I know better. In recent years, South Korea’s parliamentarians have largely managed to give up literally fighting. Yet metaphorically, warfare remains entrenched.


I have no idea about the meaning of the sentences above.

What does it mean that South Korean politicians have given up literally fighting, but rather they are stuck in warfare metaphorically.

What's the difference between literal fight and metaphorical fight?

It doesn't make any sense to me.

1 Answer 1


A literal fight is physical, and a metaphorical fight is more debate over policies.

To give you a concrete example, you can take a look at what has been going on in the Ukrainian parliament. A couple of days ago, one of the parliament members came up to the prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, after a speech that he gave, with a bouquet of flowers. Upon handing Yatsenyuk the flowers, the parliament member actually started hitting and picking up Yatsenyuk, trying to beat him up.

THAT is literal fighting in parliament.

On the other hand, look at what's going on in the US Congress. Republicans and democrats argue day and night about defunding Planned Parenthood, and neither side wants to concede.

That is metaphorical fighting, because the democrats and republicans aren't physically punching each other (yet...). It's all debate and political push from both sides.

(Note: You can see the Ukraine parliament fighting video that I mentioned above in this article. It's partially funny, but also partially sad. That certainly isn't the first time that fighting has broken out in the Ukrainian parliament, and it probably won't be the last.)

  • 2
    But it should be noted that the source is using these terms incorrectly, since "fighting" covers both physical violence and debate. A hostile debate, especially one that has real-world consequence, is commonly called a fight, and we often say people are fighting if they are shouting at each other rather than discussing calmly. So the source should have said something like: "give up physically fighting. Yet verbally, warfare remains entrenched."
    – user10365
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 19:50
  • 1
    It seems lexicographers don't make the distinction between literal and figurative meanings as rigorously as they used to. Cambridge refers to "fight" in the sense of "bickering" as an "informal" use, but does not treat "fighting the flu with vitamin C" as informal. Class prejudice?
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 20:06

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .