Word of the Day : June 13, 2012

catch-22

play
noun KATCH-twen-tee-TOO

Definition

1 : a problematic situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem or by a rule; also : the circumstance or rule that denies a solution

2 : an illogical, unreasonable, or senseless situation

Did You Know?

"Catch-22" originated as the title of a 1961 novel by Joseph Heller. (Heller had originally planned to title his novel Catch-18, but the publication of Leon Uris's Mila 18 persuaded him to change the number.) The novel's catch-22 was as follows: a combat pilot was crazy by definition (he would have to be crazy to fly combat missions) and since army regulations stipulated that insanity was justification for grounding, a pilot could avoid flight duty by simply asking, but if he asked, he was demonstrating his sanity (anyone who wanted to get out of combat must be sane) and had to keep flying. The label "catch-22" soon entered the language as the label for any irrational, circular and impossible situation.


Examples

Following her graduation from college, Kelsey struggled with the classic job-seeker's catch-22: how to acquire work experience in her chosen field without already having a job in that field.

"It is the conservationist's catch-22: what to do when one endangered species starts eating another. That is the problem facing environmentalists whose research shows that jaguars, themselves at risk of extinction, are increasingly preying on endangered turtle species." - From an article by Kevin Rawlinson in The Independent (London), May 8, 2012



Test Your Vocabulary

What name for a breed of terrier comes from a dog-owning character in a novel by Sir Walter Scott? The answer is ...


Podcast


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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