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noun di·chot·o·my \dī-ˈkä-tə-mē also də-\

Simple Definition of dichotomy

  • : a difference between two opposite things : a division into two opposite groups

Full Definition of dichotomy

plural di·chot·o·mies

  1. 1 :  a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities <the dichotomy between theory and practice>; also :  the process or practice of making such a division <dichotomy of the population into two opposed classes>

  2. 2 :  the phase of the moon or an inferior planet in which half its disk appears illuminated

  3. 3 a :  bifurcation; especially :  repeated bifurcation (as of a plant's stem) b :  a system of branching in which the main axis forks repeatedly into two branches c :  branching of an ancestral line into two equal diverging branches

  4. 4 :  something with seemingly contradictory qualities <it's a dichotomy, this opulent Ritz-style luxury in a place that fronts on a boat harbor — Jean T. Barrett>

Examples of dichotomy

  1. The amusing spectacle of the recent presidential vote in Florida should remind us of the persistence of the federal-state dichotomy. —Eugene Genovese, Atlantic, March 2001

  2. At the close of this millennium, the favored dichotomy features a supposed battle called “the science wars.” —Stephen Jay Gould, Science, 14 Jan. 2000

  3. … to insist on its being either symbol or fact is to dwell needlessly on a false dichotomy. —Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches, 1988

  4. … the Inuit concept of their environment was centred around the dichotomy between land and sea. —Ian Hodder, Reading the Past, 1986

  5. Her essay discusses the dichotomy between good and evil in the author's novels.

  6. <her outfit is a sartorial dichotomy: an elegant gown and ratty old tennis shoes>

Origin of dichotomy

Greek dichotomia, from dichotomos (see dichotomous)

First Known Use: 1610

Rhymes with dichotomy

Medical Dictionary


noun di·chot·o·my \dī-ˈkät-ə-mē also də-\

Medical Definition of dichotomy

plural di·chot·o·mies

  1. :  a division or forking into branches; especially :  repeated bifurcation

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