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Gordian

[gawr-dee-uh n] /ˈgɔr di ən/
adjective
1.
pertaining to Gordius, ancient king of Phrygia, who tied a knot (the Gordian knot) that, according to prophecy, was to be undone only by the person who was to rule Asia, and that was cut, rather than untied, by Alexander the Great.
2.
resembling the Gordian knot in intricacy.
Idioms
3.
cut the Gordian knot, to act quickly and decisively in a difficult situation; solve a problem boldly.
Origin
1555-1565
1555-65; < Latin Gordi(us) (< Greek Górdios Gordius) + -an
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for gordian knot
  • The gordian knot will be the sensitivity and specificity of the drug.
British Dictionary definitions for gordian knot

Gordian knot

/ˈɡɔːdɪən/
noun
1.
(in Greek legend) a complicated knot, tied by King Gordius of Phrygia, that Alexander the Great cut with a sword
2.
a complicated and intricate problem (esp in the phrase cut the Gordian knot)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for gordian knot

Gordian knot

1560s, tied by Gordius, king of Phrygia in Asia Minor, who predicted the one to loosen it would rule Asia. Instead, Alexander the Great cut the Gordian knot with his sword; hence the extended sense (1570s in English) "solve a difficult problem in a quick, dramatic way."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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gordian knot in Culture

Gordian knot definition


A complex knot tied by a Greek king. According to legend, whoever loosed it would rule all Asia. Alexander the Great, according to some accounts, undid the Gordian knot by cutting through it with his sword.

Note: By extension, to “cut the Gordian knot” is to solve quickly any very complex problem or to get to the heart of a problem.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Article for gordian knot

Gordian knot

knot that gave its name to a proverbial term for a problem solvable only by bold action. In 333 BC, Alexander the Great, on his march through Anatolia, reached Gordium, the capital of Phrygia. There he was shown the chariot of the ancient founder of the city, Gordius, with its yoke lashed to the pole by means of an intricate knot with its end hidden. According to tradition, this knot was to be untied only by the future conqueror of Asia. In the popular account, probably invented as appropriate to an impetuous warrior, Alexander sliced through the knot with his sword, but, in earlier versions, he found the ends either by cutting into the knot or by drawing out the pole. The phrase "cutting the Gordian knot" has thus come to denote a bold solution to a complicated problem.

Learn more about Gordian knot with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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