What are the meaning, origin and usage of word ‘Dilemma’?

(pronounced duh leh muh)

Meaning: The word dilemma is used to refer to a situation in which a tough choice has to be made between two or more alteratives. It is especially used when the choices confronted with are equally undesirable.


The word has been around 1520s in rhetoric, from Late Latin dilemma from Greek dilemma meaning "a double proposition." It is arrived at by combing di (two) with lemma (premise, anything received or taken).

The meaning "choice between two undesirable alternatives" has been around since the 1580s.

After steady usage in the 19th Century, the word saw a spike in usage in the hundred or so years that followed and is currently enjoying a high with respect to the last 200 years.

Usage: The student faced an agonising dilemma and it seems like there is no correct choice.

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