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A negative situation that is constantly maintained or worsened, rather than resolved. Underdeveloped countries are often stuck in a vicious circle of poverty that their citizens can never overcome. I use my credit card because I don't make enough money to pay my bills, and as soon as I get paid, any extra money goes toward my credit card bill. That vicious circle is why I'm constantly broke!
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
A series of events in which each problem creates another and worsens the original one. For example, The fatter I get, the unhappier I am, so I eat to cheer myself up, which makes me fatter yet-it's a vicious circle . This expression comes from the French cercle vicieux, which in philosophy means "a circular proof"-that is, the proof of one statement depends on a second statement, whose proof in turn depends on the first. One writer suggests that the English meaning of "vicious" helped the expression acquire its more pejorative present sense, used since 1839.
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 vicious circle
COMMON If you describe a difficult situation as a vicious circle, you mean that one problem has caused other problems which, in turn, have made the original problem even worse. The economy couldn't create jobs because consumers weren't spending. Consumers weren't spending because the economy wasn't creating jobs. And this was the vicious circle we were caught in. According to the report, patients discharged from hospitals are being thrust into a vicious circle of poverty and illnesses. Note: This refers to the error in logic of trying to prove the truth of one statement by a second statement, which in turn relies on the first for proof. The expression is a translation of the Latin `circulus vitiosus', meaning `a flawed circular argument'.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
a vicious ˈcirclea difficult situation or problem where one thing makes another thing happen, which then makes the first thing happen again: He spends too much on drink because he’s worried about his financial problems, and so the situation gets worse and worse. It’s a vicious circle.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
A series of events in which the solution of one difficulty creates another or worsens the original problem. This expression comes from the philosophical discipline of logic, where it means proving one statement by another that itself rests on the first for proof; it is also known as “circular reasoning.” George du Maurier used it in Peter Ibbetson (1892): “The wretcheder one is, the more one smokes; and the more one smokes, the wretcheder one gets—a vicious circle.”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer