Word of the Week: Rosenkrieg

With Valentine’s Day behind us, let’s take a look at a less romantic German word: Rosenkrieg.

If you know some German, you might be able to translate this word. Rose means “rose” and Krieg means “war”. Rosenkrieg thus translates to “rose war” or “war of the roses”. But what exactly is this — and how it have anything to do with flowers?

A rose may be beautiful, but a Rosenkrieg is ugly. This term defines unpleasant disagreements between partners, such as marital disputes, custody battles or feuds between ex-lovers. A Rosenkrieg is uglier than a simple disagreement; metaphorically speaking, it’s a war between two people who were once lovers.

Like any love affair, a rose can be both beautiful and dangerous with its thorns.

But this context is a colloquial one. Rosenkriege can also refer to the actual Wars of the Roses that took place between two English houses (House York and House Lancaster) in the 15th century. Unless you’re a history buff, you probably won’t be using the term in that context, since that’s a war of the past.

There is also a 1989 American film titled The War of the Roses, which is based on a novel of the same name. The film tells the story of a wealthy couple with a seemingly perfect marriage. Things go wrong and their marriage falls apart, leading to a messy divorce battle. This is a good example of a Rosenkrieg!

The Rosenkriege of today take place all throughout the world, unfortunately. And they can be pretty thorny.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany