Word of the Day : November 29, 2014

vicious circle

noun VISH-us-SER-kul


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

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.


Lower profits led to spending cuts which caused falling sales, creating a vicious circle.

"Diabetes symptoms disturb sleep, while sleep loss contributes to diabetes. Add obesity and stress, and you have a vicious circle." - Leslie Mann, Baltimore Sun, October 30, 2014

Test Your Vocabulary

What type of "circle" refers to a group of people who are special in some way? The answer is …


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!