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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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

That figure rises to 32% for transgender people and those who don’t identify as either male or female (non-binary). Elizabeth Gibney, Scientific American, "Discrimination Drives LGBT+ Scientists to Think About Quitting," 29 June 2019 More trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people are featured this year in ads, compared to previous years, Ferraro said. Frances Yue, USA TODAY, "Corporate America gets on the Pride parade, and it's appreciated, but also complicated," 28 June 2019 Gender Expansive Grooming Workshop — Join the Anchorage Transgender Community for a workshop on clothing, grooming and other needs for the transgender, non-binary and gender expansive community. Anchorage Daily News, "Anchorage Pridefest 2019 is here, and the celebration goes all week," 20 June 2019 This year, entertainment was curated and co-produced by Jasmine Agosto, founder of SageSeeker Production, which hosts La Sala Femme — a performance installment by non-binary womxn of color according to the event flier. Camila Vallejo,, "TheaterWorks’ 6th District Night block party celebrates PRIDE," 11 June 2019 Ryn identifies as an agender, non-binary, and asexual person. Kasandra Brabaw,, "Why Aren't We All Using These Adorable Gender-Neutral Terms?," 5 June 2019 Just in time for June’s LGBTQ Pride month, Lyft has added gender-neutral pronouns to its app for transgender and non-binary identifying riders. Johnny Diaz,, "Uber and Lyft have new features that you might not know about," 4 June 2019 Despite historical examples of gender rebels, experiences outside of a cisgender binary have often been erased — sometimes intentionally. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "For Trans Day of Visibility, 38 Transgender People Sound Off on Technology and Media," 31 Mar. 2019 Model Oslo Grace, who is transgender and non-binary, stars in the images wearing nothing but Russo’s chic shoes. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "Francesco Russo’s A-Gender Capsule Extends His Luxe Shoes Into Sizes for All," 25 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

With colonization in South Africa, everything became so rigid and binary and classified and standardized, yet before, things were much more fluid. Vogue, "How Nakhane, the South African Singer, Embraced His Queerness to Become an Unstoppable Force," 5 July 2019 Bio: Jacob Hexa is a 22-year-old, non-binary, gay, multi-artist specializing in makeup, sculpture, and costuming who is currently pursuing a degree geared toward their passion in costume design. Angela Watercutter And Samantha Cooper, WIRED, "5 Queer People on How They Found Their Chosen Families," 28 June 2019 In the math field, students must learn the type of math that computers use, the surprisingly simple binary math system of ones and zeros. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Your Say: How can we improve public education?," 14 June 2019 In 1974, radio astronomers found the first binary neutron star system. Quanta Magazine, "A New Blast May Have Forged Cosmic Gold," 23 Mar. 2017 The figure includes women, transgender and non-binary people. Karen Bliss, Billboard, "Canadian Music Week Reports 41% of Musical Acts Were Women in 2019," 16 June 2019 And in many ways, the experiences of trans men and non-binary people who have had abortions have been erased from the narrative entirely. Anna Borges, SELF, "On Choosing to Share Your Abortion Story Online—Or Not," 14 June 2019 Here are the facts of the case: Calf injuries are not binary. Dieter Kurtenbach, The Mercury News, "Kurtenbach: The unfair, unsavory truth of Kevin Durant’s injury," 11 June 2019 Among Republicans, almost three quarters — 73 percent — say gender is strictly binary, while 52 percent of Democrats say gender is more fluid. NBC News, "Trump, Biden battle for the spotlight in Iowa," 11 June 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

9 Jul 2019

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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

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