe loyalty, effort or devotion.

You have seen this character used in the word 정성 which translates to “effort” or “devotion.” For example:

정성을 다해서 이 음식을 만들었어요
= I gave it my best when I made this food

Here is a small list of new words that also containing this usage of 성:

충성 = loyalty, allegiance
나라에 충성을 다해 열심히 근무하겠습니다
= I pledge my total loyalty to work diligently for the country

성의 = sincerity
무엇보다도 중요한 것은 성의를 보여주는 것이에요
= Above all else it’s important to show sincerity

성실하다 = to be faithful
그 사람은 매우 성실하기 때문에 모든 사람이 그를 좋아해요
= That person is very faithful, so everybody likes him

That’s it for this lesson!

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