Blog/Grammar tips
3 November 2023
3 min read

Decoding the Dilemma vs. Dilemna Spelling Dilemma

In the world of language and communication, two words often cause confusion due to their strikingly similar appearance but entirely different meanings. The terms in question are "dilemma" and "dilemna." This article aims to unravel the mystery behind these two words, exploring their meanings, origins, and the common spelling dilemma that many encounter.

Dilemma vs. Dilemna: Spelling Confusion

The confusion between "dilemma" and "dilemna" arises primarily from their similar spellings. However, it's important to note that one of these words is correct, while the other is a common misspelling that has somehow gained traction.

Dilemma: Understanding the Word

Let's begin with the correct term, "dilemma." A dilemma refers to a situation where a difficult choice must be made between two or more alternatives, each of which has both positive and negative aspects. It's a scenario where you're stuck between a rock and a hard place, and making a decision isn't straightforward.

The word "dilemma" has its roots in the Greek language, with "di" meaning "two" and "lemma" meaning "premise" or "assumption." Therefore, a dilemma presents two opposing premises or options. For example, choosing between a high-paying job with long hours and a low-paying job with more free time can be a dilemma.

Dilemna: A Common Mistake

Now, let's turn our attention to "dilemna." The word "dilemna" is not correct. It is a spelling mistake that has persisted over time. Many people mistakenly believe that "dilemna" is an acceptable variation of "dilemma." However, this is not the case.

The reason behind this common mistake is not entirely clear, but it may be due to the silent "n" sound that appears to be present in the pronunciation of "dilemma." In reality, the word is pronounced as "di-lem-a," with no "n" sound.

Real-world instances of this spelling mistake can be found in various texts and publications, including signs, advertisements, and even official documents. The persistence of this error highlights the importance of understanding the difference between the correct and incorrect spellings.

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The Correct Spelling: Dilemma

To avoid falling into the "dilemna" trap, it's crucial to use the correct spelling, which is "dilemma." Here are some guidelines for using it correctly:

  • Always remember that "dilemma" has two "m's" and only one "n."
  • Use it when describing situations that involve tough decisions or choices.
  • Examples of correct usage: "She faced a moral dilemma," or "I am in a dilemma about which car to buy."

Remembering the Difference

If you find yourself struggling to remember the correct spelling, there are several memory aids that can help you distinguish between "dilemma" and "dilemna."

  • Mnemonic devices: Create a mnemonic sentence like "Dilemma makes many anxious" to reinforce the correct spelling.
  • Visual imagery: Imagine two "m's" and one "n" in "dilemma" to visualize the correct spelling.
  • Practice: Repeatedly write and use the word "dilemma" to reinforce the correct spelling in your memory.

Importance of Correct Spelling

Understanding the correct spelling and usage of words like "dilemma" is not just about grammar pedantry; it's crucial for effective communication and professionalism. Misspelling common words can leave a negative impression on others, especially in written documents or job applications.

Dilemma in Real Life

Dilemmas are not limited to the realm of language; they occur frequently in real-life situations. Ethical dilemmas, for example, involve making decisions that balance moral values, often presenting no easy answers. In the workplace, employees and managers often face dilemmas when making decisions that affect the company's future.

The incorrect spelling "dilemna" has also found its way into popular culture, becoming a source of humor and memes. While it may not be intended as such, the misspelled word has garnered attention online.

The Dilemna Debacle

The internet is no stranger to linguistic debates and controversies. The "dilemna" vs. "dilemma" debate has sparked discussions on social media platforms, with users sharing their experiences and opinions. Memes and jokes about the misspelling have proliferated, adding a layer of humor to the situation.

Language Evolution and Changes

Languages evolve over time, and linguistic changes are natural. However, not all changes are readily accepted. Spelling errors like "dilemna" challenge conventional norms and create debates within the linguistic community.

Understanding the evolution of language and the acceptance or rejection of changes can provide insight into why such spelling confusions persist.


In conclusion, the difference between "dilemma" and "dilemna" may seem subtle, but it is significant. "Dilemma" is the correct spelling, representing a situation of difficult choices, while "dilemna" is a common but incorrect variant. Proper spelling is crucial for effective communication, and understanding these nuances can help you avoid unnecessary mistakes.

Remember, a dilemma may make you think twice, but there's no "n" in it. So, the next time you encounter this word, you'll know exactly how to spell it correctly.

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