bi·​og·​ra·​phy bī-ˈä-grə-fē How to pronounce biography (audio)
 also  bē-
plural biographies
: a usually written history of a person's life
a new biography of Abraham Lincoln
: biographical writings as a whole
the genre of biography
: 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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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 Goodwin, who has written biographies on Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson — as well as a book on the Kennedy family — has appeared at least six times at Unity Temple over the past 25 years to promote books or appear on panels. Dan Kelly, Kansas City Star, 12 May 2024 As historian John Lewis Gaddis makes clear in his acclaimed Kennan biography, his subject was a curious mixture. Richard Babcock, Chicago Tribune, 12 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for biography 

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

1665, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of biography was in 1665

Dictionary Entries Near biography

Cite this Entry

“Biography.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


bi·​og·​ra·​phy bī-ˈäg-rə-fē How to pronounce biography (audio)
plural biographies
: a history of a person's life

More from Merriam-Webster on biography

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