bi·​lat·​er·​al | \ (ˌ)bī-ˈla-t(ə-)rəl How to pronounce bilateral (audio) \

Definition of bilateral

1 : affecting reciprocally two nations or parties a bilateral treaty a bilateral trade agreement
2 : having two sides dealing with a bilateral problem
3 biology
a : of, relating to, or affecting the right and left sides of the body or the right and left members of paired organs bilateral nephrectomy
b : having bilateral symmetry

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Other Words from bilateral

bilateralism \ (ˌ)bī-​ˈla-​t(ə-​)rə-​ˌli-​zəm How to pronounce bilateral (audio) \ noun
bilaterally adverb

Did You Know?

Since the prefix bi- means "two" in Latin, bilateral means essentially "two-sided". In the days when there were two superpowers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union regularly engaged in bilateral arms negotiations; such negotiations are much less common today. Sometimes bilateral refers to two sides of the same thing. A bilateral hip replacement, for instance, replaces both hip bones in the same operation. And bilateral symmetry (a term often used by biologists) refers to the fact that, in many organisms (such as humans), the left side is basically the mirror image of the right side.

Examples of bilateral in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Chinese leaders have often tried to utilize ties with U.S. business leaders to improve U.S.-China relations, and have repeatedly stressed the role of commerce as a stabilizer in bilateral ties. Fortune, "China President Xi Jinping is trying to recruit a new U.S. liaison: Starbucks," 14 Jan. 2021 During several years of acrimonious Brexit talks, many feared that a failure of the EU and the U.K. to reach a deal on their future relations could poison bilateral ties, even threatening the U.K. Laurence Norman, WSJ, "France and Germany Retake Reins as Britain Leaves EU’s Economic Orbit," 27 Dec. 2020 China has accused Australia of souring bilateral ties by interfering in its internal affairs, including criticism of Hong Kong’s national security legislation and the internment of Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic group living in Xinjiang. Jason Scott,, "Australia Demands China Apology for ‘Repugnant’ Afghan Tweet," 30 Nov. 2020 Under the new government, the Maldives has increasingly looked to India, with Delhi equally eager to repair bilateral ties. Nectar Gan, CNN, "A tale of two bridges: India and China vying for influence in the Maldives," 24 Nov. 2020 Conservative leaders who emphasize the importance of the US alliance had often pointed to Mr. Paik as a personification of the bilateral ties forged during the war. Choe Sang-hun,, "Paik Sun-yup, major South Korean war hero, dies at 99," 12 July 2020 Worsening bilateral relations since Australia called for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic are suspected to be the cause of Cheng's arrest. Rod Mcguirk, Star Tribune, "Chinese-Australian reporter accused of spreading secrets," 8 Feb. 2021 Lopez Obrador also said combating the coronavirus pandemic and the economic recovery were key areas for the bilateral relationship, saying U.S. stimulus could eventually help Mexico. Vernon Jones, Fox News, "Mexico calls on Biden to fix immigration status of Mexican nationals," 21 Jan. 2021 The United States and China have the single most significant bilateral relationship in the world. John Mcwhorter, Washington Post, "Biden Should ...," 15 Jan. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bilateral.' 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 bilateral

1751, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for bilateral

Time Traveler

The first known use of bilateral was in 1751

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Last Updated

2 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Bilateral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for bilateral



English Language Learners Definition of bilateral

: involving two groups or countries


bi·​lat·​er·​al | \ (ˈ)bī-ˈlat-ə-rəl, -ˈla-trəl How to pronounce bilateral (audio) \

Medical Definition of bilateral

1 : of, relating to, or affecting the right and left sides of the body or the right and left members of paired organs bilateral nephrectomy bilateral tumors of the adrenal glands
2 : having bilateral symmetry

Other Words from bilateral

bilateralism \ -​ˌiz-​əm How to pronounce bilateral (audio) \ noun
bilaterality \ (ˈ)bī-​ˌlat-​ə-​ˈral-​ət-​ē, -​ˌla-​ˈtral-​ How to pronounce bilateral (audio) \ noun, plural bilateralities
bilaterally \ (ˈ)bī-​ˈlat-​ə-​rə-​lē, -​ˈla-​trə-​lē How to pronounce bilateral (audio) \ adverb


bi·​lat·​er·​al | \ ˌbī-ˈla-tə-rəl How to pronounce bilateral (audio) \

Legal Definition of bilateral

: affecting, obligating, or shared by both parties

Other Words from bilateral

bilaterally \ -​rə-​lē \ adverb

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