Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
November 29th, 2014
Episode 30 of 681 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 29, 2014 is: vicious circle \VISH-us-SER-kul\ noun 1 : an argument or definition that begs the question 2 : a chain of events in which the response to one difficulty creates a new problem that aggravates the original difficulty Examples: Lower profits led to spending cuts which caused falling sales, creating a vicious circle. "Diabetes symptoms disturb sleep, while sleep loss contributes to diabetes. Add obesity and stress, and you have a vicious circle." Leslie Mann, Baltimore Sun, October 30, 2014 Did you know? Vicious circle originally referred to a circular argument, that is, an argument that assumes the conclusion as one of its premises. That sense was first documented around the end of the 18th century. Approximately 50 years later, vicious circle acquired the now more common "chain of events" sense as people began to think of the circle as a metaphorical circle rather than a circular argument. Today, vicious cycle is a common variant for the "chain of events" sense. Vicious spiral, in which the ill effects are cumulative as well as self-aggravating, puts in an occasional appearance as well.