dilemma

noun
di·​lem·​ma | \ də-ˈle-mə also dī- How to pronounce dilemma (audio) \

Definition of dilemma

1a : a usually undesirable or unpleasant choice faces this dilemma: raise interest rates and slow the economy or lower them and risk serious inflation
b : a situation involving such a choice here am I brought to a very pretty dilemma; I must commit murder or commit matrimony— George Farquhar broadly : predicament lords and bailiffs were in a terrible dilemma — G. M. Trevelyan
2a : a problem involving a difficult choice the dilemma of "liberty versus order"— J. M. Burns
b : a difficult or persistent problem unemployment … the great central dilemma of our advancing technology— August Heckscher
3 : an argument presenting two or more equally conclusive alternatives against an opponent

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Other Words from dilemma

dilemmatic \ ˌdi-​lə-​ˈma-​tik How to pronounce dilemmatic (audio) also  -​ˌdī-​ \ adjective

Usage of Dilemma

Although some commentators insist that dilemma be restricted to instances in which the alternatives to be chosen are equally unsatisfactory, their concern is misplaced; the unsatisfactoriness of the options is usually a matter of how the author presents them. What is distressing or painful about a dilemma is having to make a choice one does not want to make. The use of such adjectives as terrible, painful, and irreconcilable suggests that dilemma is losing some of its unpleasant force.

Examples of dilemma in a Sentence

When it comes to the boss, there is a real dilemma. You're caught between a career-limiting rejection of virtual friendship or a career-limiting access to photos of yourself glassy-eyed at a party. — Jared Sandberg, Wall Street Journal, 10 July 2007 What's a pampered 20-something to do when her rich fiancé goes on a business trip and comes back married to someone else? That's the dilemma facing Elle Medina in Nichols's delightfully silly, vivacious debut. Publishers Weekly, 28 June 2004 Both authors are prepared to dwell as long on the savor of a ripe melon as on the significance of a moral dilemma. — Roger Shattuck, New York Review of Books, 13 June 2002 The country's decision to go to war has caused a major dilemma for its allies. We're facing a terrible dilemma. I don't know what to do; it's a real dilemma.
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Recent Examples on the Web

That would give Russia and Saudi Arabia the dilemma of whether to continue restraining production or restore it. Grant Smith, Houston Chronicle, "OPEC political crises threaten to double its million-barrel Cut," 11 Apr. 2018 The dilemma is especially acute as the news media suffers from dwindling public confidence, a trend affecting many major American institutions. Isaac Stanley-becker, The Seattle Times, "Critics demand networks fact-check Trump’s live immigration speech," 8 Jan. 2019 Such is the dilemma at E3 – short for the Electronic Entertainment Expo — the world’s biggest video gaming convention held each June in Los Angeles, which drew more than 60,000 attendees. Marc Saltzman, USA TODAY, "10 video games from E3 you’ll really want to buy," 14 June 2018 The moral and ethical dilemma is selective and arbitrary, at best. Bryce Miller, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Next step for California in sports betting debate: Cash in," 14 May 2018 Most people aren't at a loss for ideas on how to spend a cash windfall. With bills to pay, savings accounts to fortify and even the most modest of vacations to plan, the dilemma is deciding what to drop from the list. cleveland.com, "5 great ways to invest your tax refund (NerdWallet)," 27 Apr. 2018 The dilemma for a hitter is that two pitches look the same for two-thirds of their path to the plate, but then one will turn left and one will turn right. Si.com Staff, SI.com, "Nine Innings: David Price's New Vantage Point, Joe Mauer's Hall of Fame Candidacy and a Possible Reboot of the '86 Postseason," 16 Apr. 2018 And even here, there is a potential dilemma for Facebook. James Vincent, The Verge, "Why AI isn’t going to solve Facebook’s fake news problem," 5 Apr. 2018 Most episodes address a moral, psychological, or physical dilemma. The Christian Science Monitor, "What are you watching? Readers recommend 'Doctor Who,' 'Longmire'," 18 May 2018

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

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First Known Use of dilemma

1523, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for dilemma

Late Latin, from Late Greek dilēmmat-, dilēmma, probably back-formation from Greek dilēmmatos involving two assumptions, from di- + lēmmat-, lēmma assumption — more at lemma

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Statistics for dilemma

Last Updated

21 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for dilemma

The first known use of dilemma was in 1523

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More Definitions for dilemma

dilemma

noun

English Language Learners Definition of dilemma

: a situation in which you have to make a difficult choice

dilemma

noun
di·​lem·​ma | \ də-ˈle-mə How to pronounce dilemma (audio) \

Kids Definition of dilemma

: a situation in which a person has to choose between things that are all bad or unsatisfactory He was faced with the dilemma of having to tell on his best friend, or not telling and getting blamed himself.

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