While walking on a path, sometimes two people try to dodge each other. One guy steps left, and at the same time, the other guy steps left and then switches direction and so does the other guy. Is there a word to describe this?

  • 2
    perhaps "sidestep" would help ... "they sidestepped around each other."
    – Fattie
    Jun 30, 2011 at 16:08
  • it sounds like a collision
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Jun 30, 2011 at 16:09
  • 8
    Just to be pedantic; I'm assuming they're walking toward each other or this wouldn't be an issue. If they both take a step to the left, then they've missed each other! If that happens and they still both step back then I'd call it "madness" on both their parts. :)
    – tjm
    Jun 30, 2011 at 18:11
  • 2
    @Vivek you don't happen to by Indian do you? I found when visiting India I was avoidancing with people until i realized people general pass on the sidewalk as they do in their cars. In the USA this on the right and in India the left, once I understood this, it made walking there much easier... Jun 30, 2011 at 20:27
  • 1
    @BinaryWorrier: For me, this only happens with people of the same sex. I usually notice people of the opposite sex a lot sooner, which disallows me to do this dance unless I would do it on purpose... :) Jul 1, 2011 at 11:47

7 Answers 7


This is called a droitwich.

From The Meaning of Liff by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd:

DROITWICH (n.) A street dance. The two partners approach from opposite directions and try politely to get out of each other's way. They step to the left, step to the right, apologise, step to the left again, apologise again, bump into each other and repeat as often as unnecessary.

The Meaning of Liff is a humorous work of fiction in which the names of British towns are given alternative meanings. This definition of droitwich also has an entry in urban dictionary along with notable alternatives: the pavement tango and the get-past-you shuffle.

  • 13
    For the avoidance of doubt, The Meaning of Liff is intended to be humorous. The definitions are all made up to go with place-names that sound like they ought to mean something. +1 for making me smile anyway.
    – user1579
    Jun 30, 2011 at 16:16
  • 5
    One of the urban dictionary entries for droitwich mentions an alternative, too: the pavement tango, which I think should be a close contender. Jun 30, 2011 at 16:23
  • 1
    @John @Rhodri OK.. I have done the responsible thing and edited my answer.
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Jun 30, 2011 at 16:32
  • 1
    This looks like a slang word.
    – Sid
    Jun 30, 2011 at 22:05
  • 2
    @AttackingHobo: I seriously doubt there is a proper word for it anyways...
    – nico
    Jul 1, 2011 at 6:52

One term that was proposed for this is "avoidancing."

  • Aka the indecisijig.
    – Phil Sweet
    Jan 2 at 15:15

There isn't a specific English word for this awkward situation. In the right circumstances it might be a type of physical comedy, but that's not the specific answer you are after, I'm afraid.


I've heard it called a "sidewalk gavotte."


In certain geek subcultures, it’s referred to as symmetry-breaking; I don’t know how widespread this usage is.

(In more detail: I’ve heard this often among mathematicians and physicists. It wouldn’t be understood completely out of context, since symmetry-breaking is really a technical term for a much more general phenomenon, but it would be understood in a situation like “I met so-and-so in the corridor the other day; we spent about ten seconds symmetry-breaking.” More usually, when you find yourself actually doing this dance, you break the awkwardness by looking up, catching the other’s eye, and muttering “Symmetry-breaking!” with a wry chuckle; this usually helps bring the ritual to an end. Unless, of course, your partner has made this observation at just the same moment…)

  • 1
    Speaking as a geek, I'm very glad I've never heard any other geeks call it that. They would be giving us normal geeks a bad name.
    – calum_b
    Jul 1, 2011 at 7:10
  • 1
    I am sure it would only ever be used in Big Bang theory
    – mplungjan
    Jul 2, 2011 at 10:28

P. S. R.

Parallel Synchronized Randomness. "An interesting brain rarity and our subject for today. Two people walk in opposite directions at the same time and then they make the same decision at the same time. Then they correct it, and then they correct it, and then they correct it, and then they correct it, and then they correct it. Basically, in a mathematical world these two little guys will stay looped for the end of time. The brain is the most complex thing in the universe and it's right behind the nose"

  • The Science of Sleep by Michel Gondry

the sidewalk shuffle:

the awkward dance that results when two people approach each other from opposite directions, each attempts to move out of the other's way, and both end up moving in the same direction. Often followed by further ungainly movement, apologies, and awkward laughter.

[Urban Dictionary]

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