biography

noun
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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for biography

Synonyms

bio, life, memoir

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

The series is based on Sam Wasson's biography of Fosse (appropriately titled Fosse), but for the choreographer's romantic and creative partner, there's far less source material. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Nicole Fosse Is Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse's Daughter—And Fosse/Verdon's Greatest Asset," 15 May 2019 Royal expert and biographer Katie Nicholl shares the speech in her biography of Kate, Kate: The Future Queen. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "The Head of Prince William and Kate Middleton's College Predicted Their Marriage," 4 May 2019 Embarking on his biography of Lyndon Johnson in the mid-1970s, Robert Caro went to the pharaonic LBJ library and museum in Austin, Texas. Edward Kosner, WSJ, "‘Working’ Review: ‘Just Remember: Turn Every Page’," 12 Apr. 2019 Directed by Damien Chazelle, from a screenplay by Josh Singer, based on a biography by James R. Hansen. Soren Andersen, The Seattle Times, "‘First Man’: Ryan Gosling is stellar as astronaut Neil Armstrong," 8 Oct. 2018 Ian O'Connor on his new biography on New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Fox News, "FOX NEWS FIRST: Kavanaugh vows to continue to fight in FOX exclusive; Trump, Republicans blast Dem smear campaign," 25 Sep. 2018 And how in our contemporary culture, there’s a real focus on biography. Julia Felsenthal, Vogue, "In Melissa Broder’s The Pisces, a Darkly Erotic Love Story Between a Woman and a Merman," 1 May 2018 Based on John Guy's biography My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots, the historical drama (in theaters Nov. 2) also stars Margot Robbie and David Tennant. Anika Reed, USA TODAY, "10 movies in 2018 based on real-life drama," 8 Feb. 2018 This new biography of the great Italian composer is an attempt to uncover the man behind the art. Monitor Staff, The Christian Science Monitor, "10 best books of July: the Monitor's picks," 12 July 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about biography

Statistics for biography

Last Updated

26 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for biography

The first known use of biography was in 1665

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for biography

biography

noun

English Language Learners Definition of biography

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

biography

noun
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

Keep scrolling for more

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

to mark by some ceremony or observation

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!