See more synonyms for dichotomy on Thesaurus.com
noun, plural di·chot·o·mies.
  1. division into two parts, kinds, etc.; subdivision into halves or pairs.
  2. division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups: a dichotomy between thought and action.
  3. Botany. a mode of branching by constant forking, as in some stems, in veins of leaves, etc.
  4. Astronomy. the phase of the moon or of an inferior planet when half of its disk is visible.

Origin of dichotomy

From the Greek word dichotomía, dating back to 1600–10. See dicho-, -tomy
Related formsdi·cho·tom·ic [dahy-kuh-tom-ik] /ˌdaɪ kəˈtɒm ɪk/, adjectivedi·cho·tom·i·cal·ly, adverbsub·di·chot·o·my, noun, plural sub·di·chot·o·mies.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for dichotomies

disunion, difference, disagreement, split, separation

Examples from the Web for dichotomies

Historical Examples of dichotomies

  • Mr. MacLeay, himself no great friend to dichotomies in general, is completely led away by this particular one.

    Sphinx Vespiformis

    Edward Newman

British Dictionary definitions for dichotomies


noun plural -mies
  1. division into two parts or classifications, esp when they are sharply distinguished or opposedthe dichotomy between eastern and western cultures
  2. logic the division of a class into two mutually exclusive subclassesthe dichotomy of married and single people
  3. botany a simple method of branching by repeated division into two equal parts
  4. the phase of the moon, Venus, or Mercury when half of the disc is visible
Derived Formsdichotomous or dichotomic (ˌdaɪkəʊˈtɒmɪk), adjectivedichotomously, adverb

Word Origin for dichotomy

C17: from Greek dichotomia; see dicho-, -tomy


Dichotomy should always refer to a division of some kind into two groups. It is sometimes used to refer to a puzzling situation which seems to involve a contradiction, but this use is generally thought to be incorrect
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for dichotomies



c.1600, from Greek dichotomia "a cutting in half," from dicha "in two, asunder" (related to dis "twice") + temnein "to cut" (see tome).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper