Chicken and Egg Situation – Idiom, Meaning & Examples

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Ever found yourself in a chicken-and-egg situation? Before you start wondering about the whereabouts of chickens and eggs in your vicinity, let me assure you this is an idiom and not a sudden call for poultry farming. So, let’s take a closer look and crack open the details of this saying, shall we?

What Is the Full Saying Behind the Chicken and Egg Situation?

Chicken or the Egg Ngram
Chicken or the egg usage trend.

Well, the saying is pretty much as it sounds—the chicken and the egg. It’s a shorthand reference to the philosophical question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

We use it to describe a situation where it’s impossible to say what caused something because both things seem to depend on each other. Also, when saying “chicken and egg situation,” you’re describing what type of situation is at hand, so “chicken and egg” should be hyphenated, as in a chicken-and-egg situation.

What Is the Importance of Egg and Chicken?

In this classic quandary, the chicken represents a cause, and the egg an effect (or vice versa). The question is about identifying the first cause, the starting point. It highlights the complex interplay of cause and effect and the sometimes circular nature of these relationships.

Origin and Etymology Behind the Chicken-and-Egg Situation

This intriguing puzzle dates back to ancient philosophers such as Aristotle and Plutarch, who used it as a defining paradox. In the modern sense, it found its way into the English language around the 16th century, leaving us scratching our heads ever since!

Synonyms for the Chicken-and-Egg Situation

Feeling scrambled? Try these alternative phrases to switch up your writing.

  • Vicious circle
  • Circular cause and consequence
  • Cause and effect conundrum
  • Cycle of causality
  • Catch-22

Chicken and Egg Situation Examples in Sentences

Chicken and Egg Situation – Idiom Meaning Examples

Nothing like seeing a phrase strut its stuff in real sentences!

  • I can’t get a job without experience, but I can’t get experience without a job. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation.
  • Deciding whether mental illness or addiction comes first is often a chicken-and-egg situation.
  • We’re in a chicken-and-egg situation with the climate crisis—do we change our habits first or wait for the government to enforce regulations?
  • Poverty and lack of education can become a chicken-and-egg situation.
  • My insomnia and anxiety are a classic chicken-and-egg situation.
  • It’s a chicken-and-egg situation: does the media reflect society’s views, or do society’s views reflect the media?
  • The decline in physical health and increase in stress often creates a chicken-and-egg situation.
  • Their failing marriage was a chicken-and-egg situation—did the lack of communication cause the distance or vice versa?
  • In the business world, the chicken-and-egg situation often occurs when considering whether customer demand drives innovation or innovation drives demand.

Chicken or the Egg: The Ultimate Proverbial Question

We’ve cracked open the age-old debate of the chicken-and-egg situation. While we haven’t solved this timeless puzzle (sorry, folks!), we’ve at least understood its significance in our language and conversations. Stay curious and keep exploring our awesome language guides found on our site.