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 femaleJoan 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.

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
Previous reporting used they/them pronouns following statements from Benedict’s family that said the teen did not align with the gender binary. Ct Jones, Rolling Stone, 26 Feb. 2024 Life of a White-Hat Hacker (Zoe Schiffer, Vox, August 2019) The white hat/black hat binary used to distill hacking’s morality evokes fantasy roleplaying and metaphysical lore—fitting counterparts given the overarching nerd/geek subculture from which hacking emerged. Chris Wheatley, Longreads, 12 Mar. 2024 Even for more serious crimes — petty theft, for example — the criminal justice system stumbles over the false binary of felony and lifelong consequences, or unenforceability. Los Angeles Times Editorial Board, Orlando Sentinel, 9 Jan. 2024 If the gender binary melts away, if heterosexuality is no longer the default assumption, if parasites enter the building and dismantle the tenants, something unspeakable will skitter across—and that is the point of any erotic effusion worth pursuing. Becca Rothfeld, The New Yorker, 17 Feb. 2024 Shareholders, as a matter of fact, do care about multiple objectives; their preference for profits vs. other social values is a matter of degree, not a binary. Walter Frick, Fortune, 8 Feb. 2024 The addition of a host of post-breach capabilities, including installing a new SSH authorized key for use by the attacker as a backdoor to download and execute additional binaries or propagate to new devices. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, 10 Jan. 2024 While menstruation is experienced across the gender binary, the film itself specifically focuses on the historical and lived experiences of cis-women who menstruate. Kayla Bartsch, National Review, 4 Feb. 2024 Besides, the binary that torments Silverman’s characters is a false one: Is art utterly meaningless, useless, frivolous, impotent? Sara Holdren, Vulture, 30 Nov. 2023
Adjective
The next-generation technology stands in contrast with classical computing, or binary computing, which relies on tiny units of data called bits. Max Zahn, ABC News, 5 Apr. 2024 Battleground state party officials and organizers say highlighting the binary choice between Mr. Biden and former President Donald Trump, in addition to the White House's record, is key to energizing voters. Aaron Navarro, CBS News, 28 Mar. 2024 But for nonbinary people medical paternalism can still be an issue, as the standard of care that has circulated in trans medicine since the fifties implicitly assumes that being trans means transitioning from one binary gender to the other. Noah Schamus, The New Yorker, 27 Mar. 2024 The The unit converts the data to binary code – consisting of zeros and ones, the simplest form of computer code – then transmits that code to Earth, using Voyager's 12-foot antenna dish. George Petras, USA TODAY, 19 Mar. 2024 That Manichaean binary discomfits those who prefer to believe America’s challenges abroad can be isolated and compartmentalized. Noah Rothman, National Review, 18 Mar. 2024 Since that night, people treated the shooting like a soap opera or binary of fandom instead of a traumatic incident that someone should atone for. Andre Gee, Rolling Stone, 27 Feb. 2024 These pits, and the islands between them, together represent the 0s and 1s of binary code that computers use to symbolize information. IEEE Spectrum, 23 Feb. 2024 For organizations to truly protect the software supply chain, users need to consider both code in development and in production at the binary level. Robert Defrancesco, Forbes, 15 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'binary.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 13 Apr. 2024.

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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