of two evils choose the less

of two evils choose the less
Cf. ARISTOTLE Nicomachean Ethics II. ix. 1109a κατὰ τὸν δεύτερον, φασί, πλοῦν τὰ ἐλάχιστα ληπτέον τῶν κακῶν, we must as a second-best course, it is said, take the least of the evils; CICERO De Officiis III. xxix. minima de malis, of evils choose the least.

c 1385 CHAUCER Troilus & Criseyde II. 470 Of harmes two, the lesse is for to chese.

c 1440 Gesta Romanorum (EETS) 10 Of too Evelis the lasse Evill is to be chosyn.

1546 J. HEYWOOD Dialogue of Proverbs I. v. B2 Of two yls, chose the least while choyse lyth in lot.

1785 J. BOSWELL Journal of Tour to Hebrides 464 ‘O ho! Sir, (said I), you are flying to me for refuge!’.. ‘It is of two evils choosing the least.’

1891 A. FORBES Barracks, Bivouacs & Battles 187 Either the Turks would make a prisoner of me..or I must..take my chance of the Russian fire... ‘Of two evils choose the less,’ says the wise proverb.

1975 J. PORTER Package Included Murder xiv. She didn’t want to wake dear Constance, who really needed all the sleep she could get, but if she didn’t..Miss Jones chose the lesser of two evils.

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