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

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 Gender reveals are sometimes sneered at for reinforcing a gender binary, encouraging wasteful extravagance and creating very real safety hazards. Jenna Drenten, The Conversation, "Why gender reveals have spiraled out of control," 14 Sep. 2020 Leung, who is genderqueer and doesn’t fit into the binary of male or female genders, was in the middle of a legal name change when the pandemic shuttered the D.C. Superior Court in March. Kate Sosin, USA TODAY, "Trans Americans’ voting rights were already in jeopardy. The pandemic threatens to make things worse," 27 Aug. 2020 At the gym, the uglier parts of the gender binary are in full force: men go to bulk up, women go to get smaller. Sarah Ratchford,, "Carving Out Space In The Gym For My Genderqueer Self," 21 Aug. 2020 At least 20 versions of the software binary since January. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "New P2P botnet infects SSH servers all over the world," 19 Aug. 2020 In classic Dorian Electra fashion, the avant-garde pop star is taking a look at gaming culture from both sides of the gender binary. Stephen Daw, Billboard, "First Out: New Music From Fletcher, Dorian Electra, Starrah & More," 14 Aug. 2020 It's largely seen by those who use it as an inclusive term that incorporates those who fall outside the male/female gender binary. Harmeet Kaur, CNN, "Why people are split on using 'Latinx'," 12 Aug. 2020 Because there are four building blocks in DNA, rather than the binary 1s and 0s in magnetic hard drives, the genetic storage method is far more dense, explains John Hawkins, another co-author of the new paper. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "DNA Is Millions of Times More Efficient Than Your Computer's Hard Drive," 25 July 2020 Many of us, likely Rowling included, were raised in a culture that revolved around the gender binary. Lisa Kenney, Fortune, "What company leaders can learn from J.K. Rowling’s missteps on gender," 12 July 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Trump needs the election to be less a referendum on himself than a binary choice between his preferred policies and the Democrats’. W. James Antle Iii, Washington Examiner, "Trump playing catch-up as campaign reaches traditional Labor Day kickoff," 7 Sep. 2020 As these columns have noted before, this November the voting public won't be choosing between Donald Trump and Anybody Else, but instead We the People will be given a binary choice: between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Arkansas Online, "OPINION | EDITORIAL: Acceptance," 23 Aug. 2020 Alyssa Kaplan, the founder of The Scrunchie Club, an accessories brand that caters to womxn and non-binary people of all sizes, has experienced frustration when shopping for boots in her size. Eliza Huber,, "Shopping When You’re Plus-Size Isn’t Therapeutic — Just Ask Plus-Size Women," 21 Aug. 2020 The world is a scary place, America is a scary place, and people want to revert to easy truths and binary black-and-white ways of seeing the world. Andrew Marantz, The New Yorker, "The Manic Denialism of the Republican National Convention," 27 Aug. 2020 Tommy Dorfman plays a non-binary stylist alongside Rainey Qualley's aspiring musician. Alicia Rancilio,, "‘Love in the Time of Corona’ is ‘time capsule’ of the times," 19 Aug. 2020 Tommy Dorfman plays a non-binary stylist alongside Rainey Qualley's aspiring musician. Alicia Rancilio, Star Tribune, "'Love in the Time of Corona' is 'time capsule' of the times," 19 Aug. 2020 Estonia has long been one of my favorite countries to visit, regardless of the time of the year, but for anyone weighing the difference between Tallinn and Bridgetown in December, the choice will be on the binary side. Daniel Tenreiro, National Review, "The Capital Note: SEC, USO, SRI, etc.," 19 Aug. 2020 Intersex activists have long pointed to a disconnect between the gender-affirming care for trans and non-binary youth at the hospital and surgeries done on intersex children without their knowledge or consent. Kate Sosin, USA TODAY, "After years of protest, a top hospital ended intersex surgeries. For activists, it took a deep toll.," 11 Aug. 2020

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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Learn More about binary

Time Traveler for binary

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for binary

Last Updated

22 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Binary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2020.

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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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