bi·​na·​ry | \ ˈbī-nə-rē How to pronounce binary (audio) , -ˌner-ē, -ˌne-rē How to pronounce binary (audio) \
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 … human sexuality is more complicated than the simple binary of "homosexuals" and "heterosexuals."Ms



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

bipartite, double, double-barreled, double-edged, dual, duplex, twin, twofold

Antonyms: Adjective


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Did You Know?


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


a binary star is a system of two stars that revolve around each other under their mutual gravitation

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

My first was with my spouse (who is non-binary) and a cis man, the second with my spouse and a cis woman. Irina Gonzalez, Glamour, "Threesome Tips from 13 Real Women Who've Had One," 12 Sep. 2019 The Camp Trans participants are mostly transgender and non-binary. Julia Jacobs, New York Times, "A Teen Pretends to Be Trans, and Some Viewers Object to the Deception," 16 Aug. 2019 Tianjic is engineered so that its individual processing units can switch from spiking communications back to binary and perform a large range of calculations, in almost all cases faster and more efficiently than a GPU can. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "One chip to rule them all: It natively runs all types of AI software," 31 July 2019 Turay personally identifies as non-monogamous, non-binary, and trans. Kynala Phillips, Essence, "Me&Somebody: Revolutionizing Black Love One Meme At A Time," 8 July 2019 Back in June, Sephora unveiled an ad campaign that featured transgender, genderqueer, and non-binary models, and earlier this month, Victoria's Secret reportedly hired its first transgender model, Valentina Sampaio. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Teddy Quinlivan Became the First Openly Transgender Model to Work with Chanel," 29 Aug. 2019 While the industry said some changes were needed, the Democrats and Republicans went binary: The Obama administration said the plan was good as is, no changes needed, just before Trump took office. Russ Mitchellstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Trump says automakers are ‘crazy’ to side with California. They don’t need another fight," 28 Aug. 2019 Gender-neutral bathroom options also accommodate non-binary passengers. Nneka M. Okona, Condé Nast Traveler, "Airports (and Terminals) You'll Actually Want to Spend Time in," 28 Aug. 2019 In 2018, the state of California stopped defining gender as just male or female and recognized non-binary as a third gender option on official documents. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "City to ban gendered language like "manhole," "manpower" and "firemen"," 18 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Rios is the manager of Transgeneros Unidas, the Bienestar team focused on advocacy for transgender and non-binary people. Wire Service, The Mercury News, "Cops investigating after video shows security forcefully removing transgender patrons from California bar," 26 Aug. 2019 Cybersecurity stock images are predictable at this point: a hooded man with a shadowy face in front of a keyboard or a mysterious person in front of binary code. Ashley Carman, The Verge, "A design firm is hosting a contest to encourage people to reimagine cybersecurity stock images," 4 Aug. 2019 The new note, expected to enter circulation at the end of 2021, will include an image of Turing, ticker tape of his birth date in binary code, and a table and formula from a 1936 paper that introduced the concept of how computers could operate. Karla Adam, The Denver Post, "Alan Turing, World War II codebreaker castrated for being gay, revealed as new face of British 50-pound note," 15 July 2019 A decade ago, a tally of women writing for late-night shows read like binary code: zeros and ones across the board. Meredith Blake,, "‘Late Night’ makes late night look bleak for women. So we asked how bad it really is," 12 June 2019 For many of these parents, the Harvard case, with its revelations about personal ratings, as well as what many of the parents in New York see as the erasure from the city’s Department of Education, has created a binary choice. New York Times, "Where Does Affirmative Action Leave Asian-Americans?," 30 Aug. 2019 Will is pursued by a besotted friend who plays provocatively with binary conceptions of gender. The Economist, "Love in the time of the Black Death," 29 Aug. 2019 Biden and his supporters are trying to create a binary choice: Vote for Joe and beat Trump, or don’t vote for Joe and lose. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Is the Biden Bubble About to Burst?," 23 Aug. 2019 Kano, a British company founded in 2013, released a Harry Potter coding kit last year where grade-schoolers feed binary code directly to a magic wand. Luke Winkie, Vox, "From build-your-own robots to computer programming 101, STEM toys are flooding the market.," 7 Aug. 2019

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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Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for binary

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on binary

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for binary

Spanish Central: Translation of binary

Nglish: Translation of binary for Spanish Speakers

Comments on binary

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


to make a temporary encampment

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