Hobson's choice

Hob·​son's choice | \ ˈhäb-sənz- How to pronounce Hobson's choice (audio) \

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

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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

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

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Cite this Entry

“Hobson's choice.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Hobson%27s%20choice. Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for Hobson's choice

Hobson's choice


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

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