Di*lem"ma (?), n. [L. dilemma, Gr. ; - = twice + to take. See Lemma.]

1. Logic

An argument which presents an antagonist with two or more alternatives, but is equally conclusive against him, whichever alternative he chooses.

The following are instances of the dilemma. A young rhetorician applied to an old sophist to be taught the art of pleading, and bargained for a certain reward to be paid when he should gain a cause. The master sued for his reward, and the scholar endeavored to lude his claim by a dilemma. "If I gain my cause, I shall withhold your pay, because the judge's award will be against you; if I lose it, I may withhold it, because I shall not yet have gained a cause." "On the contrary," says the master, "if you gain your cause, you must pay me, because you are to pay me when you gain a cause; if you lose it, you must pay me, because the judge will award it."



A state of things in which evils or obstacles present themselves on every side, and it is difficult to determine what course to pursue; a vexatious alternative or predicament; a difficult choice or position.

A strong dilemma in a desperate case! To act with infamy, or quit the place. Swift.

Horns of a dilemma, alternatives, each of which is equally difficult of encountering.


© Webster 1913.