Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
cut the Gordian knot
To solve a very challenging or daunting problem decisively. The phrase likely alludes to Gordius, the king of Phrygia, who tied a knot that an oracle proclaimed would only be cut by the future ruler of Asia. Alexander the Great allegedly cut the Gordian knot in one blow. A: "Wait, Matt already solved that impossible equation?" B: "Yes! I have no idea how he did it, but he sure cut the Gordian knot."
A complicated problem that can only be solved with creative or unorthodox thinking. In Greek and Roman mythology, King Gordian tied such a complex knot that only Alexander the Great was able to loosen it by cutting it with his sword. Trying to remove the gum from my daughter's hair turned into quite the Gordian knot. Ultimately, it was just easier to cut the tangled mess out of her hair. The coding problem looked like a Gordian knot until we realized we could bypass it altogether with a different approach.
a Gordian knot(formal)
a difficult problem
Usage notes: In an old story, King Gordius of Phrygia tied a complicated knot which no one could make loose, until Alexander the Great cut it with his sword.Homelessness in the inner cities has become a real Gordian knot.
A difficult problem that can be solved by an unexpected and simple method. According to an old Greek legend, a poor peasant named Gordius appeared in the public square of Phrygia in an ox cart. Since an oracle had prophesized that the future king would ride into town in a wagon, Gordius was made ruler. In gratitude, Gordius dedicated his ox cart to Zeus and tied the cart to a pole with a highly intricate knot, whereupon an oracle foretold that whosoever untied the knot would rule all of Asia. Although many tried in vain to untie the knot, it took Alexander the Great to do so, which he did with one cut of his sword. That might not have been the method that Gordius or the oracle had in mind, but it was good enough to enable Alexander to conquer most of Asia as well as a large chunk of the rest of the known world.