Is "hanbok" considered a countable noun, or an uncountable noun?

I assumed that "hanbok" meant a specific clothing item, and is therefore countable, and therefore "she wore a hanbok" would be proper English. However, the English language Wikipedia article on hanbok talks about it being

... clothing of the Joseon period and is worn as semi-formal or formal wear during traditional festivals and celebrations ...

as if it's a class of clothing, and later on has

Hanbok is classified according to its purposes

rather than "Hanboks are".

I also notice that the article doesn't use "Hanboks" anywhere, but that's not surprising as sometimes people don't pluralise words from certain languages.

If the word is used differently by different people, that's an acceptable answer.

  • Alternative, clickbait question title: "Can you wear a hanbok?". – Andrew Grimm May 27 '17 at 15:38
  • 2
    I have a hanbok of Kemistry and Fiziks. – Jim May 27 '17 at 15:39
  • 1
    I would treat this like sari. The sari is the traditional garb etc. But: My wife was given two saris for her birthday. – aparente001 May 29 '17 at 4:08

According to the following source hanbok refers both to the traditional clothing of Korea (which consists of different parts) but also to more general traditional clothing. As the traditional Korean costume it is referred to as a countable noun:

  • Hanbok refers to the traditional clothing of Korea. Hanbok was developed over a long period of time by Korean people on the Korean Peninsula.

  • Hanbok, the cultural clothing of Korea, was established as a part of the unique living culture of Korea, influenced by the geographical and climatic nature of the Korean peninsula, and handed down throughout the years to present times. Hanbok is also referred to as Korean traditional clothing or folk clothing.

  • Hanbok basically consists of jeogori (jacket) and baji (trousers), showing Northern Scythian natures. The style of Hanbok is closer to the style of the nomadic tribes of the bordering countries of Western China who wore jeogori and baji, than that of the agricultural society of China where people wore jeogori and chima (skirt). The origins of Hanbok can be found recorded on a wall painting of an ancient tomb of Goguryeo.


Ngram: a hanbok, hanboks

Usage examples:

From Discovery of Korea:

  • Hanbok worn by a Joseon DynastyM392- 1 9101 queen on her wedding day. 2. Ceremorial Hanbok worn on a Korean typical wedding day currently. When you wear a hanbok, your body movements and gestures.

From Social Studies & The Young Learner:

  • The national ladies' jacket is called a hanbok. The national men's jacket is ajeogori. They are similar in shape, but the women's garment tends to be less colorful. The ladies wear their hanbok over a skirt, and the men wear their jeogori over ...

From Encyclopaedia of clothing:

  • The Korean ensemble called a hanbok includes a skirt for women and pants for men that are cut and sewn, but the top garment, a jacket for both men and women..


  • Hanbok, The Art of Korean Clothing, by Sunni Yang, is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the beautiful Korean hanbok. It is filled with wonderful color photographs of hanboks and hanbok accessories. It also explains many of the customs and symbols associated with the hanbok.

Korean, like most Asian languages, lacks plurals. A Korean referring to... one more than one hanbok, would say "hanbok du bŏl"; that is, "hanbok, two items of clothing".

Given that, and the obvious fact that a hanbok is a countable item -- someone might own one or two or three of them, and might have half if she only has the jacket and not the skirt, but not 2.3 of them -- it's probably best to pluralize it as if it had always been in the English Language.

This page has many examples of exactly that usage, as well as lots of photos of models in hanboks.

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