Gordian knot

Gor·​di·​an knot | \ ˈgȯr-dē-ən- How to pronounce Gordian knot (audio) \

Definition of Gordian knot

1 : an intricate problem especially : a problem insoluble in its own terms often used in the phrase cut the Gordian knot
2 : a knot tied by Gordius, king of Phrygia, held to be capable of being untied only by the future ruler of Asia, and cut by Alexander the Great with his sword

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According to Greek mythology, when the peasant Gordius became king of Gordium in Phrygia, he dedicated his wagon to Jupiter and fastened its yoke to a beam with a very complex knot. Centuries later, when Alexander the Great arrived on the scene, he was told that he couldn't conquer and rule Asia unless he proved himself worthy by untying the knot. Alexander quickly solved his problem - and gained a new kingdom - by slicing the knot in half with his sword. Since then, "Gordian knot" has become a term for a difficult problem, and the phrase "cut the Gordian knot" has become a popular way to describe a neat solution for an apparently insurmountable difficulty.

Examples of Gordian knot in a Sentence

a Gordian knot of legal troubles

First Known Use of Gordian knot

1579, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of Gordian knot was in 1579

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Cite this Entry

“Gordian knot.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Gordian%20knot. Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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