vicious circle


  1. (in demonstration) the use of each of two propositions to establish the other.
  2. (in definition) the use of each of two terms to define the other.
a situation in which effort to solve a given problem results in aggravation of the problem or the creation of a worse problem: a vicious circle where the more I give them, the more they expect.

Origin of vicious circle

First recorded in 1785–95 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for vicious circle

catch-22, impasse, circularity

Examples from the Web for vicious circle

Historical Examples of vicious circle

British Dictionary definitions for vicious circle

vicious circle


Also: vicious cycle a situation in which an attempt to resolve one problem creates new problems that lead back to the original situation
  1. a form of reasoning in which a conclusion is inferred from premises the truth of which cannot be established independently of that conclusion
  2. an explanation given in terms that cannot be understood independently of that which was to be explained
  3. a situation in which some statement is shown to entail its negation and vice versa, as this statement is false is true only if false and false only if true
med a condition in which one disease or disorder causes another, which in turn aggravates the first condition
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

vicious circle in Medicine

vicious circle



A condition in which a disorder or disease gives rise to another that subsequently affects the first.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

vicious circle in Culture

vicious circle

A series of reactions that compound an initial unfortunate occurrence or situation: “A person who is overweight is likely to feel frustrated and to deal with this frustration by eating more; it's a vicious circle.”

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.

Idioms and Phrases with vicious circle

vicious circle

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