An example of a dilemma is when you only have two extra tickets to an event and three friends that want to go.
- an argument necessitating a choice between equally unfavorable or disagreeable alternatives
- any situation in which one must choose between unpleasant alternatives
- any serious problem
Origin of dilemmaLate Latin from Ecclesiastical Late Greek dil?mma from di-, two + l?mma, proposition: see lemma
- A situation that requires a choice between options that are or seem equally unfavorable or unsatisfactory.
- 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 of dilemmaLate Latin from Greek dilēmma ambiguous proposition di- two ; see di- 1. lēmma proposition ; see lemma 1.
Usage Note: In its traditional use, dilemma refers to a situation in which a choice must be made between alternative courses of action or argument. The word is also used more loosely to mean “problem” or “predicament” without implying that a choice must be made. This usage has been criticized by language critics, and the Usage Panel still supports this view, but this support has been eroding over time. In our 1999 survey, 58 percent of the Usage Panel rejected the sentence Historically, race has been the great dilemma of democracy. This is a significant decrease from the 74 percent that rejected a similar sentence in 1988. • 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. In 2005, some 58 percent of the Panel reported that they followed this restriction in their own writing. The remaining 42 percent said that the word could acceptably be used for more than two choices. It seems unlikely that writers will be taken to task for ignoring the two-choice limit.
(plural dilemmas or dilemmata)
- A circumstance in which a choice must be made between two or more alternatives that seem equally undesirable.
- (loosely) A difficult circumstance or problem.
- (logic) A type of syllogism of the form "if A is true then B is true; if C is true then D is true; either A or C is true; therefore either B or D is true".
- (rhetoric) Offering to an opponent a choice between two (equally unfavorable) alternatives.
- The sense of a difficult circumstance or problem is considered non-standard[by whom?].
- Occasionally spelled/misspelled as dilemna, perhaps originally via false analogy with words such as condemn, solemn, and hymn. This spelling has been reportedly taught in many regions of Great Britain and The United States as well as around the world; and can be found in the works of many well-known authors. (e.g. Watts, Defroe & Goldsmith)
First attested 1523, from Late Latin dilemma, from Ancient Greek δίλημμα (dilēmma, “ambiguous proposition”), from δι- (di-) + λῆμμα (lēmma, “premise, proposition”).