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Phrases, Word comparisons

Note 281 – Do you say vicious circle or vicious cycle?

An example of the use of a vicious circle in m...

Image via Wikipedia - Vicious circle in macroeconomics

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:

  1. 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”. 
  2. 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).
  3. Urban says that the correct term is vicious circle, although they do include similar definitions under vicious cycle.
  4. Bee 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?

Until tomorrow…

Freelance Writer


About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Subjects I tend to blog about are life skills, parenting, decluttering, worklife balance, etc. At the moment I am on a decluttering mission creating space in my house, garden and mind. I have challenged myself to do at least ten minutes a day and write about it. Have a good day! Sandra Freelance Writer


2 thoughts on “Note 281 – Do you say vicious circle or vicious cycle?

  1. I enjoyed today’s post very much. Thanks for sharing.

    Enjoy writing? Join us today

    Writers Wanted

    Posted by Writing Jobs | February 5, 2012, 10:46 pm
  2. Cycle doesn’t make sense because cycles usually have a clear beginning and end, like this particular economic cycle, or the permanent press cycle on your washing machine. Circle however correctly (and historically) conveys something perpetual without end, thereby lending itself much more sensibly to what people want to convey when they want to say a is made worse by b and by a becoming worse that also makes b worse, and round we go…

    So I have to disagree with anyone that would argue that it should be cycle. Cycle makes no sense in this context.

    Posted by vinotinto67 | May 18, 2016, 8:38 pm

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