A situation that requires a choice between options that are or seem equally unfavorable or mutually exclusive.
Usage Problem A problem that seems to defy a satisfactory solution.
Logic An argument that presents two alternatives, each of which has the same consequence.
Origin: Late Latin, from Greek dilēmma, ambiguous proposition : di-, two; see di-1 + lēmma, proposition; see lemma1.
Usage Note: A dilemma is a situation in which a choice must be made between alternative courses of action or argument. Although citational evidence attests to widespread use of the term meaning simply “problem” or “predicament” and involving no issue of choice, 58 percent of the Usage Panel in our 1999 survey rejected the sentence Historically, race has been the great dilemma of democracy. • It is sometimes claimed that because the di- in dilemma comes from a Greek prefix meaning “two,” the word should be used only when exactly two choices are involved. Nevertheless, 64 percent of the Usage Panel in our 1988 survey accepted its use for choices among three or more options.