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 Obama administration attempted to negotiate a more limited agreement with China, a bilateral investment treaty, but could not finalize the deal before Mr. Trump took office. Ana Swanson And Jim Tankersley, New York Times, "Trump Trade Officials Will Present a Hard Line in China, but Internally They Are Divided," 2 May 2018 Previously, the White House had already said that a handshake or a bilateral meeting with Castro was off the table. Jim Wyss, Nora Gamez Torres And Jacqueline Charles, miamiherald, "Trump skips summit in 'shocking abandonment' of Latin America leadership, analysts say," 10 Apr. 2018 The downgrade, which designated the EU as an international organization from its previous rank as a bilateral mission equivalent to a nation state, was, EU officials say, never formally announced by Washington. Laurence Norman, WSJ, "U.S. Offers EU Olive Branch Restoring Embassy’s Status," 4 Mar. 2019 The tariffs have already prompted the Chinese to impose tariffs of their own, and if China continues its retaliation effort, the bilateral drug-control efforts could be the next leverage point, experts say. Matthew Garcia, USA TODAY, "What a U.S.-China trade war could mean for opioid epidemic," 6 July 2018 In a recent interview, Mulroney credited Bush with two major accomplishments: the North American Free Trade Agreement and the 1991 bilateral acid-rain treaty. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Why Brian Mulroney, Former Canadian Prime Minister, Will Speak at George H.W. Bush's Funeral," 4 Dec. 2018 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has held a flurry of bilateral meetings at the United Nations this week and has loudly defended Russia's strategies in meetings at the Security Council. Fox News, "The Latest: South Sudan urges support for peace effort," 28 Sep. 2018 The Chinese proposals start with an offer to buy large amounts of soybeans and other crops as well as natural gas, thereby reducing the bilateral U.S. trade deficit. Martin Feldstein, WSJ, "Tariffs Should Target Chinese Lawlessness, Not the Trade Deficit," 27 Dec. 2018 Trump is obsessed, broadly speaking, with the idea that the bilateral US-China trade deficit represents a financial loss to the American people. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "A Wall Street Journal interview on trade shows Trump has no idea what he’s doing," 27 Nov. 2018

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

30 Mar 2019

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Time Traveler for bilateral

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 -ties
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

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


to affect and impair by alcohol or a drug

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