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

Keep scrolling for more

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 But the $3 billion cut to global health programs includes direct, bilateral assistance. Conor Finnegan, ABC News, "Trump budget proposes cuts to global health amid two global health crises," 12 Feb. 2020 But observers say the result would be deep reductions in U.S. support for multilateral and bilateral partnerships on the environment, renewable energy, adaptation, sustainable landscapes, forestry and other issues. Thomas Frank, Scientific American, "Climate Change Once Again Left Out of Trump’s Federal Budget," 11 Feb. 2020 The expression of interest was signed in Athens in November during a visit by China's President Xi Jinping, along with another 15 bilateral agreements, focusing on sectors such as transport and tourism. Stelios Bouras, Fortune, "Greece turns to China to connect its far-flung islands to the electric grid, leaving Brussels in the dark," 25 Jan. 2020 Biden’s stated platform pledges to make any bilateral U.S.-China climate agreement contingent on their cutting fossil fuel subsidies and lowering the carbon footprint of Belt and Road projects. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, "Is Joe Biden a Climate Radical Now?," 18 Jan. 2020 The Israeli government initially praised the attack on Soleimani, but then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled a desire to keep Israel out of this bilateral conflict. Abbas Milani, The New York Review of Books, "The Minimal Value of Trump’s ‘Maximum Pressure’ on Iran," 8 Jan. 2020 Amid tense bilateral relations, the Kremlin has indicated Putin will not be attending the ceremonies in Poland. Monika Scislowska,, "Polish president boycotts Holocaust remembrance in Israel," 7 Jan. 2020 Limited to just 411 minutes over 27 games last season due to bilateral heel bursitis in his right foot, DiVincenzo has blossomed into a critical rotation player and part-time starter this season, logging 741 minutes in 33 games. Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Bucks 127, Spurs 118: Giannis and Brook Lopez took over and then everyone got involved," 4 Jan. 2020 Despite President Trump’s promises to quickly negotiate a number of bilateral trade agreements, progress on such deals has been slow. Clark Packard, National Review, "The USMCA Should Be the First Step to Broader Trade Liberalization," 11 Dec. 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.

See More

First Known Use of bilateral

1751, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about bilateral

Time Traveler for bilateral

Time Traveler

The first known use of bilateral was in 1751

See more words from the same year

Statistics for bilateral

Last Updated

16 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Bilateral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for bilateral


How to pronounce bilateral (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on bilateral

What made you want to look up bilateral? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!