I had some natural Korean speakers help me pick this phrase (강철의지), but seeing as how it be will permanently marked on my body I'm coming here to double check. Thanks for any extra insight!

I understand the meaning to be steel-willed, which I interpret as strong mentality, may bend but never break. Is this how a natural speaker would interpret it as well? Does it make sense as something I would put on my body to describe myself?

3 Answers 3


To be pedantic, 강철의지 is not "steel-willed", it's more like "steelwill": a combination of two words that normally don't occur next to each other.

  • Pedantic is totally fine, that's why I'm here. So even though it's unconventional, does it still make sense in context? Would it be obvious it's describing me? Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 23:36
  • Well, if you tattoo it on yourself then obviously people will assume it describes you, though they may not get the same impression you intended. What would you think if you see a Korean guy tattooed with "TOUGH GUY"?
    – jick
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 17:02

As a native Korean, i think '강철의지' is not wrong. If you google it, you can find a book title of '강철의지'. There is no problem to make a word from noun + noun.

But '강철의지' is not good. We often say '강철같은 의지' as '강철같은 의지로 어려움을 극복해 봅시다' but we do not say '강철의지로 어려움을 극복해 봅시다'. If you like 한글(the Korean Alphabet), '강철의지' is okay, But you like 한국어(the Korean language), you can find another better letters.

ps. steel is not an icon of 'may bend but never break' at least in Korea. it is image of quenching, bearing melting hot and icy cold. and image of 'never bend'.

  • So 강철같은의지 would be better? Also, thank you for the icon explanation Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 4:48
  • In my (and is not general consensus) opinion, the best pair of 의지 is 불굴. so 불굴의 의지 is (too)typical, natural, well used, and meets the image of 강철(=image of 'never bend'). Literally, 불굴 means 'never bend'
    – Gaster
    Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 0:59

As a native Chinese speaker, I find it pretty cool. It's totally based on a Chinese word so... Although I would interpret it as "would rather break/sacrifice than bend/surrender/compromise

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