Definition of Gordian knot in US English:

Gordian knot

noun

  • An extremely difficult or involved problem.

    • ‘It's a Gordian knot that nobody's been able to unravel.’
    • ‘We think of complexity as unnecessary and are ever looking for Gordian knots to cut, even though we may slice through something vital.’
    • ‘A satirical commentary on native genocide and its aftermath, the play tangles characters, notions and story threads into a defiant Gordian knot.’
    • ‘An offstage character, a dead sister, also thickened the brew; finally, the cross-references became a Gordian knot.’
    • ‘He might have better luck with another complaint - the Gordian knot of Ed Code regulations that consume so much time, attention and money.’
    • ‘We have reached this position because no British politician has had the nerve, or the stature, to cut through the Irish Gordian knot in the way that de Gaulle severed Algeria from France.’
    • ‘However, the overall intent and effect of the play was one of a happy lark through the Gordian knot of contemporary socio-political problems and out to a happy ending.’
    • ‘Rather than attempting to untie one of sociologists' Gordian knots by offering an abstract, quantitative definition of the middle class, Maureen O'Doughtery looked to her informants for an answer.’
    • ‘In practice, the story of Hannibal's evolution from best-selling novel to blockbuster film unwinds with all the ease of a Gordian knot.’
    • ‘Life conditions and life strategies are as tightly entwined as the Gordian knot.’
    • ‘The untangling of these moral ambiguities is tortuous - akin to undoing a Gordian knot.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, thanks to complicated accounting and IRS rules, evaluating pension risk is a Gordian knot that is not easily unraveled.’
    • ‘International co-operation proved totally unable to untie this Gordian knot.’
    • ‘At that moment, the work shifted gears, the Gordian knot was severed, and the audience were confronted by a new set of terms by which to navigate this experience.’
    • ‘‘The whole question of electronic privacy is like a Gordian knot,’ Casti said.’
    • ‘Nobody in the audience realizes that that's what's happening until it's nearly finished, however, since by this point the plot line more resembles a Gordian knot that is never really sorted out.’
    • ‘Instead of sinking into a Gordian knot of cynicism leading to despair, we can rise to be the change we want to see!’
    • ‘If we really understood either the physical or mental bases of the patient's aggression or other symptoms, we could untie this Gordian knot.’
    • ‘It's just that sometimes when the red cloud descends, the instantaneous, irrevocable solution is irresistibly appealing, as Alexander the Great proved by hacking through the Gordian knot.’
    difficulty, issue, trouble, worry, complication, difficult situation, mess, muddle, mix-up
    View synonyms

Phrases

  • cut the Gordian knot

    • Solve or remove a problem in a direct or forceful way, rejecting gentler or more indirect methods.

      • ‘We haven't been particularly skilled at that, and perhaps no foreign sword could cut the Gordian knot of an old, stubborn culture.’
      • ‘But the Vaisya community has cut the Gordian knot, finding a way out of the problem.’
      • ‘When conflicts arise, the Kremlin has tended to cut the Gordian knot rather than attempting to untie it.’
      • ‘Maybe enough support might emerge for another idea that would cut the Gordian knot of constitutional change.’
      • ‘Nothing relevant occurred until 15th May, when the famous meeting took place at which a proposal was made to cut the Gordian knot, without the presence or participation of the Claimants.’
      • ‘It may be that the statute so far as we are in the business of considering the statute, cuts the Gordian knot and just says, ‘Well, don't worry about the legal categories.’’
      • ‘I'm trying to devise some kind of way by which we can cut the Gordian knot… without going through the bureaucracy.’
      • ‘Charles de Gaulle - a statesman of great vision and courage - cut the Gordian knot and extricated France from the unwinnable war in Algeria.’
      • ‘She cut the Gordian knot by allowing tenants the right to buy at discounted prices, trading one benefit for another.’
      • ‘So why not end this piecemeal approach - and cut the Gordian knot by granting citizenship to all Japan-born Koreans?’

Origin

Mid 16th century: from the legend that Gordius, king of Gordium, tied an intricate knot and prophesied that whoever untied it would become the ruler of Asia. It was cut through with a sword by Alexander the Great.

Pronunciation

Gordian knot

/ˌɡôrdēən ˈnät//ˌɡɔrdiən ˈnɑt/