Chicken and egg situation

  • A chicken and egg situation, sometimes rendered as a chicken and egg problem, is an idiom with roots in ancient times. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase, or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech often use descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. It is possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase chicken and egg situation, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


    The idiom a chicken and egg situation has two related definitions. First, a chicken and egg situation may be one in which it is impossible to decide which of two things caused the other thing, or which of two things existed first. For instance, an employee who performs poorly may blame it on having a surly boss. However, the boss may claim to be surly because the employee performs poorly. It is virtually impossible to untangle which situation existed first, so it is a chicken and egg situation. Another definition of a chicken and egg situation is one in which the solution to the problem also causes the problem. For instance, an unemployed person usually needs experience in order to secure a job. However, a person can only gain experience by having a job. The idiom a chicken and egg situation goes back to an old exercise in logic proposed by Aristotle in the fourth century BC still discussed today: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?



    The counsel of the grounded airline said the lack of clarity on the slots has resulted in a ‘chicken and egg’ situation for the South America’s Synergy Group which is the sole company shown interest in the airline. (The Deccan Herald)

    “I understand it’s kind of a chicken-and-egg situation here, but I also want to have the utmost confidence that when the shovel goes into the ground, this project will be finished.” (The Idaho Mountain Express and Guide)

    “The trouble is it‘s a chicken and egg situation – people want to use electric vehicles but they can‘t because the infrastructure‘s not there – and the infrastructure‘s not going to be built until the demand is there,” he said. (The Wellston Journal)

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