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a chicken and egg situation/problem

A situation in which it is unknown what happened, or what needs to happen, first. You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. It's a chicken and egg situation.

a sticky situation

A particularly awkward, embarrassing, precarious, or difficult situation or circumstance. Primarily heard in UK, Australia. I found myself in a bit of a sticky situation when the boss saw me kissing his daughter at the movies. I'll be in quite a sticky situation if I arrive at the train station and don't have enough money for the tickets!
See also: situation, sticky

be in a sticky situation

To be in the midst of or dealing with a particularly awkward, embarrassing, precarious, or difficult situation or circumstance. I knew I was in a sticky situation when the boss saw me kissing his daughter at the movies. I'll be in quite a sticky situation if I arrive at the train station and don't have enough money for the tickets!
See also: situation, sticky


1. A problem, task, situation, or course of action in which the outcome or solution one desires is especially difficult or impossible to achieve due to contradictory, illogical, or paradoxical rules, regulations, or conditions. The term comes from the title of the 1961 novel by Joseph Heller, in which a fighter pilot attempts to avoid further combat missions under a statute stating that any pilot who willingly continues to fly missions is insane. However, he is thwarted by the pronouncement that if a pilot requests to stop flying, he proves his sanity by showing a concern for his own safety. The company's cost-reduction plan is a Catch-22—they need to lay off half the staff to keep the company open, but with so few people, we won't be able to complete all the work that's needed to earn enough revenue.
2. Any illogical, contradictory, or paradoxical rule or regulation, especially one that makes a desired outcome or solution impossible. The bank's overdraft policy is a Catch-22 for those trying to get out of poverty, as it charges you higher fees for having less money in your account.

defuse (something)

To settle, calm, or make less dangerous an extremely tense, hostile, or volatile situation. Likened to removing the fuse from or otherwise disabling a bomb. The shouting match between the two employees was getting increasingly aggressive, so the boss was brought in to defuse the situation. A special United Nations envoy was sent to defuse the conflict between the warring sects.

hairy situation

slang A stressful or unnerving situation. It's kind of a hairy situation—there's still a lot of tension between them because of the divorce. Look at all that ice on the road! Getting home is going to be a pretty hairy situation.
See also: hairy, situation

in a sticky situation

In the midst of a particularly awkward, embarrassing, precarious, or difficult situation or circumstance. I found myself in a bit of a sticky situation when the boss saw me kissing his daughter at the movies. I'll be in quite a sticky situation if I arrive at the train station and don't have enough money for the tickets!
See also: situation, sticky

make the best of a bad situation

To deal with and create the best possible outcome of a bad, unfortunate, or unpleasant situation or set of circumstances. I know this data entry job isn't what you wanted for a career, but for the time being try and make the best of a bad situation. We weren't expecting to have to share our timeshare with others, but there's nothing we can do about it now, so we'd better make the best of a bad situation.
See also: bad, make, of, situation

no-win situation

A problem that has no ideal solution. In this day and age, most political candidates find themselves in a no-win situation when it comes to pleasing all of their constituents. If I leave for work now, I'm going to be stuck sitting in traffic, and if I wait until the traffic clears, I'm going to be late. It's a no-win situation.
See also: situation

once-in-a-lifetime situation

A situation that seems highly unlikely to happen again. Moving all the way to Zurich was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime situation to get the new office set up. Now they want to send me back there again to run the darn place. It feels like this is a once-in-a-lifetime situation where we actually have the chance to completely change the way the world works.
See also: situation

reality of the situation

What is actually happening in or true about a particular situation or scenario. The reality of the situation is that the company will go bankrupt in the next three years if we don't significantly improve our revenue streams. I know you're worried about him, but the reality of the situation is that he's just a toddler going through a bit of a boisterous phase.
See also: of, reality, situation

wangle (one) into (some place or some situation)

To succeed in getting someone into some location or situation by tricky, clever, or persuasive means. It turned out that Rajesh knew the bouncer at the club, so he was able to wangle us into the place even though we weren't on the guest list. I don't know how I let Jeff wangle me into looking after his dogs this weekend—I don't even like dogs!
See also: place, wangle

wangle (one's) way into (some place or some situation)

To succeed in entering some location or situation by tricky, clever, or persuasive means. I didn't think we'd be able to do it, but after Rajesh talked to the bouncer, we were able to wangle our way into the night club. I've been trying to wangle my way into the honors course at Harvard all year, but so far, nothing has helped.
See also: place, wangle, way

wangle (one's) way out of (something)

To succeed in extricating oneself from some unpleasant or undesirable situation, duty, or responsibility by tricky, clever, or deceitful means. He's always trying to wangle his way out of working the graveyard shift, but it won't work this time. The slippery little weasel managed to wangle her way out of the financial train wreck she left behind at the company. Many suspect the senator used his father's wealth and influence to wangle his way out of the military draft when he was in college.
See also: of, out, wangle, way


1. noun A transaction, exchange, interaction, etc., in which both parties or sides ultimately stand to gain or benefit. The new legislation is a win-win for corporations and environmentalists alike. You'll maintain control of the company, and we'll collect a percentage of the profits. It's a win-win!
2. adjective Of or indicating such a situation. This could be a win-win arrangement for both parties involved. This is win-win legislation that will benefit both the individual citizen as well as the government at large.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

no-win situation

a situation where there is no correct or satisfactory solution. The general was too weak to fight and too proud to surrender. It was a no-win situation. The huge dog my father gave us as a gift eats too much. If we get rid of the dog, my father will be insulted. If we keep it, we will go broke buying food for it. This is a classic no-win situation.
See also: situation

reality of the situation

the truth or actuality of the situation; the way the situation really is. The reality of the situation is that we must act right now. Let's face the reality of the situation and go out and get jobs so we can pay our bills.
See also: of, reality, situation
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A no-win dilemma or paradox, similar to damned if I do, damned if I don't. For example, You can't get a job without experience, but you can't get experience unless you have a job-it's Catch-22 . The term gained currency as the title of a 1961 war novel by Joseph Heller, who referred to an Air Force rule whereby a pilot continuing to fly combat missions without asking for relief is regarded as insane, but is considered sane enough to continue flying if he does make such a request.

