Kimchi (김치) is the accepted word in both North and South Korean standard languages. Earlier forms of the word include timchɑi (팀), a Middle Korean transcription of the Sino-Korean word 沈菜 (literally "submerged vegetable"). Timchɑi appears in Sohak Eonhae,[14] the 16th century Korean rendition of the Chinese book, Xiaoxue (in Korean, Sohak).[15] Sound changes from Middle Korean to Modern Korean regarding the word can be described as:

timchɑi (팀; 沈菜) > dimchɑi (딤) > jimchɑi (짐) > jimchui (짐츼) > gKimchi (김치) The aspirated first consonant of timchɑi became unaspirated in dimchɑi, then underwent palatalization in jimchɑi. The word then became jimchui with the loss of the vowel ɑ (ㆍ) in Korean language, then Kimchi, with the depalatalized word-initial consonant. In Modern Korean, the hanja characters 沈菜 are pronounced chimchae (침채), and are not used to refer to kimchi, or anything else. The word Kimchi is not considered as a Sino-Korean word.[16] Older forms of the word are retained in many regional dialects: jimchae (Jeolla, Hamgyŏng dialects),[17] jimchi (Chungcheong, Gangwon, Gyeonggi, Gyeongsang, Hamgyŏng, Jeolla dialects),[18] and dimchi (P'yŏngan dialect).[19]

The English word "kimchi" perhaps originated from kimch'i, the McCune–Reischauer transcription of the Korean word Kimchi (김치).