dilemma

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

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 dilemma is at the very heart of Drury’s Fairview, a brilliant, audacious deconstruction of the soul-warping power of the white gaze (and the work that earned her the 2019 Pulitzer for drama). Adam Green, Vogue, "Meet the Playwrights, Actors, and Directors Radically Reshaping Broadway," 13 May 2019 The dilemma was solved by NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "NASA Found the Oldest Molecules in the Universe," 18 Apr. 2019 Three years after the oil dilemma, the company unveiled Joe’s new foe: The Intruders: Strong Men from Another World. Maude Campbell, Popular Mechanics, "Yo, Joe: How a 12-Inch Soldier Doll Became a Toy Legend," 9 Apr. 2019 Many of Cary and Brooke’s moral dilemmas stem from their worry over how their decisions will affect Chase, a teen who still wants to be a kid but suddenly has millions of fans fawning over him. Gabe Bergado, Teen Vogue, "The Other Two Star Case Walker on Nabbing the Role of Chase Dreams, Coming Up on Musical.ly, and the Show's Portrayal of Influencers," 28 Mar. 2019 Sally Singer Tom Ford Designers’ constant dilemma is the push and pull of the new and the dependable. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, "The Top 10 Shows of New York Fashion Week Fall 2019," 14 Feb. 2019 Allegra Gassman, a 30-year-old trust officer with Midwest Trust Co. in Overland Park, loves her job but has a dilemma. Lynn Horsley, kansascity, "Most agree, area near OP Convention Center is dull. Here's how city hopes to fix that," 20 June 2018 So Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has a selection dilemma ahead of Saturday afternoon’s trip to Las Palmas, with his team at Juventus on Tuesday in the Champions League quarter-final first leg. 90 Minutes Staff, chicagotribune.com, "Barcelona unbeaten streak on the line this weekend at Sevilla," 30 Mar. 2018 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

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

16 May 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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