bi·​en·​ni·​al | \ (ˌ)bī-ˈe-nē-əl How to pronounce biennial (audio) \

Definition of biennial

1 : occurring every two years a biennial celebration
2 : continuing or lasting for two years specifically, of a plant : growing vegetatively during the first year and fruiting and dying during the second Biennial herbs flower in their second year.

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Other Words from biennial

biennial noun
biennially \ (ˌ)bī-​ˈe-​nē-​ə-​lē How to pronounce biennially (audio) \ adverb

What do bimonthly and biweekly mean?: Usage Guide

Many people are puzzled about bimonthly and biweekly, which are often ambiguous because they are formed from two different senses of bi-: "occurring every two" and "occurring two times." This ambiguity has been in existence for nearly a century and a half and cannot be eliminated by the dictionary. The chief difficulty is that many users of these words assume that others know exactly what they mean, and they do not bother to make their context clear. So if you need bimonthly or biweekly, you should leave some clues in your context to the sense of bi- you mean. And if you need the meaning "twice a," you can substitute semi- for bi-. Biannual and biennial are usually differentiated.

Did You Know?

Biennial conventions, celebrations, competitions, and sports events come every two years. Biennials are plants that live two years, bearing flowers and fruit only in the second year. (Carrots and sugar beets are two examples; since we're only interested in their roots, we don't wait another year to see their flower and fruit.) In contrast, semiannual means "twice a year". But no one can agree whether biweekly means "twice a week" or "every two weeks", and whether bimonthly means "twice a month" or "every two months". Maybe we should stop using both of them until we can decide.

Examples of biennial in a Sentence

The governor explained the biennial budget proposal.

Recent Examples on the Web

Kanders, who denies being complicit in the decision to use tear gas, is front and center in the biennial. Kriston Capps, Washington Post, "A museum canceled its Robert Mapplethorpe show — and decades later, it’s finally trying to make amends," 12 June 2019 On a trip to Senegal in 1992 to participate in the Dakar biennial, Mr. Overstreet visited Gorée Island, once the final departure point for African slaves being shipped to the Americas. New York Times, "Joe Overstreet, Painter and Activist, Is Dead at 85," 10 June 2019 The biennial cost would be roughly $120 million at full implementation. Hillary Borrud | The Oregonian/oregonlive,, "Oregon lawmakers want to expand tax credit for low-wage workers, families," 8 June 2019 But progress in Wisconsin could be slowing in recent years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Eric Litke, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Kids in Crisis: Bullying is everywhere, but data on it isn't. Could tracking help?," 16 May 2019 This past weekend Quarles, whose molten figurative paintings were included in the Hammer Museum’s biennial last year and group exhibits at the New Museum the year prior, opened a solo show at major L.A. gallery Regen Projects. Vogue, "What Do Brad Pitt and This Genderless Denim Brand Have in Common?," 10 Apr. 2019 Loftis said the Patrol has flexibility in its $691 million biennial budget. Jim Brunner, The Seattle Times, "Washington State Patrol is expanding Gov. Jay Inslee’s security unit amid presidential bid — at a cost of $4 million," 25 Mar. 2019 Still, Qasimi says her initial inquiries about the biennial were fueled only by interest. Adam Rathe, Town & Country, "How a Sheika From the UAE Turned Dubai's Unassuming Neighbor Into an Art World Destination," 26 Mar. 2019 The home dedications, in honor of two of the sorority’s former international presidents, kicked off the sorority’s biennial conference being hosted in Houston July 6-12 at the George R. Brown Convention Center and several city hotels. Elizabeth Myong, Houston Chronicle, "AKA sorority sisters serve the Houston community," 7 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'biennial.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of biennial

1562, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for biennial

Last Updated

16 Jun 2019

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The first known use of biennial was in 1562

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English Language Learners Definition of biennial

: happening every two years
of a plant : living for only two years or seasons : having a life cycle that is two years or seasons long


bi·​en·​ni·​al | \ bī-ˈe-nē-əl How to pronounce biennial (audio) \

Kids Definition of biennial

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : occurring every two years a biennial celebration
2 : growing stalks and leaves one year and flowers and fruit the next before dying

Other Words from biennial

biennially \ -​ē-​ə-​lē \ adverb



Kids Definition of biennial (Entry 2 of 2)

: a biennial plant

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More from Merriam-Webster on biennial

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with biennial

Spanish Central: Translation of biennial

Nglish: Translation of biennial for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about biennial

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