I am learning Korean, and my dictionary gives an English meaning for 葛藤(갈등) as 'conflict' or 'troubles'. Why do these characters combine do give this meaning? Both characters seem to mean some kind of plant (although in each case, I'm getting varying definitions as to exactly which plant!)

  • 2
    Please check this out.
    – zyy
    Mar 23, 2019 at 14:43
  • Note the same meaning also exists in Japanese. Oct 6, 2023 at 4:35

3 Answers 3


The Wiktionary page for 葛藤 says:

Etymology: From the tendency of the vines of kudzu and rattan to become entangled.

No citation is provided, however.

The Korean Wikipedia page for 갈등 says something similar:

어원: 왼쪽으로 감아 자라나는 칡과 오른쪽으로 감아 자나라는 등나무가 서로 얽히고 설킨 모습에서 유래.

Etymology: It is derived from the shape of the wisteria that is wrapped to the left and the wisteria which is wrapped to the right and entwined to the right. (Google Translate)

Again, no citation is provided, unfortunately.


It’s semantic extension.

The plant refers to a kind which forms entangled vines. This is extended to mean troubled, complex relationships or conflicts.


Conflict is a phenomenon in which an individual's emotion or motivation contradicts other emotions or motivations, and the expression is prevented. You need to know the meaning of each letter in Korean. It is a combination of "gal (葛)" meaning arrowroot and "deng (藤)" meaning rattan, and "conflict (葛藤)" refers to a state in which things are difficult to solve (狀態) due to a mess like rattan and rattan vines.

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