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Definition of 'Pyrrhic'

Coming at a high cost or entailing substantial losses, to the point where the gains achieved are nearly outweighed by the negative consequences.
"The athlete's Pyrrhic pursuit of perfection led to burnout and injury."

Detailed Meaning of 'Pyrrhic'

This term originates from the historical context of King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose victories in battle against the Romans were so costly in terms of casualties and resources that they ultimately weakened his own forces significantly. A Pyrrhic victory implies that while the immediate goal has been achieved, the toll extracted in terms of human lives, resources, or overall stability is so significant that it questions the true value of the triumph. The adjective 'Pyrrhic' is often employed to describe situations where the apparent success masks underlying setbacks or compromises that might negate the perceived benefits, leaving those involved with mixed feelings about the outcome.


Examples of 'Pyrrhic' in a Sentence

1. The Pyrrhic victory left the army decimated and demoralized.
2. Their aggressive expansion was a Pyrrhic strategy, depleting resources.
3. Winning the legal battle proved Pyrrhic due to mounting legal fees.
4. The Pyrrhic success of the project strained team relationships.
5. His Pyrrhic pursuit of perfection led to exhaustion and burnout.
6. The Pyrrhic compromise satisfied no one and fractured alliances.

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Origins & Etymology of 'Pyrrhic'

The adjective 'Pyrrhic' is derived from the name of the ancient Greek military commander Pyrrhus of Epirus, who lived in the 3rd century BCE. Pyrrhus is renowned for his victories against the Romans, particularly during the Pyrrhic Wars, but at a tremendous cost to his own forces. The term 'Pyrrhic' became associated with such costly victories, where the gains achieved were nearly outweighed by the substantial losses and sacrifices incurred. In essence, a Pyrrhic victory implies that the price paid for success was so high that it could be seen as a defeat in itself. The term has since evolved to describe any endeavor or outcome that comes at a high cost or entails significant negative consequences, where the benefits obtained are almost negated by the accompanying drawbacks.


How to pronounce pyrrhic (audio)


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