Vicious Circle, Vicious Cycle, Vicious Spiral

Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

At a friend’s house, I saw a book: Man’s Search For Meaning. That was the only book in his house in addition to scriptures at the altar. The friend is a coder in embedded technologies. It was not the kind of book that I would normally read, but there was a part in the book that motivated me to read. It was about the meaning of life, existentialism, nihilism among others. In it, I’ve come across the vicious circle, an idiom.

Vicious-circle made me ask myself, Is there a difference between a vicious circle and a vicious cycle?


Vicious means acting with evil intentions, done with evil intentions, being spiteful; debasing; malicious; given up to vice; depraved; savage and dangerous such as some animals.

Informally, vicious also refers to something severe like a vicious headache, vicious wind, vicious flu-virus.

The vicious SARS-CoV-2 is unending…

Vicious Circle:

A vicious circle is an idiom. A vicious circle is a state of affairs in which a cause produces an effect that itself produces the original cause.

A vicious circle is a situation in which the solution of a problem gives rise to another and the solution of this or of another problem rising out if it brings back the first, often, with forceful involvement. This process continues to cause and effect and rolls over into one another.

Some jobs demand experience to get those jobs but without that initial job how could anyone get any experience, it is a vicious circle.

In logic, a vicious circle is an argument that is invalid because its conclusion rests on a premise which itself depends on the conclusion.

In medicine, a vicious circle is a situation in which one disease or disorder results in another which in turn aggravates the former.

Vicious Cycle:

A vicious circle and vicious cycle are used interchangeably. Professor Paul Brians, author of Common Errors in English Usage, mentions these two idioms in his website:

‘Sensing vaguely that such destructive spirals are not closed loops, people have transmuted “vicious circle” into “vicious cycle.” The problem with this perfectly logical change is that a lot of people know what the original correct phrase was and are likely to scorn users of the new one.’

Vicious spiral:

A vicious spiral is a continuous rise in one thing caused by a continuous rise in something else such as wages, prices of essential and non-essential commodities.

Usage of the Vicious Circle:

The usage of the vicious circle in Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl:

“Logtherapy focuses rather on the future, that is to say, on the meanings to be fulfilled by the patient in his future. (Logotherapy, indeed, is a meaning-centred psychotherapy.) At the same time, logotherapy defocuses all the vicious-circle formation and feedback mechanism which play such a great role in the development of neuroses. Thus, the typical self-centeredness of the neurotic is broken up instead of being continually fostered and reinforced.”

A vicious circle and a vicious cycle are used interchangeably, but the vicious circle is the standard idiom.



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Kovuuri G. Reddy

Kovuuri G. Reddy

Independent journalist; short, short story writer; living in Sweden. Worked as a broadcast journalist and teaching journalsim and media in England and India.