between Scylla and Charybdis


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between Scylla and Charybdis

Facing two equally unpleasant, dangerous, or risky alternatives, where the avoidance of one ensures encountering the harm of the other. Refers to the Greek mythological sea beasts Scylla and Charybdis, which inhabited a sea passage so narrow as to ensure a ship would be forced into the grasp of one or the other. I was between Scylla and Charybdis, for if I didn't take out another loan—and go deeper into debt—I could not pay off the debts I already owed. The police knew with certainty he had drugs in his car, so he became trapped between Scylla and Charybdis: either lie to the police, or admit that the drugs belonged to him.
See also: and, Charybdis, Scylla

between Scylla and Charybdis

LITERARY
If you are between Scylla and Charybdis, you have to choose between two possible courses of action, both of which seem equally bad. He's truly between Scylla and Charybdis this time, so he had better get some good advice. Note: This expression is variable. During these years, America's economy steered a remarkable course between the Scylla of inflation and the Charybdis of recession. Note: In Greek mythology, Scylla and Charybdis were monsters who lived on either side of the Straits of Messina. Scylla lived on a rock on the Italian side, and had twelve heads, with which she swallowed sailors. Charybdis lived on the coast of Sicily and swallowed the sea three times a day, creating a whirlpool.
See also: and, Charybdis, Scylla

between Scylla and Charybdis

In a position where avoidance of one danger exposes one to another danger.
See also: and, Charybdis, Scylla

between Scylla and Charybdis

Facing the dilemma of two dangerous positions. Homer's Odyssey tells us about two sea monsters that occupied opposite banks of the Strait of Messina between the island of Sicily and mainland Italy. Scylla had six heads that ate sailors who passed too close. Charybdis expelled sea water to create whirlpools that capsized ships that sailed too close. Faced with that option, Odysseus chose to sail toward Scylla and lose only a few crew members rather than risk Charybdis's whirlpool capsizing the ship and drowning everyone (including himself ). As classical education waned and fewer and fewer people understood who Scylla and Charybdis were (hot-house plants? sexually transmitted diseases?), the phrase was replaced by the similar but far less esoteric “between the devil and the deep blue sea.”
See also: and, Charybdis, Scylla