between a rock and a hard place

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Related to the concept of the Ancient Greeks: "between Scylla and Charybdis." Originated in the United States before 1918 in southwest, possibly in connection with mining.

Pronunciation[edit]

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Prepositional phrase[edit]

between a rock and a hard place

  1. (idiomatic) In a difficult and inescapable position. [Early 20th C]
    • 2008, David Merde, Beyond Final Arrangements, page 511:
      After meeting again that afternoon with Donna, Wilbur had advised her that she was indeed between a rock and a hard place. She could not hope to recover and build back the lost business until the suits were settled, and it appeared that the only way to settle the suits without going to court was to liquidate the mortuary assets or tap into the Clifton's personal funds.
  2. (idiomatic) Having the choice between two unpleasant or distasteful options; in a predicament or quandary.
    • 1970, David Sim, "Tangent":
      Husbands, it seems to me, are caught between the Rock of Feminism and the Hard Place of their own marriages []
    • 2008 Sept. 11, Eric Dash and Geraldine Fabrikant, "Washington Mutual stock falls on investor fears", New York Times (retrieved 24 Aug 2012):
      If Washington Mutual needs to raise capital quickly, it will very likely find itself between a rock and a hard place, because credit markets have all but closed their doors to troubled banks.

Synonyms[edit]

Translations[edit]

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.