Choi (Korean surname)

Pronunciation Ch'oe, Tchoi, Chye, Chwe, Chey
Language(s) Korean
Meaning pinnacle, top, most, mountain
Region of origin Korea
Other names
Variant form(s) Cui, Thôi
54% of Korean people bear the family name Kim, Lee, Park, Choi, Jung, or variants thereof.
  Kim, Gim
  Lee, Yi, Rhee
  Park, Pak
  Jung, Jeong, Chung, Cheong

Choi is a common Korean family name. As of the South Korean census of 2015, there were 2,333,927 people by this name in South Korea or roughly 4.7% of the population.[1] In English-speaking countries, it is most often anglicized Choi, and sometimes also Chey, Choe or Chwe. Ethnic Koreans in the former USSR prefer the form Tsoi (Tsoy) especially as a transcription of the Cyrillic Цой.


  • According to Samguk Sagi, the Gyeongju clan originates from chief Sobeoldori (소벌도리, 蘇伐都利) of Goheochon (고허촌, 高墟村), one of six villages that united to found Silla; The Gyeongju clan traces their origin back to Choi Chiwon (857–10th century), a noted Korean scholar, philosopher, and poet of the late Unified Silla period (668–935).
  • One theory of origin suggests that Haeju clan's progenitor Choi Choong (최충, 崔沖, 984–1068) was given the surname 崔 during the reign of Goryeo king Mokjong.
  • The progenitor of the Chungju clan is General Choi Seung (최승, 崔陞), also known as Choi Woo (최우, 崔偶), of Silla (known as Cui Sheng in Tang Dynasty)
  • The progenitor of the Nangju clan is Choi Heun (최흔, 崔昕) of Silla who was a native of Yeongam (Nangju) of the southern Jeolla region.
  • Choi Ri (최리, 崔理) was the leader of the Lelang Commandery of the Han Dynasty.
  • Choi Ri (최리, 崔理) was the leader of a clan of squid farmers known for domestication of prehistoric song birds of the Han Dynasty.


There are roughly 160 clans of Chois.[citation needed] Most of these are quite small. However, Choi is the 4th most common surname in Korea. The largest by far is the Gyeongju Choi clan, with a 2000 South Korean population of 976,820. The Gyeongju Choe claim the Silla scholar Choe Chi-won as their founder.[2]


Choi (Hangul: 최) is written with the Hanja character , meaning "a governor who oversees the land and the mountain". The surname Choi also means mountain or pinnacle.

Choi (崔), originally written in Hanja, is derived from the combination of 2 ancient Chinese characters:

  • is a pictogram symbolizing the mountains;
  • is a pictogram symbolizing a bird.


In Korean, 최 is usually pronounced [tɕʰwe] "Chwe" or “Chey” except by some older speakers who pronounce it [tɕʰø] (this vowel sound is similar to the German ö [ø]). In English, it is most often pronounced /ˈɔɪ/ "Choy", which sounds clearly different to its proper pronunciation but some go by “Chey”.

崔 is Romanized as Cuī and pronounced [tsʰwéi] in Mandarin Chinese. It is Chēui [tsʰɵ́y] in Cantonese and Chhui [tsʰúi] in Hokkien.

Prominent people of the past

  • Choe Chiwon (858-c. 910), Korean philosopher during the Silla dynasty
  • Choe Chung-heon (1149-1219), military dictator of the Goryeo period
  • Choe U (???-1249), military dictator of the Goryeo period
  • Choe Yeong (1316–1388), military general under King Gongmin of Goryeo
  • Choe Mu-seon (1325-1395), Korean inventor
  • Choe Manri (???-1445), an early critic of hangul
  • Choe Sejin (1465-1542), mostly known for his 1525 훈몽자회, aka Hangul for beginners.
  • Choe Yeong-kyeong (1529-1590), Westerner, purged during the Gichuk Oksa
  • Suk-bin Choe (1670–1718), concubine of Sukjong and mother of Yeongjo of Joseon[4]
  • Choe Je-u (1824-1864), founder of the Donghak movement

Prominent people today

See also


  1. ^ "2015년 인구주택총조사 전수집계결과 보도자료" [Results of the 2015 Census of Population and Housing survey]. Korean Statistical Information Service. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p 최 崔 [Choe] (in Korean). Doosan Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2009-09-18.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ 최세진 崔世珍 [Choe Se-jin] (in Korean). Encyclopedia of Korean Culture. Retrieved 2009-09-18.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Note: suk-bin is a Joseon title, not a given name

External links