AskDefine | Define conflict

Dictionary Definition



1 an open clash between two opposing groups (or individuals); "the harder the conflict the more glorious the triumph"--Thomas Paine; "police tried to control the battle between the pro- and anti-abortion mobs" [syn: struggle, battle]
2 opposition between two simultaneous but incompatible feelings; "he was immobilized by conflict and indecision"
3 a hostile meeting of opposing military forces in the course of a war; "Grant won a decisive victory in the battle of Chickamauga"; "he lost his romantic ideas about war when he got into a real engagement" [syn: battle, fight, engagement]
4 a state of opposition between persons or ideas or interests; "his conflict of interest made him ineligible for the post"; "a conflict of loyalties"
5 an incompatibility of dates or events; "he noticed a conflict in the dates of the two meetings"
6 opposition in a work of drama or fiction between characters or forces (especially an opposition that motivates the development of the plot); "this form of conflict is essential to Mann's writing"
7 a disagreement or argument about something important; "he had a dispute with his wife"; "there were irreconcilable differences"; "the familiar conflict between Republicans and Democrats" [syn: dispute, difference, difference of opinion]


1 be in conflict; "The two proposals conflict!"
2 go against, as of rules and laws; "He ran afould of the law"; "This behavior conflicts with our rules" [syn: run afoul, infringe, contravene]

User Contributed Dictionary



From conflictus, past participle of confligere "to strike together," from com- "together" + fligere "to strike"

Pronunciation 1

  • a UK /ˈkɒnflɪkt/, /"kQnflIkt/
  • a US , /ˈkɑːnflɪkt/, /"kAnflIkt/


  1. A clash or disagreement, often violent, between two opposing groups or individuals.
    The conflict between the government and the rebels began three years ago.
  2. An incompatibility of two things that cannot be simultaneously fulfilled.
    She wanted to attend the meeting but there was a conflict in her schedule that day.
clash or disagreement
  • Bosnian: konflikt
  • Cebuano: away
  • Croatian: konflikt
  • Czech: střet, konflikt
  • Danish: konflikt
  • Dutch: conflict, geschil, strijd
  • Finnish: konflikti
  • French: conflit
  • German: Konflikt, Streit
  • Hebrew: סכסוך
  • Italian: conflitto
  • Russian: конфликт
  • Serbian:
    Cyrillic: конфликт
    Roman: konflikt
  • Slovak: stret , konflikt
  • Spanish: conflicto
  • Swedish: konflikt
  • Bosnian: konflikt
  • Cebuano: dili magkauyon
  • Croatian: konflikt
  • Danish: konflikt
  • Dutch: conflict, tegenstrijdigheid
  • Finnish: ristiriita
  • French: conflit
  • German: Konflikt, Inkompatibilität
  • Hebrew: התנגשות , חוסר התאמה
  • Italian: incompatibilità
  • Russian: конфликт
  • Serbian:
    Cyrillic: конфликт
    Roman: konflikt
  • Spanish: discrepancia

Pronunciation 2

  • , /kənˈflɪkt/, /k@n"flIkt/


  1. In the context of "intransitive|with ‘with’": To be at odds (with); to disagree or be incompatible
  2. In the context of "intransitive|with ‘with’": To overlap (with), as in a schedule.
    Your conference call conflicts with my conference call. You’ll have to reschedule.
be at odds (with)
overlap with, as in a schedule


Extensive Definition

Conflict is a state of discord caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests. A conflict can be internal (within oneself) or external (between two or more individuals). Conflict as a concept can help explain many aspects of social life such as social disagreement, conflicts of interests, and fights between individuals, groups, or organizations. In political terms, "conflict" can refer to wars, revolutions or other struggles, which may involve the use of force as in the term armed conflict. Without proper social arrangement or resolution, conflicts in social settings can result in stress or tensions among stakeholders.
Conflict as taught for graduate and professional work in conflict resolution (which can be win-win, where both parties get what they want, win-lose where one party gets what they want, or lose-lose where both parties don't get what they want) commonly has the definition: "when two or more parties, with perceived incompatible goals, seek to undermine each other's goal-seeking capability".
One should not confuse the distinction between the presence and absence of conflict with the difference between competition and co-operation. In competitive situations, the two or more individuals or parties each have mutually inconsistent goals, either party tries to reach their goal it will undermine the attempts of the other to reach theirs. Therefore, competitive situations will, by their nature, cause conflict. However, conflict can also occur in cooperative situations, in which two or more individuals or parties have consistent goals, because the manner in which one party tries to reach their goal can still undermine the other individual or party.
A clash of interests, values, actions or directions often sparks a conflict. Conflicts refer to the existence of that clash. Psychologically, a conflict exists when the reduction of one motivating stimulus involves an increase in another, so that a new adjustment is demanded. The word is applicable from the instant that the clash occurs. Even when we say that there is a potential conflict we are implying that there is already a conflict of direction even though a clash may not yet have occurred.

