What Does Caught in the Middle Mean?

Caught in the Middle Meaning

Definition: To be between two opposing sides in an argument.

If you are caught in the middle of something, you are between two opposite sides of an argument. Other people are having a disagreement, and you are impacted by their disagreement.

You may be asked to give input to help decide the outcome of the argument, which can be extremely uncomfortable. You may even be accused of favoring one side over another or asked to help one side over the other.

People do not want to be caught in the middle of something for very long. It is difficult and awkward to maintain.

Origin of Caught in the Middle

caught up in the middleThis phrase was first used in the military, where armies could literally be caught in the middle of two or more opposing forces. This is not a position armies want to stay in for long because it could lead to massive casualties.

A similar phrase is caught in the crossfire, which has much the same meaning.

In the mid-1800s, people began to use the term outside of the military. Nowadays, the term is used figuratively to explain the feeling of being stuck between two arguing people.

Examples of Caught in the Middle

stuck in the middle with you meaningChildren whose parents are getting divorced often feel as if they are caught in the middle of their parents. They do not want to appear to favor one parent over the other and must act carefully to keep both parents satisfied.

People in politics also feel as if they are caught in the middle. They may have to decide between what their political party wants them to do, what they believe in, and what their supporters want them to do.

More Examples

  • A teenage girl was fatally shot in Lynwood on Wednesday night, caught in the middle of what detectives believe to be a gang-related shooting. –LA Times
  • Dempsey gives us the hapless father caught in the middle of the same terrible morass facing any parent so dramatically blindsided by a child. –Chicago Sun-Times


To be caught in the middle is to be positioned uncomfortably between two sides of a fight.