Definitions

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

  • n. A situation in which a desired outcome or solution is impossible to attain because of a set of inherently illogical rules or conditions: "In the Catch-22 of a closed repertoire, only music that is already familiar is thought to deserve familiarity” ( Joseph McLennan).
  • n. The rules or conditions that create such a situation.
  • n. A situation or predicament characterized by absurdity or senselessness.
  • n. A contradictory or self-defeating course of action: "The Catch-22 of his administration was that every grandiose improvement scheme began with community dismemberment” ( Village Voice).
  • n. A tricky or disadvantageous condition; a catch: "Of course, there is a Catch-22 with Form 4868—you are supposed to include a check if you owe any additional tax, otherwise you face some penalties” ( New York).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A difficult situation from which there is no escape because it involves mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.

Etymologies

After Catch-22, a novel by Joseph Heller (1923-1999), American writer.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Title of the novel by Joseph Heller (1961), in which the main character feigns madness in order to avoid dangerous combat missions, but his desire to avoid them is taken to prove his sanity. (Wiktionary)

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