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 Indeed the more flexible policies are a positive step in an industry with uniforms that are often still based in the gender binary. Jessica Puckett, Condé Nast Traveler, 10 Aug. 2021 Kim said that in a country that sees race in largely a Black-and-white binary, the struggles of Asian Americans have long been discounted by those outside the community. NBC News, 23 June 2021 In 2014, the ubiquitous social network, which is somewhat of a social census, responded to the demands of younger users to reconstitute gender categories beyond the oppressive binary. Gillian Oakenfull, Forbes, 8 June 2021 Most music, especially pop, translates emotions into a binary: Happy, upbeat dance songs or sad ballads. Natalie Morin,, 1 June 2021 The colors are lavender (a blue and pink combination, to stand for androgyny), white (agender) and chartreuse (not in the gender binary). USA Today, 1 June 2021 Indigenous people in North America long occupied social roles that stood outside of the gender binary, existing between male and female, Babits said. Scottie Andrew, CNN, 12 Aug. 2021 The shifts at United come amid a larger push to neutralize the gender binary in the airline industry. Jessica Puckett, Condé Nast Traveler, 10 Aug. 2021 But if their rhetoric differs by degrees, their motivations are remarkably similar—a violent reinscription of an idealized, traditional idea of womanhood and the nuclear family, one that depends upon a rigid gender binary to maintain itself. Esther Wang, The New Republic, 21 July 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective If Cole can rationalize the idea that the men of Afghanistan had only the binary choice between growing poppies and selling their daughters, what might be going on in his classroom lectures? A. J. Caschetta, National Review, 20 Aug. 2021 New working models are unlikely to be a clear binary choice, but rather something more flexible. Time, 12 Aug. 2021 Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema may be able to whittle down the size of the tax increases, but in the end they too will be faced with a binary choice: Vote for the reconciliation bill, or face the party’s wrath. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 14 July 2021 The Biden administration implies that the global vaccine shortage ought to be seen as a binary choice of either innovation or access. John Osborn, Forbes, 17 May 2021 In the end, the two-party system flattens the spectrum of political thought into a stark binary choice. Washington Post, 1 Mar. 2021 Respondents categorized as non-binary are included in the Total column, but are not presented in a separate column. Genny Beemyn, The Conversation, 5 Aug. 2021 But the bill does not help those who don’t have access to women’s bathroom, like trans men and non-binary people. Clara Longo De Freitas,, 2 Aug. 2021 Non-binary people like Shep, who was assigned female at birth, produce enough oestrogen naturally. Jasmine Andersson,, 30 July 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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Dictionary Entries Near binary



binary color

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Last Updated

11 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Binary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Sep. 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)

More from Merriam-Webster on binary

Nglish: Translation of binary for Spanish Speakers


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