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

Definition of bifurcate

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.

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from bifurcate

bifurcate \ (ˌ)bī-​ˈfər-​kət How to pronounce bifurcate (audio) , -​ˌkāt ; ˈbī-​(ˌ)fər-​ˌkāt \ adjective

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 today’s word, 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

The case became split in two phases in October 2015, when a judge granted RMWD’s request to bifurcate the case. Ramona Sentinel, "Plaintiffs win Phase 1 of lawsuit against water district," 5 June 2019 The reality is consumers don’t bifurcate or segment their world like that. Leigh Kamping-carder, WSJ, "Casper Co-Founder Predicts the Death of (Bad) Retail," 21 Nov. 2018 The game shouldn’t be bifurcated by pitchers batting. Christopher L. Gasper,, "The Lions in the Super Bowl, a .400 hitter in a season, and other sports dreams I’d like to see become reality," 14 July 2018 The danger for Republicans is that the political map this year is sharply bifurcated: the most competitive House and Senate contests are taking place in strikingly different parts of the country. Jonathan Martin, New York Times, "Forget Tax Cuts. Trump Wants to Rally the G.O.P. Base Over Immigration.," 18 June 2018 At the urging of dozens of speakers, Metro's directors eliminated an option that would have elevated the rail line through the eastern half of Little Tokyo, bifurcating the neighborhood. Laura J. Nelson,, "Metro narrows the options for a light-rail line from downtown L.A. to Artesia," 25 May 2018 The move by Democrats would bifurcate and weaken privacy protections online. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "A Phony Vote on ‘Net Neutrality’," 15 May 2018 Grant said the back-to-back controversies have helped highlight a generational, and geographic, divide that often bifurcates Boston’s black community. Janelle Nanos,, "Black Market in Roxbury feels growing pains," 30 Apr. 2018 The dried blood snaked across Nick Foligno's grill, bifurcating below his right eye and running down his puffy cheeks, even staining several mustache hairs dark red. Alex Prewitt,, "Despite Injuries and Penalties, Blue Jackets Prove Resilient in OT Win Against Capitals," 13 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bifurcate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of bifurcate

1615, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for bifurcate

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about bifurcate

Listen to Our Podcast about bifurcate

Statistics for bifurcate

Last Updated

14 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for bifurcate

The first known use of bifurcate was in 1615

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for bifurcate



English Language Learners Definition of bifurcate

formal : to divide into two parts


intransitive verb
bi·​fur·​cate | \ ˈbī-(ˌ)fər-ˌkāt How to pronounce bifurcate (audio) , bī-ˈfər- How to pronounce bifurcate (audio) \
bifurcated; bifurcating

Medical Definition of bifurcate

: to divide into two branches or parts

Other Words from bifurcate

bifurcate \ (ˈ)bī-​ˈfər-​kət How to pronounce bifurcate (audio) , -​ˌkāt; ˈbī-​(ˌ)fər-​ˌkāt How to pronounce bifurcate (audio) \ or bifurcated \ -​ˌkāt-​əd How to pronounce bifurcated (audio) \ adjective
bifurcation \ ˌbī-​(ˌ)fər-​ˈkā-​shən How to pronounce bifurcation (audio) \ noun

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on bifurcate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bifurcate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for bifurcate

Britannica English: Translation of bifurcate for Arabic Speakers

Comments on bifurcate

What made you want to look up bifurcate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a device or gadget

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!