Noun for the event of something splitting in two directions



I know there's a perfect word for this, but I just can't seem to recall it.

I know about split, but I'm thinking of something more eloquent.

For example:

After the split of Western philosophy into these major directions, new thinkers began to emerge.

For another example, consider this sentence from this question:

What is the historical/etymological explanation for this split in names?

Revetahw says Reinstate Monica

Posted 2016-08-24T09:12:02.880

Reputation: 1 346

1My first thought was "watershed" but from a quick dictionary check I appear to have mistaken the correct usage of that word. – Wildcard – 2016-08-24T22:21:15.877

1Lolx! The first word that springs to mind is cleavage ;-) – Mawg says reinstate Monica – 2016-08-25T07:57:04.377

@Mawg I'm gonna take a wild guess and say you're a male? – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-25T08:04:22.660

If you are talking about something splitting in two directions, then your first example is not good because it talks about splitting in an unspecified number of directions. This is not nitpicking, because some answers, like bifurcation, are only valid for splitting in two. So I think you should clarify whether you want a word that only works for splitting in exactly two parts, or a word that works for any number of parts. – SantiBailors – 2016-08-25T11:04:48.320

@SantiBailors I did mean two, but I don't want to invalidate the current answers. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-25T11:07:12.690

@Fiksdal I understand that instead of saying "you are a male" we are supposed to say "you are attracted to women"... – SantiBailors – 2016-08-25T11:08:37.923

1@SantiBailors In order not to discriminate against gay/bi people, you mean? Well, yeah, I could have increased my odds by including lesbian/bi females in my wild guess. But somehow I feel the sentence would have been less elegant. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-25T11:10:59.463



The first word that comes to mind is schism.

According to the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language


  1. A separation or division into factions: "[He] found it increasingly difficult to maintain party unity in the face of ideological schism over civil rights" (Nick Kotz).

Obviously, there are many synonyms listed in the dictionaries that can be used.

Lucian Sava

Posted 2016-08-24T09:12:02.880

Reputation: 11 342

Good word, however I think it is used in cases of extreme division among the parties. It doesn't sound right for the second example. But probably there isn't a word that fits both. – algiogia – 2016-08-26T16:11:59.497


As I was typing this question, I suddenly remembered the word divergence.

The situation in which two things become different.

Cambridge Dictionary

I'm posting this answer for peer review, since I'm not sure. Also, I'm interested in other options, too.

After the divergence of Western philosophy into these major directions, new thinkers began to emerge.

What is the historical/etymological explanation for this divergence in names?

Revetahw says Reinstate Monica

Posted 2016-08-24T09:12:02.880

Reputation: 1 346

1If you wanna go the extra mile, you can also use "divergency". – MorganFR – 2016-08-24T09:16:59.743

@MorganFR or simply "divide" – Marc Gravell – 2016-08-24T12:40:17.740

1Diverge is a good choice. – EllieK – 2016-08-24T13:42:12.827

Note that split usually implies separation into discrete streams, while divergence can mean separation into a continuous range. – Chris Petheram – 2016-08-24T13:51:58.750

1@ChrisPetheram Interesting, could you elaborate? – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-24T13:53:54.510

1Never used or seen divergency used. – Alan Carmack – 2016-08-24T23:54:40.693

This, unlike most of the other suggestions, doesn't rule out the possibility that the resulting parts could get back together again, or converge. So if the split isn't definitely permanent, this would be a very good choice, with a useful distinction. – barbara beeton – 2016-08-25T12:37:56.300

1@Fiksdal Diverge really just means to spread out. If you think about light or liquid you could get some quantity going in every direction between the two extremes. A split would more likely be in a solid, and suggests there is a clear gap of no material in between two or more parts. In your example, different philosophers might have subtly different opinions on a range of issues. A philosophical split would be more dogmatic, and would suggest two distinct schools of thought, with little or no room for compromise on most key issues. – Chris Petheram – 2016-08-25T15:07:56.443



the division of something into two branches or parts.

After the bifurcation of Western philosophy into these major directions, new thinkers began to emerge.

What is the historical/etymological explanation for this bifurcation in names?

Dean MacGregor

Posted 2016-08-24T09:12:02.880

Reputation: 275

+1 I clicked on the link to suggest bifurcation, but after reading the examples, I think I've only ever heard "bifurcation" used within science / math. Does it get used more generally? – Mike Ounsworth – 2016-08-25T18:12:25.867


@MikeOunsworth It's certainly not a word in everyday speech just as few other 11 letter words are. That being said it's used more than schism but not as much as divergence.

– Dean MacGregor – 2016-08-25T18:57:23.563


For the first example, you might be interested in:

  1. division
    : the act or process of dividing something into parts : the way that something is divided
    • After the division of Western philosophy into these major directions, new thinkers began to emerge.
  2. branch
    : to divide into smaller parts : to separate into branches
    • After the branching of Western philosophy into these major directions, new thinkers began to emerge.
    • After Western philosophy branched into these major directions, new thinkers began to emerge.
  3. separation
    : the act or process of separating : the state of being separated
    • After the separation of Western philosophy into these major directions, new thinkers began to emerge.

Similar for the second example.


