A word for "an unsolvable problem"/"lose-lose situation"?

A quick etymological question, here…is there any special or more elegant term to describe “A problem with no real solution,” or a “lose-lose situation”? Something in German, perhaps? Or even Latin?

Well, thanks for your time,


Didn’t Jospeh Heller coin one ? :smiley:

Kobyashi Maru?

How about Kobayashi Maru?

Aaaaaah. Next time I’m going to rig the simulation to get my post in first.

Kobayashi Maru? Nerd Alert!!! Just Kidding. Well “Dilemma” means a choice between two unsatisfactory results.

This is boring. The answer is Catch-22

From Merriam-Webster online,

a situation presenting two equally undesirable alternatives

A Catch-22 situation is when the only “out” to an untenable situation involves not finding the situation untenable, and hence not attempting to exercise the “out.”

The particular word in question here may be antinomy (see second definition)

Spider Robinson wrote an outstanding story collection based around this theme, and entitled the book Antinomy.

How about a Pickle? Remember Sandlot?

A no-win situation?

I second.

no-win scenario is another form.

The word you’re looking for is dilemma. Dilemma means “caught between the horns of a bull”

di-lemma, literally, is - two horns, from the Greek.

It’s not Catch-22, which is the title of a book written earlier this century, and it’s not paradox or antimony because the OP suggested a situation where a choice has to be made between the two contradictory positions.

“Paradox” and “antimony” just describe situations where seemingly contradictory laws seem to be in operation. These words don’t imply that you have to do anything about this situation, merely that the situation exists.

“Dilemma”, on the other hand, means that you are caught between the two horns of a bull and you have to make the choice whether to go into one horn or the other. There is no other alternative.

The words “paradox” and “antimony” do not have this imperative element.

So “dilemma” is the word that best fits the OP’s description. In fact, I would argue that it is the only word that fits the description.

Didn’t I say that?

From M-W definition and the OP’s requirement

I thought Catch-22 fit.

You did jd, but I don’t think you rammed the case home hard enough, no offence.

Caught between the Scylla and Charbdris (sp?)

having to choose between two evils

or as Flanders would say, That’s a real doozy of a pickle

I’m not sure where you got this, but AHD says that lemma is Greek for “proposition” (as it is in English), which comes from lambanein, “to take”. The dictionary also gives a usage note saying that dilemma properly refers to a situation in which a choice must be made, but 74% of the Usage Panel rejects the meaning of a no-win situation. I for one agree with you on the meaning, though, if not the etymology.

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