binary

1 of 2

noun

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

binary

2 of 2

adjective

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
3
a
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)
4
a
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

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.

Example Sentences

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
Sporty women have selected their position on the gender binary, we’re told, and must double down to be taken seriously. Alison Van Houten, Outside Online, 22 Aug. 2020 Maintaining this binary in youth sports reinforces the idea that boys are inherently bigger, faster, and stronger than girls in a competitive setting—a notion that’s been challenged by scientists for years. Maggie Mertens, The Atlantic, 17 Sep. 2022 None of them were able to understand its contents, and only one figured out that the binary was meant to be a bitmap. Daniel Oberhaus, Scientific American, 30 Mar. 2022 The characters don’t fall into the typical binary of strong and masculine or soft and feminine. Susan X Jane, The Christian Science Monitor, 15 Sep. 2022 Beyoncé imitates the practice with soulful vocal stacking at the beginning of the track before the song swiftly shifts to a twerk anthem, eliminating the binary of holy and secular. Deasia Paige, ELLE, 2 Aug. 2022 As more and more people are coming to terms with their identities and learning that the gender binary isn't as simple as categorizing objects for boys and girls, gender neutral gifts are growing increasingly popular. Samantha Olson, Seventeen, 2 Aug. 2022 Its curator, Barbara Pollack, presents works by seven artists, all born after 1976, for whom the binary of East versus West is essentially moot. The New Yorker, 24 June 2022 In practice, the use of synthetic data in computer vision need not be, and generally is not, this binary. Rob Toews, Forbes, 12 June 2022
Adjective
While digital memory is binary — storing either a 1 or a 0 — analog memory cells in the NeuRRAM chip can each store multiple values along a fully continuous range. Allison Whitten, Quanta Magazine, 10 Nov. 2022 Plaintiffs include Orange County residents Jennifer and Matthew Cousins and their four children, including a seventh-grade student, S.C. who is gender non-binary. Jim Saunders, Orlando Sentinel, 21 Oct. 2022 Plaintiffs include Orange County residents Jennifer and Matthew Cousins and their four children, including a seventh-grade student, S.C. who is gender non-binary. Jim Saunders, Sun Sentinel, 21 Oct. 2022 Miller, who is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, appeared virtually in the hearing with their attorney, Lisa Shelkrot. Laura Ly, CNN, 17 Oct. 2022 Meanwhile, the number of films directed by women or non-binary people totaled 14.8%, or 25 of the 169 films screened. Mark Schilling, Variety, 2 Nov. 2022 Bridges says that the phrase is used to recognize that some transgender men and non-binary people can become pregnant. Kate S. Petersen, USA TODAY, 20 Oct. 2022 And, if Madison and Lawrence's vision for the future pans out, could soon include more stories about trans and non-binary people being funded by titanic production arms. Joey Nolfi, EW.com, 30 Sep. 2022 Trans and non-binary people, members of the LGBTQ community, and women are frequent targets. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, 19 Sep. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective and Noun

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

First Known Use

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1597, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Podcast

Dictionary Entries Near binary

Cite this Entry

“Binary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/binary. Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

binary

adjective

bi·​na·​ry
ˈbī-nə-rē
1
: compounded or consisting of or marked by two things or parts
2
: relating to, being, or belonging to a system of numbers having two as its base
the binary digits 0 and 1
3
: relating exactly two mathematical or logical elements at a time
multiplication is a binary operation

Medical Definition

binary

adjective

bi·​na·​ry ˈbī-nə-rē How to pronounce binary (audio) -ˌner-ē How to pronounce binary (audio)
1
: compounded or consisting of or marked by two things or parts
2
a
: 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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