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 That can start a vicious circle in which demand continues to fall as more people lose their jobs. Julia Horowitz, CNN, "The stakes for reopening are high. This data shows why," 13 May 2020 But fears about finances and the health of her parents, who live in Ohio, can create a vicious circle of torment. Sharon Grigsby, Dallas News, "How a Dallas musician and therapist who copes with anxiety and depression is walking through the COVID-19 crisis," 30 Mar. 2020 That vicious circle is at the crux of what makes The Assistant so powerful: The system is designed to protect the aggressors, and punish the victims. Anne Cohen,, "Why MeToo Thriller The Assistant Feels So Disturbingly Real," 31 Jan. 2020 Infra spending is the only way to break this vicious circle. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "From economy to climate change, IIM and ISB students find Budget 2020 woefully wanting," 2 Feb. 2020 When the moist forest canopy becomes so dry, and the savannah spreads, that fires propagate and expand in a vicious circle? Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, "The Amazon is burning. The climate is changing. And we're doing nothing to stop it," 4 Sep. 2019 Economists have long observed that if employers don’t hire people because that group isn’t well represented in their sector, this can lead to a vicious circle of continued exclusion of atypical candidates. Devyani Sharma, Quartz at Work, "British employers still judge candidates based on their accents," 26 Nov. 2019 Experts warn that such traumatic events can set off a vicious circle: Mistrust of the police leads people to stop reporting crimes and cooperating with officers. Washington Post, "Fort Worth police shooting shatters community trust," 17 Oct. 2019 These sales created a vicious circle that may now be exhausted. The Economist, "It has been a torrid week for Indian banks," 3 Oct. 2019

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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Time Traveler for vicious circle

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The first known use of vicious circle was circa 1792

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Cite this Entry

“Vicious circle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

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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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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for vicious circle

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

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