Between a rock and a hard place

To choose between two unsatisfactory choices

Between a rock and a hard place This idiom originated in the USA in the early 20th Century. It came about to describe the dispute between the copper miners and the mining companies in the state of Arizona. The miners demanded better working conditions, but the companies refused to comply. As a result, the miners had two choices: to mine in terrible conditions (a rock), or to quit and die in poverty (a hard place).

The phrase then gained popularity in the 1930s, when during the Great Depression, many people similarly found themselves between this metaphorical ‘a rock and a hard place’.


Financial pressure has left the company between a rock and a hard place. They can’t decide whether to fire their employees or continue to run at a loss.

The government can’t satisfy all the people. Whatever they do, they’ll be between a rock and a hard place.

‘Would you like to have McDonald’s or Burger King for dinner?’
‘I don’t really like fast food, so that’s like choosing between a rock and a hard place, as far as I am concerned.’

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