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[dih-lem-uh] /dɪˈlɛm ə/
a situation requiring a choice between equally undesirable alternatives.
any difficult or perplexing situation or problem.
Logic. a form of syllogism in which the major premise is formed of two or more hypothetical propositions and the minor premise is a disjunctive proposition, as “If A, then B; if C then D. Either A or C. Therefore, either B or D.”.
1515-25; < Late Latin < Greek dílēmma, equivalent to di- di-1 + lêmma an assumption, premise, derivative of lambánein to take
Related forms
[dil-uh-mat-ik] /ˌdɪl əˈmæt ɪk/ (Show IPA),
dilemmatical, dilemmic, adjective
dilemmatically, adverb
1. See predicament. 2. question, difficulty. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples for dilemmas
  • These are tormenting dilemmas upon which mankind has throughout its history been so frequently impaled.
  • Mere logic he distrusted so deeply that its contradictions, dilemmas, antinomies were to him no arguments against a belief.
  • For the prosecution, the moral and legal dilemmas they faced were profound and daunting.
  • It is what to do with them if their hunting is curbed that presents the country with one of its biggest environmental dilemmas.
  • He'll be taking questions to solve whatever doggie dilemmas you might be facing.
  • But several also argue that it raises fresh dilemmas.
  • Scientists, too, need to be aroused and creative if they are to come up with new solutions to pressing dilemmas.
  • Three new short-story collections tell modern tales of midlife crises and motherhood dilemmas.
  • Today, the moral dilemmas facing these characters are obsolete.
  • Engineers will have no choice but to confront these dilemmas, mainly by group action.
British Dictionary definitions for dilemmas


/dɪˈlɛmə; daɪ-/
a situation necessitating a choice between two equal, esp equally undesirable, alternatives
a problem that seems incapable of a solution
(logic) a form of argument one of whose premises is the conjunction of two conditional statements and the other of which affirms the disjunction of their antecedents, and whose conclusion is the disjunction of their consequents. Its form is if p then q and if r then s; either p or r so either q or s
on the horns of a dilemma
  1. faced with the choice between two equally unpalatable alternatives
  2. in an awkward situation
Derived Forms
dilemmatic (ˌdɪlɪˈmætɪk; ˌdaɪlɪ-), dilemmic, adjective
Usage note
The use of dilemma to refer to a problem that seems incapable of a solution is considered by some people to be incorrect
Word Origin
C16: via Latin from Greek, from di-1 + lēmma assumption, proposition, from lambanein to take, grasp
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for dilemmas
1520s, from L.L. dilemma, from Gk. dilemma "double proposition," a technical term in rhetoric, from di- "two" + lemma "premise, anything received or taken," from root of lambanein "to take" (see analemma). It should be used only of situations where someone is forced to choose between two alternatives, both unfavorable to him. But even logicians disagree on whether certain situations are dilemmas or mere syllogisms.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with dilemmas
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Encyclopedia Article for dilemmas


in syllogistic, or traditional, logic, any one of several forms of inference in which there are two major premises of hypothetical form and a disjunctive ("either . . . or") minor premise. For example:

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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