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Gordian

[gawr-dee-uh n]
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adjective
  1. pertaining to Gordius, ancient king of Phrygia, who tied a knot (the Gordian knot) that, according to prophecy, was to be undone only by the person who was to rule Asia, and that was cut, rather than untied, by Alexander the Great.
  2. resembling the Gordian knot in intricacy.
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Idioms
  1. cut the Gordian knot, to act quickly and decisively in a difficult situation; solve a problem boldly.
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Origin of Gordian

1555–65; < Latin Gordi(us) (< Greek Górdios Gordius) + -an
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for gordian knot

Gordian knot

noun
  1. (in Greek legend) a complicated knot, tied by King Gordius of Phrygia, that Alexander the Great cut with a sword
  2. a complicated and intricate problem (esp in the phrase cut the Gordian knot)
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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for gordian knot

Gordian knot

1560s, tied by Gordius, king of Phrygia in Asia Minor, who predicted the one to loosen it would rule Asia. Instead, Alexander the Great cut the Gordian knot with his sword; hence the extended sense (1570s in English) "solve a difficult problem in a quick, dramatic way."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

gordian knot in Culture

Gordian knot

A complex knot tied by a Greek king. According to legend, whoever loosed it would rule all Asia. Alexander the Great, according to some accounts, undid the Gordian knot by cutting through it with his sword.

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Note

By extension, to “cut the Gordian knot” is to solve quickly any very complex problem or to get to the heart of a problem.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.