no-win situation

A situation certain to end in failure or disappointment, as in If the in-laws visit them or they visit the in-laws, either way they see it as a no-win situation . [c. 1960]
See also: situation
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

a catch-22 situation

a dilemma or difficulty from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.
The classic statement of this situation is in Joseph Heller 's novel Catch-22 ( 1961 ), from which the expression is taken: ‘Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. if he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to.’
1997 New Scientist It's a catch-22 situation: you cannot get the job without having the relevant experience and you cannot get the experience without having first done the job.
See also: situation
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

(a) catch-22


a catch-22 situation

(informal) a difficult situation from which there is no escape because you need to do one thing before doing a second, and you cannot do the second thing before doing the first: I can’t get a job because I haven’t got any experience, but I can’t get experience until I get a job — it’s a catch-22 situation. Catch-22 is the title of a novel by Joseph Heller, in which the main character pretends to be crazy in order to avoid dangerous situations in war. The authorities say that he cannot be crazy if he is concerned about his own safety.

a ˌchicken-and-ˈegg situation

a situation in which you do not know which of two connected events is the cause of the other: Is she unhappy because she gets into debt, or does she get into debt because she’s unhappy? I suppose it’s a chicken-and-egg situation.This comes from the question ‘Which came first — the chicken or the egg?’.
See also: situation

save the ˈday/situˈation

do something that changes probable failure into success: Jones saved the day for England with a last-minute goal.
See also: save, situation
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017


n. a directive that is impossible to obey without violating some other, equally important, directive. There was nothing I could do. It was a classic catch-22.

no-win situation

n. a situation in which there is no hope of success. I find myself in a no-win situation again.
See also: situation


n. an event, crime, or suspicious happening that warrants investigation or action by the police. (Law enforcement.) We have a situation out on 114 Maple Street. See the man.


n. [of a situation] winning for both sides; [of a situation] winning for buyer and seller. What have you got to lose? It’s a win-win situation.
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.


Situation in which one can’t win because one is trapped by a paradox. The term arose in the 1961 novel of the same name by Joseph Heller. It refers to an air force rule whereby a pilot is considered insane if he continues to fly combat missions without asking for relief, but if he asks for relief he is considered sane enough to continue flying. The term was further popularized by a motion picture and today is used to describe common dilemmas in civilian life. Opera singer Renée Fleming described it well: “For potential engagements, the catch-22 was that it was very hard to get an audition if you didn’t have a manager, and it was almost impossible to get a manager unless you’d won an audition” (The Inner Voice, 2004). See also damned if you do, damned if you don't.

no-win situation, a

A condition in which none can benefit or succeed; an impasse. Originating in America about 1960, presumably it originally referred to such a military situation and was soon extended to other kinds of hostile encounter. A 1962 article in The Economist stated, “He recommended an agreement . . . a ‘no-win’ approach, in fact, ‘an accommodation with tyranny.’”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
He said China was deeply concerned about the situation and expressed grave concerns at the current situation in Kashmir at the UNSC UNSC.
Change how you feel about the situation - to do this you need to consider how you are viewing the situation.
adults said their financial situation was "excellent" or "good." The percentage of Americans who felt positively about their current financial situation improved in recent years but remained at or below 50% until the most recent survey.
Not everyone agreed with your approach, of course, even as they appreciated the salience of a rhetorical situation. Some claimed that you had it backwards: the situation didn't evoke rhetoric, as you had it, but rather was created by the rhetor him or herself.
According to press statement issued by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Spokesperson reiterated the UN body's call for unfettered and unconditional access to Jammu and Kashmir to enable it to independently and impartially monitor the human rights situation.
Lloyds Bank, part of the British government backed Lloyds Banking Group, on Monday reported that its most recent Lloyds Bank Power Report shows that people surveyed are feeling more positive about their current situation and that of the economy.
Historical Development Process of Situation Comedies
In the Candie's Foundation PSA, Palin and 'The Situation' talk about abstinence and safe sex in a less than two-minute video ad.
Only 1 percent of residents said that the economic situation in the country improved over the past two months, while eleven percent believe that the situation is unchanged.
In the first situation, the RSC contracts with the employee to pay the appraised value of the residence.
In order to present difficult news in a manner that is most helpful to parents, it is desirable to begin by finding out both what the parents know about the situation and the manner in which they want the information communicated to them.
After you have decided to gather information about your situation, but before you make that phone call or write that letter, you should take a bit of time and get to know a few basic things about your particular circumstances:
It can be especially challenging for the counselor to help a camper identify his/her own inner resources when he/she has negative feelings about the situation the camper is in.
Probably the last time any of us had written directly about politics was during the 1960s and '70s, as part of that whole complex, chaotic, productive situation. And I think that we all believe that, as different as the past four years have been from the period of, say, '67 to '75--and in many ways, they've been far worse--they have something of the same unpredictable, open, volatile flavor.
Secondly, is the situation where a hospital had a VPMA who left.