bi·​fur·​cate ˈbī-(ˌ)fər-ˌkāt How to pronounce bifurcate (audio)
bifurcated; bifurcating

transitive verb

: to cause to divide into two branches or parts
bifurcate a beam of light

intransitive verb

: to divide into two branches or parts
The stream bifurcates into two narrow channels.
(ˌ)bī-ˈfər-kət How to pronounce bifurcate (audio)

Did you know?

Yogi Berra, the baseball great who was noted for his head-scratching quotes, is purported to have said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." Yogi's advice might not offer much help when making tough decisions in life, but perhaps it will help you remember bifurcate. A road that bifurcates splits in two like the one in Yogi's adage. Other things can bifurcate as well, such as an organization that splits into two factions. Bifurcate derives from the Latin bifurcus, meaning "two-pronged," a combination of the prefix bi- ("two") and the noun furca ("fork"). Furca, as you can probably tell, gave us our word fork.

Examples of bifurcate in a Sentence

The stream bifurcated into two narrow winding channels. bifurcate a beam of light
Recent Examples on the Web Ford did this by bifurcating its compact utilities into the Escape and the new Bronco Sport. Sam Abuelsamid, Forbes, 17 July 2023 This bifurcated dynamic, in which U.S. supporters shore up dollar dominance and Washington’s detractors reduce their dollar dependence, nonetheless represents the most important threat to the dollar’s global prominence since the arrival of the euro in 1999. Carla Norrlöf, Foreign Affairs, 21 Feb. 2023 Over time, the English—with Native allies and Native slaves and then, increasingly, African slaves—became more powerful, spreading from Virginia to Maryland to Carolina (not yet bifurcated), but social relations remained malleable. Scott W. Stern, The New Republic, 26 June 2023 Real estate is local, however, and this bifurcated—and just straight-up weird—housing market really takes it to an extreme. Lance Lambert, Fortune, 25 May 2023 In this instance, the plot follows a mother and daughter, Anna and Laura, whose lives have been bifurcated into alternate realities. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 21 Jan. 2022 Record-low interest rates early in the pandemic helped to bifurcate financial outcomes for many Americans. Alicia Adamczyk, Fortune, 16 May 2023 Series developers Alexandra Cunningham and Kevin J. Hynes have moved things to Los Angeles (or to cheap soundstages, with some Los Angeles establishing shots) and bifurcated the narrative. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 26 Apr. 2023 Since the first of those elections in April 2019, Israeli politics have bifurcated into pro- and anti-Netanyahu blocs, with public debate centering almost exclusively on Benjamin Netanyahu’s fitness for office in light of his ongoing corruption trial. Joshua Leifer, The New York Review of Books, 22 Aug. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bifurcate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Medieval Latin bifurcatus, past participle of bifurcare, from Latin bifurcus two-pronged, from bi- + furca fork

First Known Use

1615, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of bifurcate was in 1615


Dictionary Entries Near bifurcate

Cite this Entry

“Bifurcate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

Medical Definition


intransitive verb
bifurcated; bifurcating
: to divide into two branches or parts
bifurcation noun

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