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 bilateralism (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

The ministry said Monday that Vice Minister Cho Sei-young told the ambassador, Yasumasa Nakamine, that the controls could hurt South Korea’s industry and bilateral relations between the countries. Washington Post, "The Latest: SKorea summons Japanese envoy over export curbs," 1 July 2019 The defections by the two fishermen come at a delicate time in bilateral relations between the Koreas., "Pair of North Korean fishermen defect to South Korea," 18 June 2019 While in North Korea, Mr. Xi will meet Mr. Kim to discuss bilateral relations, as well as efforts to resolve tensions on the Korean Peninsula, state broadcaster China Central Television reported in its Monday evening newscast. Philip Wen, WSJ, "China’s President Xi Jinping to Make First State Visit to North Korea," 17 June 2019 But the sinking of the Filipino boat, FB Gimber1, which came after a swarm of hundreds of Chinese vessels blocked Filipino fishermen from reaching their traditional fishing grounds earlier this year, has thrown bilateral relations off balance. Jason Gutierrez, New York Times, "Sinking of Philippine Boat Puts South China Sea Back at Issue," 13 June 2019 In 2014, former President Barak Obama took steps to normalize bilateral relations with Cuba, including restoring full diplomatic ties and easing travel restrictions. NBC News, "Cuba travel restrictions leave some American travelers in limbo," 8 June 2019 When those other leaders went to Normandy for ceremonies on D-Day itself on Thursday, Merkel was back in Berlin, holding a regular meeting with governors and discussing bilateral relations with the prime minister of Kosovo. Kirsten Grieshaber And David Rising,, "From loss to liberation: How Germans view celebrations of Allied victory over their Nazi ancestors," 6 June 2019 On the agenda will be bilateral relations between the two countries and, probably, Brexit. Adam Rasmi, Quartz, "Trump will steer clear of the protests awaiting him in Ireland," 5 June 2019 One result is the subversion of American strategic interests through bilateral deals that favor the financial interests of their ruling elites. Daniel Benjamin, The New York Review of Books, "Reckless in Riyadh," 30 May 2019

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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Statistics for bilateral

Last Updated

6 Jul 2019

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The first known use of bilateral was in 1751

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

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