Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea Meaning
Definition: Stuck between two awful choices; having two poor alternatives.
A similar expression is between a rock and a hard place.
Origin of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
This expression has existed since at least the 1600s. This expression doesn’t have to do with the devil of the Bible but to a seam around a ship’s hull near the water.
When a sailor attempted to caulk this seam in heavy seas, he was in serious danger of failing overboard and drowning. Of course, if he didn’t caulk the seam, the ship could fill with water and sink.
In other words, the sailor was faced with two awful choices: risk his life to repair the ship or risk the entire ship by not repairing the ship.
Examples of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
In the following example, a new mother is discussing childcare with her friend.
Kerry: So are you going back to work soon?
Christine: I’d like to, but I’m not sure I can.
Kerry: Why not?
Christine: There’s only one daycare in town, and it has terrible reviews online. It says the employees are mean to the children, and the building is infested with cockroaches! I can’t leave my baby there.
Kerry: No, absolutely not! So are you going to stay at home longer?
Christine: I’d like to do that, too, but we need the money that I’d get from going back to work. I honestly don’t know what to do. I feel like I’m choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea.
In this dialogue, two friends are discussing the summer weather.
Arlena: I’m loving this weather!
Nyima: Well, I’m glad the cold of winter is over, but I can’t handle all this sun.
Arlena: You don’t like the sun?
Nyima: No, not at all. If I wear sunscreen, my skin breaks out in hives. If I don’t wear sunscreen, I get burned really badly. I’m stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. Either way, my skin is getting damaged. And I can’t just stay inside either.
This excerpt is about voters who felt like the two main candidates for presidency were both bad choices.
- The useful cliché that is pounding like a bad headache through the frontal lobe of millions of voters is the one about choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea. –Wall Street Journal
This excerpt is from an article about the ex-patriots of Tangier, Morocco.
- It is a high meeting place of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, Europe and Africa, sanctity and sin, where men and women have long set out to find themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea. –New York Times
The phrase between the devil and the deep blue sea is an idiom that offers two equally terrible choices. People use this phrase to outline the difficulty they face making a decision because both options are horrible.