Types and Modes of Conflict

A conceptual conflict can escalate into a verbal exchange and/or result in fighting.
Conflict can exist at a variety of levels of analysis:
Conflicts in these levels may appear "nested" in conflicts residing at larger levels of analysis. For example, conflict within a work team may play out the dynamics of a broader conflict in the organization as a whole. (See Marie Dugan's article on Nested Conflict. John Paul Lederach has also written on this.) Theorists have claimed that parties can conceptualize responses to conflict according to a two-dimensional scheme; concern for one's own outcomes and concern for the outcomes of the other party. This scheme leads to the following hypotheses:
  • High concern for both one's own and the other party's outcomes leads to attempts to find mutually beneficial solutions.
  • High concern for one's own outcomes only leads to attempts to "win" the conflict.
  • High concern for the other party's outcomes only leads to allowing the other to "win" the conflict.
  • No concern for either side's outcomes leads to attempts to avoid the conflict.
In Western society, practitioners usually suggest that attempts to find mutually beneficial solutions lead to the most satisfactory outcomes, but this may not hold true for many Asian societies. Several theorists detect successive phases in the development of conflicts.
Often a group finds itself in conflict over facts, goals, methods or values. It is critical that it properly identify the type of conflict it is experiencing if it hopes to manage the conflict through to resolution. For example, a group will often treat an assumption as a fact.
The more difficult type of conflict is when values are the root cause. It is more likely that a conflict over facts, or assumptions, will be resolved than one over values. It is extremely difficult to "prove" that a value is "right" or "correct". In some instances, a group will benefit from the use of a facilitator or process consultant to help identify the specific type of conflict. Practitioners of nonviolence have developed many practices to solve social and political conflicts without resorting to violence or coercion.
Conflict can arise between several characters and there can be more than one in a story or plot line. The little plot lines usually enhance the main conflict.


  • Many conflicts have a supposedly racial or ethnic basis. This would include such conflicts as the Bosnian-Croatian conflict (see Kosovo), the conflict in Rwanda.
An example of ideological conflict is the struggle over slavery between the Northern and Southern USA. The dispute would eventually lead to secession.

Causes of Conflict

Structural Factors (How the conflict is set up) Personal Factors
The assertion that "conflict is emotionally defined and driven," and "does not exist in the absence of emotion" is challenged by Economics, e.g. "the science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses." In this context, scarcity means that available resources are insufficient to satisfy all wants and needs. The subject of conflict as a purely rational, strategic decision is specifically addressed by Game Theory, a branch of Economics.
Where applicable, there are many components to the emotions that are intertwined with conflict. There is a behavioral, physiological, cognitive component.
  • Behavioral- The way emotional experience gets expressed which can be verbal or non-verbal and intentional or un-intentional.
  • Physiological- The bodily experience of emotion. The way emotions make us feel in comparison to our identity.
  • Cognitive- The idea that we “assess or appraise” an event to reveal its relevancy to ourselves.
These three components collectively advise that “the meanings of emotional experience and expression are determined by cultural values, beliefs, and practices.”
  • Cultural values- culture tells people who are a part of it, “Which emotions ought to be expressed in particular situations” and “what emotions are to be felt.”
  • Physical- This escalation results from “anger or frustration.”
  • Verbal- This escalation results from “negative perceptions of the annoyer’s character.”
There are several principles of conflict and emotion.
  1. Conflict is emotionally defined-conflict involves emotion because something “triggers” it. The conflict is with the parties involved and how they decide to resolve it — “events that trigger conflict are events that elicit emotion.”
  2. Conflict is emotionally valence — emotion levels during conflict can be intense or less intense. The “intensity” levels “may be indicative of the importance and meaning of the conflict issues for each” party.
  3. Conflict Invokes a moral stance — when an event occurs it can be interpreted as moral or immoral. The judging of this morality “influences one’s orientation to the conflict, relationship to the parties involved, and the conflict issues”.
  4. Conflict is identity based — Emotions and Identity are a part of conflict. When a person knows their values, beliefs, and morals they are able to determine whether the conflict is personal, relevant, and moral. “Identity related conflicts are potentially more destructive.”
  5. Conflict is relational — “conflict is relational in the sense that emotional communication conveys relational definitions that impact conflict.” “Key relational elements are power and social status.”
Emotions are acceptable in the workplace as long as they can be controlled and utilized for productive organizational outcomes.

Ways of addressing conflict

Five basic ways of addressing conflict were identified by Thomas and Kilman in 1976:
  • Avoidance – avoid or postpone conflict by ignoring it, changing the subject, etc. Avoidance can be useful as a temporary measure to buy time or as an expedient means of dealing with very minor, non-recurring conflicts. In more severe cases, conflict avoidance can involve severing a relationship or leaving a group.
  • Collaboration – work together to find a mutually beneficial solution. While the Thomas Kilman grid views collaboration as the only win-win solution to conflict, collaboration can also be time-intensive and inappropriate when there is not enough trust, respect or communication among participants for collaboration to occur.
  • Compromise – find a middle ground in which each party is partially satisfied.
  • Competition – assert one's viewpoint at the potential expense of another. It can be useful when achieving one's objectives outweighs one's concern for the relationship.
  • Accommodation – surrender one's own needs and wishes to accommodate the other party.
The Thomas Kilman Instrument can be used to assess one's dominant style for addressing conflict.

