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What are the differences between the verbs: bifurcated, divided, split and branched?

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Bifurcation and split are verbs that depicts the division of something into two distinctive parts or sections. For example :

It was a prolonged debate on an issue that caused the bifurcation of the party.

'Bi' means two, so it simply means that the party was divided into 2 groups as a result of the debate.

The Earth rumbled and split as soon as he stood up.

Ignoring the dramatic statement I just made up, this means that the Earth had a crack that ran through it, dividing it into two (hypothetically).

In the other hand, branched and divided means a separation, where one real or virtual object separates into various parts or sections. This needn't be restricted to two parts.

The river branched off at the valley into 8 smaller streams.

This means that the river has branched (divided) into many smaller water bodies (here, 8).

The assets were divided among all the relatives.

The assets were partitioned and divided to all those who deserve it.

All the four words shows a breaking or partitioning of something that used to be one, into 2 or more parts or sections. Bifurcation and split restrict the partitioning into 2, in most cases, into two equal parts, where as divide and branch can be partitioning of a thing into many parts. But keep in mind that in most sentences, they are not interchangeable. For example, you cannot say :

Mr and Mrs Smith branched off last December.

The perfect word would be 'split up'.

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