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." Berra's advice might not offer much help when you're making tough decisions in life, but perhaps it will help you remember bifurcate. A road that bifurcates splits in two, like the one in Berra's adage. Other things can bifurcate (or be bifurcated) as well, such as an organization that splits, or is split, into two factions. Bifurcate comes from the Latin adjective bifurcus, meaning "two-pronged," a combination of the prefix bi- ("two") and the noun furca ("fork"). Furca, as you may have guessed, is also an ancestor of fork, which refers to the handy utensil that can (in a pinch) help us—as Berra might say—to cut our pizza in four pieces when we're not hungry enough to eat six.

Examples of bifurcate in a Sentence

The stream bifurcated into two narrow winding channels. bifurcate a beam of light
Recent Examples on the Web Early this year, though, the Model 3 began to bifurcate from average vehicle prices in dramatic fashion. Craig Trudell, Fortune, 13 May 2023 Oswald’s documentary bifurcates Mediha’s story into two discrete, intimate and emotionally visceral threads. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 20 Dec. 2023 Through the 1980s, when the territory of Yemen was still bifurcated into two nations, Riyadh bankrolled the spread of Wahhabism in the north, weakening the Houthis. Samanth Subramanian, The New York Review of Books, 30 Nov. 2023 Beijing and Washington nowadays also look at the world as bifurcated (although not yet bipolar). Wang Jisi, Foreign Affairs, 23 Nov. 2023 The trial began in late September, and the judge has since bifurcated the case. Emily St. Martin, Los Angeles Times, 11 Nov. 2023 The judge has since bifurcated the case, and Perry, 38, is expected to testify in the aforementioned countersuit regarding damages at a non-jury trial in the coming months. Rachel Desantis, Peoplemag, 8 Nov. 2023 Those twin approaches still play out in the modern food-media landscape, which often seems bifurcated. Emily Heil, Washington Post, 20 Nov. 2023 Between the sidewalk and the street rose regularly planted silver stalks that bifurcated into blinking parking meters. William T. Vollmann, Harper's Magazine, 16 Oct. 2023 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 29 Feb. 2024.

Medical Definition


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

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