What word means that every outcome is worse than where you started,

For example, You must make a choice but the choices are a worse situation than your current one.

  • 4
    In chess this is referred to by the German term Zugzwang.
    – Robusto
    Mar 28 '19 at 16:01
  • You might consider Nash Equilibrium.
    – Phil Sweet
    Mar 29 '19 at 1:01
  • @Robusto does Zugzwang means tight spot.
    – Ubi hatt
    Apr 1 '19 at 16:02
  • Not exactly what you're asking for, but perhaps unenviable choice would work for you? To my mind, it implies a choice in which every option has serious negative consequences
    – crizzis
    Apr 1 '19 at 17:42
  • ' You must make a choice but the choices are a worse situation than your current one.' Do the choices include 'do nothing'? I don't see how this can apply. Jun 17 at 18:28

This might be described as a "no-win situation"—a situation where there are multiple possible outcomes, but none of them are seen as positive.

From Wikipedia:

A no-win situation, also called a “lose-lose situation”, is one where a person has choices, but no choice leads to a net gain.

Or from Dictionary.com:

A situation certain to end in failure or disappointment, as in If the in-laws visit them or they visit the in-laws, either way they see it as a no-win situation. [c. 1960]

  • Thank you, I read an article that made reference of this word, it is not a saying but a singular word, any ideas? Mar 29 '19 at 10:37
  • @goodquestionmma Could you edit your question to include a an example of how you'd use the word in a sentence? Also, be sure to include the single-word-request tag to clarify to other users that a single word is preferred over a phrase.
    – p.s.w.g
    Mar 29 '19 at 12:58

You can use the word irresultive. It does not exactly mean, every outcome is a worse outcome, but it means, your outcome/result is furitless e.g. in chess, if you are facing a situation where, if you take any permitted permuted move, then those all probable moves will not yield any (favorable) results. So, normally you will say- "All moves are fruitless".

Merriam Webster dictionary defines irresultive as:

lacking result : ABORTIVE

Abortive according to Merriam Webster dictionary is,


Wordnik also backs irresultive as:

Useless or without result or done in vain.

Also, lose-lose is defined as adjective in oxford dictionary.

Oxford Dictionary

Of or denoting a situation which is disadvantageous or damaging to all those involved.

"Is it worth arguing in this lose-lose situation?"


A common idiom for this (at least in the case where you can see that one choice is not as bad as all the others) is least-worst:

the least worst choice is the best choice from a list of choices that you think are all bad

[Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English]

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