double bind


Definition of double bind

: a psychological predicament in which a person receives from a single source conflicting messages that allow no appropriate response to be made broadly : dilemma sense 1

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Examples of double bind in a Sentence

the double bind faced by every politician: responding to scurrilous charges only gives them unwarranted publicity; not responding to such charges is often interpreted as an admission of guilt
Recent Examples on the Web This combination — an erratic and impeachment-threatened Republican president, and his increasingly radical Democratic opponents — puts U.S. business in a double bind. Karl Smith,, "Trump’s impeachment is already hurting the economy," 2 Oct. 2019 Gould said there was a double bind: the organization actually could not negotiate earnings and benefits, since those are already set by the statute creating the organization. Carolyn Said,, "Uber circulates new gig-work bill as alternative to AB5," 9 Sep. 2019 While broadcast and voice technologies have significantly progressed during the last century, even the most up-to-date media formats still have yet to solve many of the double binds in which those with higher voices may find themselves. Tina Tallon, The New Yorker, "A Century of “Shrill”: How Bias in Technology Has Hurt Women’s Voices," 3 Sep. 2019 Timely and important articulation of the double bind immigrants find themselves in, and why some — in this case the children — turn to extremism. New York Times, "‘Surprised and Dismayed’: Readers Respond to Our Best 25 Plays List," 22 June 2018 Mr Trump’s trade policies have put Harley-Davidson in a double bind. The Economist, "American firms will be hit hard by retaliatory tariffs," 7 June 2018 These views, deeply ingrained in American society even today, put mothers in a political double bind. Jill Filipovic, The New Republic, "Female candidates are turning gender and motherhood into political assets in the midterms.," 29 May 2018 This is also, Tannen says, a byproduct of the double bind; because directness is often read as aggression, women learn to handle confrontation in indirect, self-consciously accommodating ways as well. Ashley Fetters, The Cut, "The Strict, Subtle Rules of a Hey Ladies! Email," 1 May 2018 In many states, this precludes transfer of Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and other data—a double bind that would make any federal data-matching and verification task, an endeavor traditionally reserved to state coordination, futile. Julia Powles, Slate Magazine, "Trump’s Voter Data Haul Tests the Privacy of Public Records," 12 July 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'double bind.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of double bind

1956, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for double bind

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The first known use of double bind was in 1956

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Cite this Entry

“Double bind.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 29 January 2020.

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More Definitions for double bind

double bind


English Language Learners Definition of double bind

: a very difficult situation that has no good solution

double bind

dou·​ble bind | \ ˈdəb-əl-ˈbīnd How to pronounce double bind (audio) \

Medical Definition of double bind

: a psychological predicament in which a person receives from a single source conflicting messages that allow no appropriate response to be made

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Comments on double bind

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


to assert without proof or before proving

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