lesser evil

lesser evil

The less offensive of two undesirable options. Both options are unpalatable, but the lesser evil, in this case, is selling the house. Polls show that the candidate is not well-liked, but is viewed as the lesser evil.
See also: evil, lesser

the lesser evil (or the lesser of two evils)

the less harmful or unpleasant of two bad choices or possibilities.
See also: evil, lesser
References in classic literature ?
This they affirm to be the origin and nature of justice;--it is a mean or compromise, between the best of all, which is to do injustice and not be punished, and the worst of all, which is to suffer injustice without the power of retaliation; and justice, being at a middle point between the two, is tolerated not as a good, but as the lesser evil, and honoured by reason of the inability of men to do injustice.
Never let any Government imagine that it can choose perfectly safe courses; rather let it expect to have to take very doubtful ones, because it is found in ordinary affairs that one never seeks to avoid one trouble without running into another; but prudence consists in knowing how to distinguish the character of troubles, and for choice to take the lesser evil.
It may display the subtlety of the writer; it may open a boundless field for rhetoric and declamation; it may inflame the passions of the unthinking, and may confirm the prejudices of the misthinking: but cool and candid people will at once reflect, that the purest of human blessings must have a portion of alloy in them; that the choice must always be made, if not of the lesser evil, at least of the GREATER, not the PERFECT, good; and that in every political institution, a power to advance the public happiness involves a discretion which may be misapplied and abused.
Ferrars's flattering language as only a lesser evil than his chusing Lucy Steele, she feared that Robert's offence would serve no other purpose than to enrich Fanny.
Carthoris shrugged his broad shoulders and chose the lesser evil.
But all my care and pains were unavailing, for my master made the discovery that I was not a man, and harboured the same base designs as my servant; and as fortune does not always supply a remedy in cases of difficulty, and I had no precipice or ravine at hand down which to fling the master and cure his passion, as I had in the servant's case, I thought it a lesser evil to leave him and again conceal myself among these crags, than make trial of my strength and argument with him.
Whereas many people in the world think of democracy as the best form of governance, adds Fr Kasomo, in Africa it is just the lesser evil compared to dictatorship.
It may, in some circumstances, be the lesser evil, as in 1940; but that doesn't make it "good" or something to glorify.
Or, and this is the second "but" (which was obviously the case in the last elections), people are left to choose and to decide who is the lesser evil.
I found that, short of using a catapult, after treading in the poo and covering one's carpet in this smelly mess and receiving a stern ticking off from the gaffer, sparkling glassy eyes is the lesser evil.
It is dedicated to Norberto Bobbio's ideas about liberal democracy, especially the limits of power, individual rights as the key to understanding the relationship between citizens and representatives, pluralism, constitutional contract, the State as a lesser evil, equality, tolerance etc.
The Americans, however, need to go for the lesser evil.
Assad, it has finally recognised, is the lesser evil compared to a take-over of all of Syria by the Islamist fanatics.
This demonstrated that Turkey's political culture has changed tremendously during the past twenty years, and that Erdogan's most strident critics consider him a lesser evil when compared to rule by a military junta.
Abortion is not a lesser evil," Francis replied to the question.