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I am learning chinese word: 荆棘. The pronunciation and meaning as per Chinese Dictionary are

“荆棘 jīngjí thistles and thorns

I tried to find the meaning of “thistles and thorns”. Google search fetched the encyclopedia.com link, which seems the most suitable. It contains the following information

Thistles and Thorns: Israel, being a Mediterranean and partly a desert country, is rich in prickly plants, which in various locations dominate the landscape. The thorns protect the plant from damage through grazing and in many cases prevent it from drying up, because the prickly leaves or branches limit the surface of the plant and diminish the amount of evaporation. Thorns are found on trees, shrubs, and perennial and annual plants.........

Complete link for your reference: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/thistles-and-thorns

Does "thistles and thorns" mean a plant name? Can “thistles and thorns” be used to mean anything else as well?

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    The word "thistles" and the phrase "thistles and thorns" does not appear in your quote. Please clarify
    – James K
    May 11, 2021 at 5:55
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    A thistle is a particular plant; a thorn is either a prickly projection of many plants, or a plant name. The combined meaning of 'thistles and thorns' is 'prickly plants'. May 11, 2021 at 6:58

2 Answers 2

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It's probably a reference to Genesis 3:18, though that is thorns and thistles.

Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; (King James Bible)

God tells Adam that he will be able to make a living from cultivating the land, but will have to contend with tough weeds.

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  • any difference between “thistles and thorns” and “thorns and thistles” ?
    – user27485
    May 11, 2021 at 8:11
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    Only that thorns and thistles is an established phrase and thistles and thorns is not. Where did you find it? May 11, 2021 at 8:29
  • I am learning chinese and the pronunciation and meaning were given like this “荆棘 jīngjí thistles and thorns”
    – user27485
    May 11, 2021 at 9:58
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    Probably not a Biblical reference, then. Presumably it just refers to unwanted plants that are hard to deal with (thistles have spiky leaves). May 11, 2021 at 10:57
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Thistles: a family of plants with prickles on their leaves (specifically 蓟)

Thorns: hard, sharp, needle-like parts of a plant (刺) or a type of plants that have lots of thorns.

Your dictionary just means that 荆棘 can be translated as "thistles and thorn-bushes" (although looking wikipeida, it seems it means "thorny undergrowth" or "brambles". But is usually used figuratively to mean "a difficult situation".)

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  • Thanks James. Initially I thought, I will confuse others by providing the chinese source. That is not correct. We have multi linguistic experts like you and I am delighted with the answer. thanks
    – user27485
    May 12, 2021 at 0:26
  • Actually not that multi lingual. I used a dictionary.
    – James K
    May 12, 2021 at 5:15

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