The word dilemma refers to any problem with two possible solutions, neither of which is acceptable. Catch-22, moral dilemmas, between a rock and a hard place, Sophie’s choice, chicken and egg problems are all types of dilemmas.

But the question here is whether “dilemma” is the right spelling.


Over the years, the alternate spelling dilemna has been used by many, even taught in school. Interestingly, in French, although dilemme is the correct spelling, a lot of people are sure that dilemne is appropriate. In both cases, the “N” is silent so the pronunciation is unchanged.

This is strange, because the Greek origin is very clear: δίλημμα is composed of di (double) and lemma (proposition). In French, it has been proposed that dilemne sounds more logical because it mirrors a common word, indemne. But there is no such explanation in English, and the origin of the wrong spelling is still a mystery. Are the French to blame? Maybe!

Two One Way roadsigns indicating opposite directions over blue sky - confusion concept

Finally, for those who are still convinced that dilemna is the correct spelling, here is even a website ( dedicated to this “errant spelling”, as it is called on Wikipedia!