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Hobson's choice

[hob-suh nz]
noun
  1. the choice of taking either that which is offered or nothing; the absence of a real alternative.
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Origin of Hobson's choice

1640–50; after Thomas Hobson (1544–1631), of Cambridge, England, who rented horses and gave his customer only one choice, that of the horse nearest the stable door
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for hobson's choice

Hobson's choice

noun
  1. the choice of taking what is offered or nothing at all
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Word Origin

C16: named after Thomas Hobson (1544–1631), English liveryman who gave his customers no choice but had them take the nearest horse
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 hobson's choice

Hobson's choice

n.

English university slang term, supposedly a reference to Thomas Hobson (c.1544-1631), Cambridge stable manager who let horses and gave customers a choice of the horse next in line or none at all. Phrase popularized c.1660 by Milton, who was at Cambridge from 1625-29.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with hobson's choice

Hobson's choice

An apparently free choice that actually offers no alternative. For example, My dad said if I wanted the car I could have it tonight or not at all—that's Hobson's choice. This expression alludes to Thomas Hobson of Cambridge, England, who rented horses and allowed each customer to take only the horse nearest the stable door. [Mid-1600s]

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.