What Is a Dilemma? – Usage and Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

We have so many words in the English language that can be used to describe a complex situation, like “dilemma.” The word captures the essence of a challenging predicament that specifically requires a hard choice to be made. But can it be used in other ways? Let’s take a look at the meaning of “dilemma” and see how you can use it in a sentence.

The Meaning of Dilemma

What Is a Dilemma Usage Meaning 1

A dilemma is simply a situation where you or someone else has to make a difficult choice between two or more undesirable options. But you can also use it when someone has to choose between doing what’s best for them or doing what someone else wants them to, with choosing themselves resulting in making the other party upset.

Dilemmas can be anything at all! From moral to ethical or practical and even personal in nature. But, whatever the case may be, it’s always a hard choice to make in the end.

Is It Dilema or Dilemma?

The correct version you should use is “dilemma” with one L and a double M. Don’t worry; it’s a common mistake to spell it with a single M as “dilema,” but just know this is wrong. Always remember to use the double M when using the word “dilemma” in your writing.

How to Pronounce Dilemma

Pronouncing “dilemma” goes hand in hand with its spelling. The word should be pronounced as duh-leh-muh, with the primary stress on the second syllable.

The Etymology of the Word Dilemma

The noun “dilemma” comes from the lovely Greek language and derives specifically from the words “di-” (meaning “two”) and “lemma” (meaning “premise” or “proposition”).

The term itself was adopted into the English language around the late 1500s, first referring to a certain form of argument that needed choosing between two equally valid propositions.

Over time, the meaning of the word morphed into a term to encompass a broader range of challenging situations that demand hard choices.

Dilemma Synonyms

  • Conundrum
  • Predicament
  • Quandary
  • Impasse
  • Catch-22
  • Double bind
  • Plight
  • Puzzle
  • Tight spot

Using Dilemma in a Sentence

What Is a Dilemma Usage Meaning
  • The company’s financial dilemma forced them to choose between cutting costs or laying off employees, so we’re having a big meeting next week to discuss our plans moving forward.
  • I faced a moral dilemma when asked to cover for my friend’s big mistake.
  • As parents, we found ourselves in a major dilemma over whether to prioritize our child’s education or their emotional well-being during the pandemic.
  • My book signing was scheduled for the same time as my friend’s wedding, so I was faced with the terrible dilemma of choosing between my dream career and being there for my best friend on her big day.
  • When you encounter a real dilemma, always weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.
  • Ethical dilemmas are expected if you’re getting into making eco-friendly products. 

Bottom Line on Dilemma

That’s all I’ve got to say on the common noun we know as “dilemma.” Remember that it basically means being faced with having to choose between two things that you don’t necessarily want to choose between.