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

After that, is more turns of the screws, leading to a fateful moral dilemma and a pitch-perfect lady-or-the-tiger ending. Kerry Lengel, azcentral, "Review: ‘The Reports on Sarah and Saleem’ is an intimate geopolitical thriller," 24 July 2019 My mother’s affinity for black culture and black men comes with its share of perks almost equal to the dilemmas. Harmonyholiday, Longreads, "Mama Looks for Melanin," 6 June 2019 In less than 24 hours, the Supreme Court confirmation process has been utterly transformed from a virtual certainty to a dramatic dilemma. Howard Kurtz, Fox News, "The moral and political dilemma created by Kavanaugh's accuser," 18 Sep. 2018 Also weighing on prices is European attempts to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, as officials promise to deliver within weeks practical solutions to dilemmas for companies posed by the U.S. abandonment of the accord. Lorcan Roche Kelly, Bloomberg.com, "Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day," 16 May 2018 And as Hextall made clear, Juniors sensation Carter Hart is not the immediate solution to that dilemma. Sam Donnellon, Philly.com, "The Penguins' playoff demise suggests the Flyers' 'process' has a long way to go," 8 May 2018 But Unsane adds an extra, Hitchcockian wrinkle to Sawyer’s dilemma. Scott Meslow, GQ, "Unsane Review: A Horror Movie About What It’s Like to Be a Woman," 22 Mar. 2018 Within this context lies the solution to the salmon habitat dilemma without causing the unintended consequences feared by the Alaska business community. Anchorage Daily News, "There’s a win-win to the ‘Stand for Salmon’ debate," 16 Mar. 2018 An apparent correlation between the introduction of air bags and these types of deaths also poses a dilemma of sorts. Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press, "Kids are dying in hot cars at an alarming rate; safety agency tweets for awareness," 15 Aug. 2019

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

19 Sep 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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Comments on dilemma

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