Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An exceedingly complicated problem or deadlock.
  • n. An intricate knot tied by King Gordius of Phrygia and cut by Alexander the Great with his sword after hearing an oracle promise that whoever could undo it would be the next ruler of Asia.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The legendary knot tied to a pole near the temple of Zeus in Gordium.
  • n. Any intricate and complex problem.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. an intricate knot tied by Gordius in the thong which connected the pole of the chariot with the yoke. An oracle having declared that he who should untie it should be master of Asia, Alexander the Great averted the ill omen of his inability to loosen it by cutting it with his sword. Hence, a Gordian knot is an inextricable difficulty; and to cut the Gordian knot is to remove a difficulty by bold and energetic measures.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an intricate knot tied by Gordius, the king of Phrygia, and cut by the sword of Alexander the Great after he heard that whoever undid it would become ruler of Asia
  • n. any very difficult problem; insoluble in its own terms

Etymologies

From the name of a legendary knot tied to a pole near the temple of Zeus in Gordium. It was prophesied that whoever loosed the knot would become ruler of all Asia. Alexander the Great solved the puzzle by slicing through the knot and took it as a sign of Zeus's favor. He then proceeded to conquer much of the known world. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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