bi·​na·​ry | \ ˈbī-nə-rē How to pronounce binary (audio) , -ˌner-ē How to pronounce binary (audio) , -ˌne-rē \
plural binaries

Definition of binary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : something made of two things or parts specifically : binary star
2 mathematics : a number system based only on the numerals 0 and 1 : a binary (see binary entry 2 sense 3a) number system 42 is written as 101010 in binary.
3 : a division into two groups or classes that are considered diametrically opposite Sam Killermann, a self-described "social justice comedian," is very serious about how far the complexities of identity go beyond the traditional binary of male or female.— Katy Steinmetz



Definition of binary (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : compounded or consisting of or marked by two things or parts
2 music
a : duple used of measure or rhythm
b : having two musical subjects or two complementary sections a song in binary form
3a mathematics : relating to, being, or belonging to a system of numbers having 2 as its base the binary digits 0 and 1
b : involving a choice or condition of two alternatives (such as on-off or yes-no)
4a chemistry : composed of two elements (see element sense 2e), an element and a radical (see radical entry 2 sense 4) that acts as an element, or two such radicals
b : utilizing two harmless ingredients that upon combining form a lethal substance (such as a gas) binary weapons
5 : relating two logical or mathematical elements a binary operation
6 : of or relating to the use of stable oppositions (such as good and evil) to analyze a subject or create a structural model the binary opposition of male and female— Joan W. Scott

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Synonyms & Antonyms for binary

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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The animals went in two by two, the elephant and the kangaroo. . .. It was a binary parade of sorts that went into Noah's ark "for to get out of the rain" - the critters were represented in pairs. If you recall those partnered beasts, you'll remember the etymology of binary, because it traces to the Latin bini, which translates as "two by two." Although "binary" can be used for anything with two parts, it is now used especially in relation to computers and information processing. Digital computers use the binary number system, which includes only the digits 0 and 1, to process even complex data. In binary form, for instance, the word HELLO looks like this: 1001000 1000101 1001100 1001100 1001111.

Examples of binary in a Sentence

Adjective a binary star is a system of two stars that revolve around each other under their mutual gravitation
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This time around, Packer dispenses with the red-blue binary. Martin Kuz, Los Angeles Times, 15 June 2021 The Big Five theory has been a staple of psychology since the 1980s, but the introvert-extrovert binary was first popularized in 1921 by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, who posited that the two groups have different primary life goals. Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic, 20 May 2021 Tracing exact parallels between discussions of gender in the early 1900s and contemporary ideas of gender outside of a binary is complex, in part because our concepts of gender and sexuality have morphed over time. Michael Waters, The Atlantic, 4 June 2021 As a co-founder of ThinkPlay Partners and as a Senior Editor for the Good Men Project, Greene has spent over a decade deconstructing our binary-riddled dialogues around manhood and masculinity. Kathy Caprino, Forbes, 24 May 2021 The Squad shares an all-encompassing woke mindset that collapses individuals and events into a reductive binary of oppressor and oppressed. Matthew Continetti, National Review, 22 May 2021 The world is slowly becoming more aware of the different ways individuals identify with regards to gender outside of the traditional male-female binary. Stacey Leasca, Travel + Leisure, 19 May 2021 And they must be treated in this way for the rest of the narrative to cohere and for the binary between liberty and tyranny to take shape. Kanishk Tharoor, The New Republic, 22 Feb. 2021 The binary between physical particulars and abstract universals that was set up by Locke’s philosophy of mind was therefore, in Coleridge’s eyes, a mutually reinforcing dialectic that led inevitably to the carnage of the French Revolution. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, 23 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective On May 19, Siegel walked off the show and threatened to quit after claiming station management told him to tone down his commentary on pop star Demi Lovato, who had come out as non-binary., 16 June 2021 In real life, Martin recently came out as non-binary. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 3 June 2021 For 28-year-old Sophie, a photographer based in London, the space to look at their life objectively without the need to be constantly ‘doing something’ enabled them to understand themselves as non-binary. Sadhbh O'sullivan,, 1 June 2021 Lovato came out as non-binary on the first episode of their podcast 4D with Demi Lovato. Tomás Mier,, 28 May 2021 Demi Lovato has come out as non-binary and is changing their pronouns to they/them, the singer announced in a heartfelt video post. Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY, 19 May 2021 The remainder of the respondents identified as gender non-binary or did not specify their gender. Erin Donaghue, CBS News, 7 May 2021 Laing is seeking a strategy to unravel our binary thinking about physicality: life or death, liberty or confinement, health or disease. David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times, 6 May 2021 Transgender and non-binary people give birth, and many want to see more gender-neutral language in law and medicine. Shannon Rae Green, USA TODAY, 31 May 2021

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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1597, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for binary

Adjective and Noun

Late Latin binarius, from Latin bini two by two — more at bin-

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Time Traveler for binary

Time Traveler

The first known use of binary was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

19 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Binary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for binary



English Language Learners Definition of binary

: relating to or consisting of two things or parts
: relating to or involving a method of calculating and of representing information especially in computers by using the numbers 0 and 1


bi·​na·​ry | \ ˈbī-nə-rē How to pronounce binary (audio) \

Kids Definition of binary

: of, relating to, or being a number system with a base of 2 The two binary digits are 0 and 1.


bi·​na·​ry | \ ˈbī-nə-rē How to pronounce binary (audio) , -ˌner-ē How to pronounce binary (audio) \

Medical Definition of binary

1 : compounded or consisting of or marked by two things or parts
2a : composed of two chemical elements, an element and a radical that acts as an element, or two such radicals
b : utilizing two harmless ingredients that upon combining form a lethal substance (as a gas)

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