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I'm looking for a phrase I've seen in various articles but cannot remember. It has to do with the idea of something that has been done and now cannot be changed. I've commonly seen it in international relations articles involving countries A, B, and C. Say country C doesn't want country A to invade country B, but country A does so anyway and before country C has a chance to respond. This is the context in which I've seen this phrase, which would imply that country A has created a situation that cannot be changed and which country C must accept.

Sorry if this has been a bit of a convoluted explanation, but it has been nagging me all day.

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    Might you be thinking of the French phrase fait accompli?
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 12:06

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You're probably thinking of alea iacta est, "the die is cast." You can find thousands of articles on it, but I'll just post Wikipedia for ease:

Alea iacta est ("The die is cast") is a variation of a Latin phrase (iacta alea est [ˈjakta ˈaːlɛ.a ˈɛst]) attributed by Suetonius to Julius Caesar on January 10, 49 BC, as he led his army across the Rubicon river in Northern Italy. With this step, he entered Italy at the head of his army in defiance of the Senate and began his long civil war against Pompey and the Optimates. The phrase, either in the original Latin or in translation, is used in many languages to indicate that events have passed a point of no return. It is now most commonly cited with the word order changed ("Alea iacta est") rather than in the original phrasing. The same event inspired another idiom with the same meaning, "crossing the Rubicon".

You'll also see it spelled alea jacta est in some publications. The i- in iacta is pronounced like an English Y/German J.

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  • I actually ended up remembering it: Fait accompli. I do, however, remember reading "alea iacta est" as well, so thank you for reminding me of it! Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 16:28
  • @AlexKukura “Fait accompli” is French
    – user10919
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 11:20

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