Ongoing conflicts

Many NGOs and independent groups attempt to monitor the situation of ongoing conflicts. Unfortunately, the definitions of war, conflict, armed struggle, revolution and all these words which describe violent opposition between States or armed organised groups, are not precise enough to distinguish one from another. For example, the word terrorism is used indifferently by many governments to delegitimate every kind of armed revolt and, at the same time, by many rebel groups to delegitimate the armed repression of sovereign governments.

External links

conflict in Arabic: صراع
conflict in Bulgarian: Конфликт
conflict in Czech: Konflikt
conflict in Danish: Konflikt
conflict in German: Konflikt
conflict in Spanish: Conflicto
conflict in French: Conflit (science sociale)
conflict in Korean: 갈등
conflict in Indonesian: Konflik
conflict in Italian: Conflitto (sociologia)
conflict in Hebrew: קונפליקט
conflict in Javanese: Konflik
conflict in Latvian: Konflikts
conflict in Lithuanian: Konfliktas
conflict in Hungarian: Konfliktus
conflict in Malay (macrolanguage): Konflik
conflict in Dutch: Conflict (onenigheid)
conflict in Japanese: 紛争
conflict in Norwegian: Konflikt
conflict in Polish: Konflikt interpersonalny
conflict in Portuguese: Conflito
conflict in Romanian: Conflict
conflict in Russian: Конфликт
conflict in Sicilian: Pizzìu
conflict in Simple English: Conflict
conflict in Slovak: Konflikt
conflict in Serbian: Конфликт
conflict in Finnish: Konflikti
conflict in Swedish: Konflikt
conflict in Yiddish: געפעכט

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Discordia, Eris, Kilkenny cats, action, aerial combat, affray, agree to disagree, altercation, ambivalence, ambivalence of impulse, antagonism, antagonize, antipathy, antithesis, argument, argumentation, armored combat, backlash, bad blood, battle, battle royal, be antipathetic, be at cross-purposes, be at variance, be distinct, be distinguished, be inimical, be opposed to, beat against, belligerence, bickering, brawl, break, break off, brush, bullfight, cat-and-dog life, clash, clash of arms, clash with, clashing, cockfight, collide, collision, combat, competition, concours, conflict with, confrontation, confutation, confute, contention, contentiousness, contest, contestation, contradict, contradiction, contradistinction, contraindication, contrapose, contraposition, contrariety, contrariness, contrast, contrast with, contravene, controversy, controvert, counter, counteract, counteraction, counterattack, counterbalance, countercheck, counterpoise, counterpose, counterposition, countervail, counterwork, counterworking, crankiness, cross, cross-purposes, crotchetiness, cut and thrust, debate, decompensation, depart from, despitefulness, deviate from, differ, differ in opinion, difference, disaccord, disaccordance, disaffinity, disagree, disagree with, disagreement, discord, discordance, discordancy, discrepancy, disharmony, disparity, disputation, dispute, dissension, dissent, dissidence, dissonance, disturb, disunion, disunity, divaricate from, diverge, diverge from, divergence, diversity, dogfight, embroilment, emotional shock, emulation, engagement, enmity, exchange of blows, external frustration, faction, feud, fight, fighting, fire fight, fracas, fractiousness, fray, friction, frustration, go against, go counter to, grate, ground combat, hand-to-hand combat, hand-to-hand fight, hate, hatred, hit a clinker, hold opposite views, hostility, house-to-house combat, inaccordance, incompatibility, incompatibleness, inconsistency, inequality, inharmoniousness, inharmony, inimicalness, interfere, interfere with, interference, jangle, jar, jar with, jarring, jostle, juxtapose in opposition, kick, litigation, lock horns, logomachy, malevolence, malice, malignity, meet, meet head-on, meeting, mental shock, militate against, mischief, mismatch, mismate, misunderstand one another, naval combat, negate, negation, negativeness, nonconformity, noncooperation, not accord with, not get along, not square with, object, obstinacy, offset, open conflict, oppose, oppositeness, opposition, opposure, oppugn, oppugnance, oppugnancy, paper war, passage of arms, perverseness, perversity, pitched battle, play at cross-purposes, polarity, polemic, psychological stress, pull different ways, quarrel, quarreling, quarrelsomeness, reaction, recalcitrance, recoil, refractoriness, rencontre, renitency, repercussion, repugnance, resist, resistance, revolt, rivalry, row, rub, rumble, run against, run counter to, running fight, scramble, scrapping, scrimmage, scuffle, set off, shoving match, showdown, skirmish, spat, spite, spitefulness, squabble, squabbling, stand apart, stand over against, stand-up fight, strained relations, street fight, stress, strife, striving, struggle, swim upstream, swimming upstream, tauromachy, tension, tiff, trauma, traumatism, tug-of-war, tussle, uncooperativeness, unharmoniousness, unpleasantness, unstring, untune, variance, vary, vying, war, war of words, warfare, words, work against, wrangle, wrangling
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