Strictly speaking, mires, also called quagmires, are wet, squishy areas of land. Imagine how tricky it would be to work your way out of a quagmire, as your shoes keep sinking and sticking in the damp ground.
More loosely speaking, a mire or a quagmire is a bad position or situation that’s hard to get out of.
Part of speech:
Noun, the countable kind: “this quagmire,” “these quagmires.”
The plural is “quagmires.”
“Quagmire” is also a verb: you can talk about people and things being quagmired, or being quagmired in some unpleasant mess or situation.
How to use it:
“Quagmire,” with its weird assortment of consonants, is perfect for talking about awkward, difficult, uncomfortable situations.
It’s no coincidence when you meet a fictional character named Quagmire: he’s either caught up in hideous circumstances himself (e.g., the Quagmire family in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, the ones who deal with house fires and kidnappings) or he drags others into hideous circumstances (e.g., Glenn Quagmire of Family Guy, the womanizer who does all kinds of things unfit for print in Make Your Point).
Talk about someone’s quagmire, or about someone being in a quagmire, getting caught in a quagmire, getting sucked into a quagmire, remaining trapped in a quagmire, extricating himself from a quagmire, and so on.
Or, talk about the quagmire of something: “a quagmire of endless argument,” “this quagmire of bureaucracy.”
Often we add an adjective and talk about legal quagmires, ethical quagmires, emotional quagmires, or diplomatic quagmires.
And although it’s usually a situation that we call a quagmire, we can get more figurative, like the creators of the fictional Quagmires mentioned above, and say that a person is a quagmire–that a person is a bog or a swamp or a pool of quicksand. Here’s Fox News: “[Lyndon B. Johnson] was a bully and an ethical quagmire.”
“Here’s what’s going on: The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is an administrative quagmire unlike nearly anything I’ve covered in a quarter-century as a journalist.”
— Ron Lieber, The New York Times, 12 April 2019
“[Vladimir Lenin] alone could have led Russia into the enchanted quagmire; he alone could have found the way back to the causeway. He saw; he turned; he perished. The strong illumination that guided him was cut off at the moment when he had turned resolutely for home. The Russian people were left floundering in the bog.”
— Winston Churchill, as quoted in The Definitive Wit of Winston Churchill, 2010