Having always used the expression vicious circle, I was confused when I heard vicious cycle mentioned on an audio programme the other day. After some research I have found that both are used, although vicious circle is preferred. Here are a few notes:
- Cambridge Dictionaries online define vicious circle as “a continuing unpleasant situation, created when one problem causes another problem which then makes the first problem worse”.
- Wikipedia calls both expressions economic terms referring to a “complex of events that reinforces itself through a feedback loop”. They also mention a variation – a virtuous circle or cycle – the difference being that a virtuous one has favourable results whereas a vicious one has detrimental results (which makes sense I suppose).
- Urban Dictionary.com says that the correct term is vicious circle, although they do include similar definitions under vicious cycle.
- Bee Dictionary.com says that “the term ‘vicious circle’ was invented by logicians to describe a form of fallacious circular argument in which each term of the argument draws on the other”. They explain that when people talk about vicious circles they have sensed that “such destructive spirals are not closed loops” which could be a reason why people have started to use vicious cycle. However they do not suggest using cycle as most people (who have always used circle) would look at you with contempt!
My thoughts: I’d say it’s up to you what you use, but I think I’ll stick to vicious circle.
Which term do you use – vicious circle or vicious cycle?
- Psychology | Virtuous and Vicious circles (mike10613.wordpress.com)