Korean winter idiom 삼한사온 三寒四溫

I don’t know what’s going on with the weather. But after months of struggling through shivery coldness we were suddenly treated yesterday (Saturday) to a rather balmy 22 °C. I only know this because I looked on my iphone app to see the temperature. I had no plans to go out. I now regret this because today we did go out  (Sunday). But what’s the temperature today? – 2°C. Great. That’s right. In one day the temperature has dropped 24°C! We’ve gone from spring (or British summer 😉 ) to winter in a day. Grrr. I KNEW we should have gone out yesterday.

This winter has been unusually cold. There’s a Korean idiom that describes the ‘normal’ Korean winter. It goes 삼한사온 ( sam-han-sa-on 三寒四溫 which literally means ‘three cold four warm‘. So in winter-time we can expect (about) three cold days followed by (about) 4 warm days. This all depends on the wind coming from Siberia apparently. But this year wasn’t a typical winter at all. We didn’t have that change of cold followed by warmer days. It was just really, really cold! :(

This idiom can also be used to describe where we are right now in March at the change of  season. As winter thaws and spring arrives we usually have several cold days followed by several warmer days. So we should expect some warmer weather around now. But I don’t remember the temperature being so extremely different as it was this weekend! 😮

2 thoughts on “Korean winter idiom 삼한사온 三寒四溫

  • March 26, 2013 at 5:02 am

    Hello! Thanks for the blog, I really enjoy it!
    I have a question regarding “winter” idioms: is there a Korean equivalent to the English expression “cold as ice”?

    • March 27, 2013 at 8:10 am

      Yes, there is! It’s 얼음처럼 차갑다 or-um cho-rom cha-gap da. 어름 is ice 처럼 means ‘like’ 차갑다 cold.

      The expression can be used to describe personality too: 어름처럼 차가운 성격 or-um cho-rom cha-ga-un song-gyeok =a personality cold as ice
      There are more examples on the Naver online dictionary here:

      Thanks for your question!

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