Catch-22 is defined as follows:

A problematic situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem or by a rule.

It was coined in the homonym novel by Joseph Heller. According to the novel:

people who were crazy were not obliged to fly missions, but anyone who applied to stop flying was showing a rational concern for his safety and was, therefore, sane and had to fly.

The only translation I have found in Reverso, SpanishDict and Collins is "callejón sin salida, circulo vicioso", while WordReference gives "palos porque bogas, y palos porque no" for a catch-22 situation.

Is there any alternative (better) translation?

1 Answer 1


According to the Wikipedia:

The novel's title refers to a plot device that is repeatedly invoked in the story. Catch-22 starts as a set of paradoxical requirements whereby airmen mentally unfit to fly did not have to do so, but could not actually be excused. [...] The phrase "Catch-22" has since entered the English language, referring to a type of unsolvable logic puzzle sometimes called a double bind.

The fact that the book title has entered the English language makes it difficult to find an equivalent term in Spanish, due to the fact that in the Spanish world the novel is not as known as in the English world. So you have two options:

  • Translate the term using the title of the novel in the Spanish world: Trampa-22. And just hope that the reader knows the novel. If not, the reader may be intrigued with the term and just search it. One similar case is an episode of the Lost series that was called "Catch-22" in the original and "Trampa-22" in the Spanish translation.
  • Translate the name of the problem addressed by the novel: "a double bind". From Wikipedia:

    A double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, and one message negates the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response.

    This term is translated into Spanish as doble vínculo. But a similar situation in Computer Science could be an "interbloqueo" or "bloqueo mutuo".

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