Hobson's choice

noun
Hob·son's choice | \ ˈhäb-sənz- \

Definition of Hobson's choice 

1 : an apparently free choice when there is no real alternative

2 : the necessity of accepting one of two or more equally objectionable alternatives

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Thomas Hobson worked as a licensed carrier of passengers, letters, and parcels between Cambridge and London, England. He kept horses for this purpose and rented them to university students when he wasn't using them. Of course, the students always wanted their favorite mounts, and consequently a few of Hobson's horses became overworked. To correct the situation, Hobson began a strict rotation system, giving each customer the choice of taking the horse nearest the stable door or none at all. This rule became known as Hobson's choice, and soon people were using that term to mean "no choice at all" in all kinds of situations.

Examples of Hobson's choice in a Sentence

He jokingly referred to dinner as a Hobson's choice between soup and salad or salad and soup.

First Known Use of Hobson's choice

1649, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for Hobson's choice

Thomas Hobson †1631 English liveryman, who required every customer to take the horse nearest the door

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about Hobson's choice

Share Hobson's choice

Listen to Our Podcast about Hobson's choice

Dictionary Entries near Hobson's choice

hoboism

Hoboken

hob or nob

Hobson's choice

Hobson-Jobson

hob tap

hobthrush

Statistics for Hobson's choice

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for Hobson's choice

The first known use of Hobson's choice was in 1649

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for Hobson's choice

Hobson's choice

noun

English Language Learners Definition of Hobson's choice

: a situation in which you are supposed to make a choice but do not have a real choice because there is only one thing you can have or do

More from Merriam-Webster on Hobson's choice

See words that rhyme with Hobson's choice

Comments on Hobson's choice

What made you want to look up Hobson's choice? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

alleviating pain or harshness

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!