vicious circle


Definition of vicious circle

1 : an argument or definition that begs the question
2 : a chain of events in which the response to one difficulty creates a new problem that aggravates the original difficulty

called also vicious cycle

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Did You Know?

Vicious circle originally referred to a circular argument, that is, an argument that assumes the conclusion as one of its premises. That sense was first documented around the end of the 18th century. Approximately 50 years later, vicious circle acquired the now more common "chain of events" sense as people began to think of the circle as a metaphorical circle rather than a circular argument. Today, vicious cycle is a common variant for the "chain of events" sense. Vicious spiral, in which the ill effects are cumulative as well as self-aggravating, puts in an occasional appearance as well.

Examples of vicious circle in a Sentence

We're trapped in a vicious circle.

Recent Examples on the Web

The far right has set off a vicious circle of disinformation by filling the information and communication gap on topics such as demographic change with emotive, speculative and hysterical content instead of facts. Jacob Davey, Time, "We Analyzed How the "Great Replacement" and Far Right Ideas Spread Online. The Trends Reveal Deep Concerns.," 18 July 2019 There are vicious circles in addiction cycles, meaning that negative conditions tend to perpetuate themselves. Edward Lotterman, Twin Cities, "Real World Economics: Drug addictions sap economy but vary regionally," 21 July 2019 This leads to a vicious circle, with ever-higher levies being imposed on those Greeks who can’t or don’t want to evade taxes, hampering economic growth. Nektaria Stamouli, WSJ, "Greek Bailout Ends, But Underlying Problems Remain," 21 Aug. 2018 America has entered a rhetorical vicious circle that may be impossible to escape. The Economist, "American political rhetoric is sliding towards the sewer," 21 June 2018 This has led to a vicious circle of excessive pressure, fear of failure, underachievement, vilification and scapegoating., "An Urgent Message to England Fans at the World Cup - Please Calm Down & Get Real!," 27 June 2018 The core problem within the ghetto is the vicious circle created by the lack of decent housing, decent jobs, and adequate education. Burt Solomon, The Atlantic, "Our Back Pages: The Atlantic and Civil Rights," 4 Apr. 2018 As land prices and wine prices become locked in a vicious circle, each forcing the other higher and higher, even purchasing wine becomes nonviable for many. Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, "Battle for Napa Valley’s future: Proposed curb on vineyards divides county," 9 Apr. 2018 To different degrees in different places, these factors all contributed to a vicious circle, rather than a virtuous one: the worse things got, the less effective efforts to stem the tide became. The Economist, "Shining light on Latin America’s homicide epidemic," 5 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'vicious circle.' 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 vicious circle

circa 1792, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for vicious circle

Last Updated

9 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for vicious circle

The first known use of vicious circle was circa 1792

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More Definitions for vicious circle

vicious circle


English Language Learners Definition of vicious circle

: a repeating situation or condition in which one problem causes another problem that makes the first problem worse

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More from Merriam-Webster on vicious circle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for vicious circle

Spanish Central: Translation of vicious circle Encyclopedia article about vicious circle

Comments on vicious circle

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


not constant or steady

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