Definition of dilemma
1 : an argument presenting two or more equally conclusive alternatives against an opponent
2a : a usually undesirable or unpleasant choice faces this dilemma: raise interest rates and slow the economy or lower them and risk serious inflationb : 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
3a : a problem involving a difficult choice the dilemma of “liberty versus order” — J. M. Burnsb : a difficult or persistent problem unemployment … the great central dilemma of our advancing technology — August Heckscher
dilemmaticplay \ˌdi-lə-ˈma-tik 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.
Recent Examples of dilemma from the web
That prompted analysts at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning Washington think tank, to warn Tuesday that many consumers could soon face a difficult dilemma.
How to both control and monetize high numbers of tourists has become a familiar dilemma for many cities.
That poses a dilemma for European Union devotees like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, facing a re-election battle next year.
Compounding the dilemma for these Republicans is that many GOP and Trump voters are disinclined to think Russia meddled in the election.
This puts the two European giants into a dilemma: Buy Hanjin’s ships and grow their capacity, or stay put and allow HMM to make the move and reap the benefits of a partner becoming a major player in trans-Pacific routes.
Ross Lockhart and Artis Martineau, the couple not quite at the center but certainly at the existential heart of DeLillo’s latest novel, Zero K, are experiencing a nonhypothetical version of Jack and Babette’s imagined dilemma.
Which explains just about every dilemma the women of Girls have with the men in their lives, like Adam and Ray and Charlie and Thomas-John.
The cruel dilemmas of power politics could be regarded as optional.
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Origin and Etymology of 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
First Known Use: 1523
DILEMMA Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of dilemma for English Language Learners
: a situation in which you have to make a difficult choice
DILEMMA Defined for Kids
Definition of dilemma for Students
: 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.
Seen and Heard
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