English : Pyrrhic Victory

What is the meaning and origin of the expression Pyrrhic victory?

By Mr. Sunil, New York, USA – 3rd May-2007.

First, let's start with the pronunciation. The
y in the first syllable is like the i in words like sit, hit and bit. The rrhic sounds like the rick in words like brick, rickshaw and cricket. The stress is on the first syllable. In the expression Pyrrhic victory, however, the main stress is on the first syllable of victory.

King Pyrrhus of Epirus in Greece invaded Italy in 280 B.C. He had plans of conquering the country. During his campaign against the Romans, Pyrrhus won many battles. After defeating the Romans at Aschulum, the King apparently said, “Another such victory and we are undone". The reason was that he lost many of his soldiers in the battle. As a result, Pyrrhus was unable to continue to push forward. Pyrrhus' army became so depleted, that he was forced to return to Greece without ever setting foot in Rome.

Though the King won many battles, he ultimately lost the war. So when you refer to something as being a Pyrrhic victory, it implies that you have suffered so many losses, that the victory pales into insignificance. The losses are so great, that it is no victory at all.

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