A confrontation between two or more armed parties, neither of which wants to attack first (fearing that the other could retaliate), but neither of which will disarm (for fear the other will attack).


  • 1876 US. Purpose of Mexican unclear: may be general derogatory term for neighboring country, as in Mexican breakfast, and similar use of Dutch in British English; compare rare Dutch standoff, of same meaning. May be more specifically implying cowardly, or unproductive, or perhaps a reference to an event during the Mexican–American War.
  • Three-way gun standoffs, popularized in spaghetti westerns such as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, have come to be called Mexican standoffs, though this usage appears to date to the 1990s, notably in reference to Reservoir Dogs; earlier usage refers to this as a “three-way standoff” or “triangular standoff”.

Submitted on July 07, 2010

Additional definitions for 'Mexican standoff':

Mexican standoffA stalemate, or a confrontation between two or more sides that no side can win.
Mexican standoffA near-collision between two trains, an averted cornfield meet.
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Find a translation for the Mexican standoff phrase in other languages:

enfrentamiento mexicano

Strajk meksykański

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