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

Definition of dichotomy



  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. 3a :  bifurcation; especially :  repeated bifurcation (as of a plant's stem)b :  a system of branching in which the main axis forks repeatedly into two branchesc :  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 in a sentence

  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

Recent Examples of dichotomy from the web

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dichotomy and false dichotomy

The two most commonly used senses of dichotomy are easily (and often) confused. The older one refers to the division of something into two groups that often are mutually exclusive or contradictory (as in “the dichotomy between good and evil”). Like trichotomy (meaning “division into three parts”), this sense denotes separation into different elements, but it adds the connotation of oppositeness. The newer sense of dichotomy denotes a thing that appears to have contradictory qualities, such as a lemonade stand found in a war zone. Dichotomy is frequently found in the company of the word false; a false dichotomy is a kind of fallacy in which one is given only two choices when in fact other options are available.

Origin and Etymology of dichotomy

Greek dichotomia, from dichotomos —see dichotomous

First Known Use: 1610

DICHOTOMY Defined for English Language Learners


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

Definition of dichotomy for English Language Learners

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

Medical Dictionary


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

Medical Definition of dichotomy



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

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