[ trahy-fur-keyt, trahy-fer-keyt; adjective also trahy-fur-kit, trahy-fer- ]
/ tra瑟藞f蓽r ke瑟t, 藞tra瑟 f蓹r藢ke瑟t; adjective also tra瑟藞f蓽r k瑟t, 藞tra瑟 f蓹r- /
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verb (used without object), tri路fur路cat路ed, tri路fur路cat路ing.
to divide into three forks or branches.
Also tri路fur路cat路ed. divided into three forks or branches.
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Origin of trifurcate

First recorded in 1650鈥60; see origin at tri-, furcate


tri路fur路ca路tion, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 漏 Random House, Inc. 2022


What does聽trifurcate mean?

Trifurcate means to divide or fork into three branches.

Things can trifurcate on their own or in an otherwise passive way, as in That鈥檚 where the river trifurcates into three branches, or they can be trifurcated by someone, as in We trifurcated the road into three lanes so more people could exit at once.聽

The word trifurcate can be used as an adjective meaning divided into three branches, but the adjective trifurcated is more commonly used in this way. The word trifurcation refers to the act of trifurcating or something that is trifurcated. These terms are most often used in technical and scientific contexts, such as engineering and medicine.

The related and more common word bifurcate means to divide or fork into two branches.

Example: The hiking trail trifurcates after about four miles, so make sure you go down the middle path and not the ones on the right or left.

Where does聽trifurcate come from?

The first records of trifurcate come from the mid-1600s. It comes from the Latin trifurcus, from the prefix tri-, meaning 鈥渢hree,鈥 and furc(a), meaning 鈥渇ork鈥 (as in a fork in the road or a river).

When a road or a river splits into two, you鈥檇 say it forks, or even bifurcates. Saying it forks can indicate that it splits into multiple channels, but if you want to specifically say that it splits into three, you can say it trifurcates. Trifurcate is used in many contexts in which structures are discussed in technical or scientific terms. Trifurcations can be found throughout nature, including parts of the human body that fork into three different channels, such as some arteries of the heart.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to trifurcate?

  • trifurcated (past tense verb, adjective)
  • trifurcation (noun)

What are some words that share a root or word element with trifurcate?聽

What are some words that often get used in discussing trifurcate?

How is聽trifurcate used in real life?

Trifurcate is often used in technical contexts, but it can be applied in any situation in which something is being split into three parts.



Try using聽trifurcate!

Which of the following things is likely to trifurcate?

A. a tree limb
B. an artery
C. a river
D. all of the above

How to use trifurcate in a sentence

  • There are two dorsal fins, slightly connected; the caudal fin is double concave or trifurcate.

    Bass, Pike, Perch, and Others|James Alexander Henshall

British Dictionary definitions for trifurcate



/ (藞tra瑟f蓽藧k瑟t, -藢ke瑟t) /

having three branches or forks

Derived forms of trifurcate

trifurcation, noun

Word Origin for trifurcate

from Latin trifurcus, from tri- + furca a fork
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition 漏 William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 漏 HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012