Definition of dichotomy
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
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 : 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
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
At the close of this millennium, the favored dichotomy features a supposed battle called “the science wars.” —Stephen Jay Gould, Science, 14 Jan. 2000
… to insist on its being either symbol or fact is to dwell needlessly on a false dichotomy. —Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches, 1988
… the Inuit concept of their environment was centred around the dichotomy between land and sea. —Ian Hodder, Reading the Past, 1986
Her essay discusses the dichotomy between good and evil in the author's novels.
her outfit is a sartorial dichotomy: an elegant gown and ratty old tennis shoes
Recent Examples of dichotomy from the Web
Reston is an interesting dichotomy: a wealthy suburb with a lot of striving immigrant families that struggle to afford college.
His preoccupations therein are with dualities, dichotomies and doubles: philanderer-penitent, solitude-solipsism, prince-pauper, Clark Kent-Superman, to name just a few.
This narrative of conflict rests on a false dichotomy, and a dangerous one at that.
The focus has not been on the traditional left-versus-right dichotomy.
Long after the Broadway stage goes dark, those dichotomies will likely still shape our political landscape.
There’s no show without Ellie’s ability to pull off that dichotomy of someone who is tempered steel on one hand, and kind of open and sometimes clueless about the world on the other.
The hawk-versus-realist dichotomy, while useful, shouldn’t be viewed too literally.
The show will challenge the traditional dichotomy of handmade and machine-made.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dichotomy'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
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.
DICHOTOMY Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of dichotomy for English Language Learners
: a difference between two opposite things : a division into two opposite groups
Medical Definition of dichotomy
: a division or forking into branches; especially : repeated bifurcation
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