Etymology: Late Latin, from Late Greek dilēmmat-, dilēmma, probably back-formation from Greek dilēmmatos involving two assumptions, from di- + lēmmat-, lēmma assumption — more at lemma
1. an argument presenting two or more equally conclusive alternatives against an opponent
a. a usually undesirable or unpleasant choice <
b. a situation involving such a choice <; broadly predicament <lords and bailiffs were in a terrible dilemma — G. M. Trevelyan> 3. a. a problem involving a difficult choice <the dilemma of “liberty versus order” — J. M. Burns> b. a difficult or persistent problem < • dilemmatic adjective Usage: Although some commentators insist that dilemma be restricted to instances in which the alternatives to be chosen are equally unsatisfactory, their concern is misplaced; the unsatisfactoriness of the options is usually a matter of how the author presents them. What is distressing or painful about a dilemma is having to make a choice one does not want to make. The use of such adjectives as terrible, painful, and irreconcilable suggests that dilemma is losing some of its unpleasant force. There also seems to be a tendency especially in sense 3b toward applying the word to less weighty problems <solved their goaltending dilemma — Pat Calabria>.
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.