Posted 2016-08-24T09:12:02.880

Reputation: 44 188

2Perhaps fork could be used as a synonym of branch, but I think branch is probably the better word most of the time. – J.R. – 2016-08-24T12:21:02.343


You could consider Fork


the point or part at which a thing, as a river or a road, divides into branches

Tom Bowen

Posted 2016-08-24T09:12:02.880

Reputation: 249

This certainly works for "Noun for the event of something splitting in two directions", but I'm not convinced it really fits in either of the OP's example sentences. – AndyT – 2016-08-26T09:34:55.953

It definitely works as a verb too, at least in UK English. – Tom Bowen – 2016-08-26T10:07:08.740

Agreed. I was more suggesting that it works better for "the road forks ahead" than "the Democratic Party forked into the Liberal Democrats and the Social Democrats". (Note: not supposed to be based on real political parties). – AndyT – 2016-08-26T10:46:36.753


The first word which came to my mind is fission. It's perhaps most commonly used in the context of nuclear physics, but it doesn't need to be restricted to that context. It could go directly into your first example sentence:

After the fission of Western philosophy into these major directions, new thinkers began to emerge.

Looking through Google Books, I get the impression that it's a moderately popular word in the social sciences. E.g. in Encounters and Transformations: The Archaeology of Iberia in Transition we find sentences like

... incipient complexity led more often to social fragmentation or fission than to pristine state formation. I argue that too little attention has been devoted to fragmentation and fission and that more sophisticated models be developed to account for these alternate trajectories of social evolution.

Google Books also turned up the word in a number of titles or subtitles, often in opposition to fusion, as in the white paper Fission Or Fusion: What Kind of Commercial Culture Will Emerge in Southeast Asia?, but not always. An example without fusion is the book Household Strategies for Survival 1600-2000: Fission, Faction and Cooperation.

The British National Corpus turns up a couple of nice examples in natural science literature. From The Pacific by Simon Winchester:

The slow fission of Gondwanaland produced two oceans -- the Indian, where Africa, India and Antarctica were hauled away from each other; and the southern portion of the Atlantic, where South America and its clearly closely-fitting neighbour Africa (which possessed an uncanny coastal match first noted by Francis Bacon) sprang apart.

And from Exploring the night sky with binoculars, by the legendary Patrick Moore:

It used to be thought that a binary [star] resulted from the fission or breaking-up of a formerly single star which was spinning rapidly, and became unstable.

Peter Taylor

Posted 2016-08-24T09:12:02.880

Reputation: 188

3I think this is an interesting contribution - would you show how you might use it in the context of the question with an example sentence? – ColleenV – 2016-08-24T15:11:07.760


  1. Bifurcation
    Meaning : to branch out in two
    For example: The path bifurcated on reaching the forest.

  2. Ramification
    Meaning : diverging branches or consequences
    For example: The army killed all the terrorists and all the related ramifications.

  3. Fissuring
    Meaning: branching , splitting
    For example: The heavy earthquake created apparent fissures on the playground.


Posted 2016-08-24T09:12:02.880

Reputation: 109

3Hi, welcome to ELL! Almost all of your words have already been suggested by others. It's not considered constructive here to repeat words already suggested by other users. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-24T14:03:44.270

2@Fiksdal it's not the repetition so much as the lack of explanation. Answers without explanation aren't that helpful to learners. I think this answer could be saved with a little editing to include what the word means (beyond just a dictionary definition) and some explanation of how to use each in a sentence. I don't think we should delete it without giving the author a chance to fix it up. A down-vote would be more appropriate here. – ColleenV – 2016-08-24T15:10:04.377

@ColleenV Agreed. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-24T15:11:08.093

Thanks for making those edits - I think it's a big improvement. I'm not certain about your example sentence for #2. The most common usage of "ramifications" is as something similar to "consequences", for example, "I hadn't considered all of the ramifications of my actions." You may want to just use "ramification" like in this sentence from the YourDictionary site: In its lowest parts this plain barely keeps above sea-level, but it rises gradually towards the interior, terminating in a ramification of valleys.

– ColleenV – 2016-08-24T23:47:32.140


If one can overlook the second meaning in the Oxford Dictionary, the first definition of cleavage is A sharp division; a split

After the cleavage of Western philosophy into these major directions, new thinkers began to emerge.

What is the historical/etymological explanation for this cleavage in names?

Here are some other examples from the Oxford Dictionary:

There was not this sharp consciousness of the cleavages and different realities in our social existence long ago as that which is so evident today.

To existing social splits were added inter-working class cleavages which were all too apparent by November 1916.

It is a function of that same openness that no sharp cleavages can be sighted between the traditional and the modern in India.


Posted 2016-08-24T09:12:02.880

Reputation: 43 538


+1. However, unfortunately, the way the English language is these days, that's a very big "if". Just ask the rooster, the kitten, the donkey, the female dog, these birds (in plural) what happened to their names :)

– Revetahw says Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-27T15:04:15.803

Agreed, @Fiksdal: I had to look in a couple of dictionaries before I found one with the formal meaning first. – JavaLatte – 2016-08-27T15:16:23.257

Yup, words change :) – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-27T15:18:22.153


Perhaps a couple less literal but more literary options would be the nouns "cleft" and "rift." Verbs would be "to cleave" and "to rive."

The issue created a rift in the party.

The setting sun shone through a cleft in the ridgeline.

Charlie Tango

Posted 2016-08-24T09:12:02.880

Reputation: 1

2Welcome to ELL! The example sentences are really helpful, and I think if you included a definition for cleft and rift to help explain the nuances your answer would be even better. – ColleenV – 2016-08-24T13:49:29.670