Definition of dichotomy in US English:



  • 1usually in singular A division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different.

    ‘a rigid dichotomy between science and mysticism’
    • ‘The discussion focused not on game design, but on the dichotomies between the technical and the artistic sides of the industry.’
    • ‘I believe such dichotomies are misleading and unrealistic.’
    • ‘One of the fundamental dichotomies in classical physics was that between energy and matter.’
    • ‘The dichotomies are multiple, and the perspectives on this dispute are diverse as well.’
    • ‘The old dichotomies of liberal-conservative, internationalist-isolationist, dove-hawk are breaking apart.’
    • ‘All the dichotomies and polarities can be dissolved and forgiven in that blessed moment of utter peace and tranquility.’
    • ‘The dichotomies upon which this film is based sometimes seem to be treated too simply.’
    • ‘These writers interpret bits of disconnected data to reassert the old dichotomies of men versus women, of biology versus culture.’
    • ‘Yet dichotomies remain: urban and rural, traditional and modern, communist and capitalist.’
    • ‘The old dichotomies between current and non-current, custody and non-custody, and even records and archives may be distinct relics of the past.’
    • ‘The old dichotomies begin to collapse as artists emphasize their sense of symbiosis with, rather than detachment from, Nature.’
    • ‘At first, the dichotomies of work and play, games and play, adult leisure and children's play, and sport and play served to define play by what it was not.’
    • ‘Far from it, the great majority of scientists and philosophers are still stuck in the conceptual dichotomies that were appropriate to an earlier stage of science.’
    • ‘One of the problems with the spurious dichotomies posed between nature and nurture, or genes and environment, is that they don't help us understand the process of development.’
    • ‘No doubt Vermeer owed a particular debt to Delft, but it is the great dichotomies of Dutch art generally that nourished his genius.’
    • ‘As dichotomies go, there's a pretty huge one between the jargon of media studies theory and the language actually spoken in the modern newsroom.’
    • ‘But such simple dichotomies incorrectly assume there are easy distinctions to be made between the virtual and the actual, subject and object, or human and machine.’
    • ‘Sheetal is a first generation Indian-American who captures perfectly the dichotomies of growing up Indian in America with her three dimensional portrayals of real women.’
    • ‘He railed against the creation of artificial dichotomies, such as head versus heart, reason versus irrationality.’
    • ‘This argued that a new kind of conflict had emerged, requiring a new kind of strategy ignoring the traditional dichotomies between civil and military, peace and war.’
    division, separation, divorce, split, gulf, chasm
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Botany Repeated branching into two equal parts.
      • ‘At each dichotomy, the presumed ancestral genome size was indicated.’


Late 16th century: via modern Latin from Greek dikhotomia, from dikho- ‘in two, apart’ + -tomia (see -tomy).