Does such a word even exist? If not, what should I use as an alternative?

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    The phrase "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" refers to a situation in which no matter which action you take, you get a negative result, but they are not necessarily the same outcome. – Freddie R Oct 22 '18 at 17:30
  • saying something is a wash might be what you're looking for. though the examples out there seem to cast it as a competitive parity phrase, i've always heard and used it to mean the paths that lead from picking any one thing out of a bunch of given choices is just a featureless plain with nothing to differentiate the choices (a wash). – mendota Oct 22 '18 at 19:19
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    This actually has a surprising amount of possible answers. As you can see by the wealth of very different answers posted already. I have to put this on hold pending additional clarification from you on how exactly you intend to use it. For example, is it a good thing or a bad thing? Do you need an everyday idiom, a scientific term, a proverb? An example sentence would be nice. – RegDwigнt Oct 22 '18 at 19:43

"Hobson's choice" may be appropriate, ie. the outcome is utterly inevitable despite the illusion of choice, the allusion being to one Thomas Hobson who had a (ie. just one) horse for sale, in spite of the appearance that he gave to his customers of having more than 40: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobson%27s_choice

As to if one word exists to fulfill the requirement, beyond words such as inevitable/inevitability, and phrases such as convergent-evolution, I'm realy not sure anything directly fits. I should say that perhaps doom/doomed is the closest but has rather sinister overtones in modern English. Ordained, predestined, predetermined, others - but still none reference choice in the way the Hobson's choice does. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/doom

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    If you are truly looking at "illusion of choice", wouldn't Morton's Fork be more related to this? – Keeta - reinstate Monica Oct 22 '18 at 19:38
  • @Keeta I'd not heard of that, makes sense - why not write an answer? – A Rogue Ant. Oct 22 '18 at 19:58

Not a single word but a common saying is:

all roads lead to Rome:

said to mean that all the methods of doing something will achieve the same result in the end.

(Cambridge Dictionary)


It might be a Catch-22.

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

(Heller's Catch-22)

It’s used in situations where there appears to be a choice but because of rules and regulations, there isn’t actually a choice, therefore all outcomes are identical regardless of any choices made.


Predestination means that the outcome has already been decided, but the dictionaries are rather theological about their definitions.

Macmillan says

the belief that people have no control over events because God or another force has arranged everything that is going to happen

Oxford says

the belief that people have no control over events because these things are controlled by God or by fate

Cambridge says

the doctrine that God has ordained all that will happen . . .

So I prefer inevitablecertain to happen. Some examples:

Macmillan has

You must face the inevitable and try to deal with it.

Oxford has

Everybody is always trying to hide children from the horrors of life when it is inevitable that they will find them out in the near future.

Cambridge has

When you're working such long hours, it's inevitable that your marriage will start to suffer.


Another relevant quotation rather than a single word is Henry Ford’s famous maxim which is generally quoted as “You can have any colour you want as long as it’s black”, but is actually “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”.


Not a 'single word', but one idiomatic phrase possibility would be "six of one, half a dozen of the other":

The alternatives are equivalent or indifferent; it doesn't matter which one we choose.

from wiktionary.com

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