Is It "Dilemma" or "Dilemna"?

Mignon Fogarty,
March 24, 2011

Is It

Last week, Heidi Stevens from the Chicago Tribune reminded me of a problem I encountered a while ago: many people were taught to spell "dilemma" incorrectly.<>

I was taught the wrong spelling in school, and when I got older and checked a dictionary, I was shocked to find that the word is spelled "dilemma." Further, the only correct spelling is "dilemma." It's not as if "dilemna" is a substandard variant or regional spelling. Dictionaries often note alternative spellings and sometimes even nonstandard spellings, but "dilemna" doesn't even show up that way.<>

"Dilemma" comes from Greek. "Di" means "two or twice," and "lemma" means "assumption or premise." A dilemma is a choice between two undesirable options.<>

A Google search shows that many people all over the world were taught the "dilemna" spelling, and as far as I can tell, nobody knows why. Michael Quinion goes through some interesting history on his  World Wide Words website, but he can't explain the widespread error either.<>



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