bi·​og·​ra·​phy | \ bī-ˈä-grə-fē also bē- How to pronounce biography (audio) \
plural biographies

Definition of biography

1 : a usually written history of a person's life a new biography of Abraham Lincoln
2 : biographical writings as a whole the genre of biography
3 : an account of the life of something (such as an animal, a coin, or a building) the biography of the commonwealth

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Synonyms for biography


bio, life, memoir

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So You've Been Asked to Submit a Biography

In a library, the word biography refers both to a kind of book and to a section where books of that kind are found. Each biography tells the story of a real person's life. A biography may be about someone who lived long ago, recently, or even someone who is still living, though in the last case it must necessarily be incomplete. The term autobiography refers to a biography written by the person it's about. Autobiographies are of course also necessarily incomplete.

Sometimes biographies are significantly shorter than a book—something anyone who's been asked to submit a biography for, say, a conference or a community newsletter will be glad to know. Often the word in these contexts is shortened to bio, a term that can be both a synonym of biography and a term for what is actually a biographical sketch: a brief description of a person's life. These kinds of biographies—bios—vary, but many times they are only a few sentences long. Looking at bios that have been used in the same context can be a useful guide in determining what to put in your own.

Examples of biography in a Sentence

a new biography of Abraham Lincoln an unauthorized biography of the actor gave him some serious headaches

Recent Examples on the Web

McCready, meanwhile, has attempted to distance himself from national Democrats and instead run a campaign focused on health care, his biography and education, repurposing the playbook successfully deployed by scores of Democrats who won in 2018. NBC News, "North Carolina House race carries unlikely hangover from fraud scandal," 9 Sep. 2019 The rebels included Soames, whose grandfather was the subject of an admiring biography by Johnson, and also the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, who until recently served in the Cabinet. Laura King, Los Angeles Times, "Defying Prime Minister Boris Johnson, U.K. lawmakers pass bill to block no-deal Brexit," 4 Sep. 2019 The site included a biography and instructions on how to send money. Washington Post, "Issa moves toward challenging indicted US Rep Duncan Hunter," 29 Aug. 2019 Natalia Salgado, the political director of the Center for Popular Democracy Action, a liberal organizing group based in New York, said candidates putting an emphasis on biography and personality won’t deliver a mandate for widespread change. New York Times, "Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris Have Made Waves. Some Progressives Remain Skeptical.," 16 July 2019 The show picks up both its biography and its anthropology of corporate and social cultures in 1995, when Ailes’s idea to create Fox News began its metastasis. Troy Patterson, The New Yorker, "“The Loudest Voice” Eviscerates Roger Ailes and Fox News," 30 June 2019 After two hours of relatively mild scrapping, the candidates closed on largely upbeat notes, emphasizing their biographies and optimism in America's promise. Mark Z. Barabak,, "Democratic debate: Candidates tackle immigration, taxes, climate change and guns," 26 June 2019 The rare and candid photos also include an official biography about Sineenart, who is a former nurse and one of the king’s bodyguards, Reuters reported. Morgan Krakow, Washington Post, "Photos of the Thai consort shooting a rifle and flying a jet may have crashed a royal website," 27 Aug. 2019 It’s aggravated by a journalist poking around his inner circle for an unauthorized biography. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Succession Game of Thrones Sees an Unlikely Contender Emerge," 26 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'biography.' 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 biography

1665, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for biography

Late Greek biographia, from Greek bi- + -graphia -graphy

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Statistics for biography

Last Updated

15 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for biography

The first known use of biography was in 1665

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English Language Learners Definition of biography

: the story of a real person's life written by someone other than that person


bi·​og·​ra·​phy | \ bī-ˈä-grə-fē How to pronounce biography (audio) \
plural biographies

Kids Definition of biography

: a usually written account of a real person's life

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Comments on biography

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


authorized for issue (as a bond)

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