What does ‘Taekwondo’ mean in English?

In English, ‘Taekwondo’ literally means the way of the foot and the fist.

‘Taekwondo’ is the name of a Korean martial art that is based on the Okinawan-Japanese martial art of Karate, and strongly influenced by the native Korean martial art of Taekkyeon. Taekwondo was developed in the mid-twentieth century, and the name ‘Taekwondo’ was chosen as the name for the martial art, over previous names such as Tangsudo and Gongsudo, because of its similarity to the name Taekkyeon.

태 跆 tae is a Sino-Korean word meaning ‘to kick’ or ‘to destroy with the foot’, and as part of the word ‘Taekwondo’ is used to mean ‘foot’.

권 拳 kwon is a Sino-Korean word meaning ‘fist’, but could also be considered figuratively here to mean ‘to punch’ or ‘to destroy with the hand’.

도 道 do is a Sino-Korean word meaning ‘way’, and refers to a way of living, or a moral philosophy. The suffix –do is used in a number of Korean and Japanese martial arts to signify that the martial art represents a way of life – the art is not just a tool for combat – it is a moral culture.

Thus, altogether, the word ‘Taekwondo’ can be translated as ‘the way of the foot and the fist’ or ‘the way of kicking and punching’.

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If you'd like to learn more about the Korean terminology used in Taekwondo, consider buying this book: Taekwondo Terminology. It contains an extensive dictionary of terms used in Taekwondo, as well as explanations on how to pronounce Korean words, and aspects of Korean grammar.

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