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


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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 The biography received the Francis Parkman Prize, a top honor for works of American history, and was a National Book Critics Circle finalist. Harrison Smith, Washington Post, "Robert D. Richardson, prizewinning biographer of American thinkers, dies at 86," 23 June 2020 The show, a hip-hop stage biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton, features a diverse cast of performers. CBS News, "Disney Plus releases "Hamilton" film trailer ahead of July 3 premiere," 22 June 2020 This is less a biography than the anatomy of an empire. The Economist, "Goths v Romans A brilliant Goth’s-eye view of the sack of Rome," 20 June 2020 In contrast to his colorful biography, SEC v. Sloan (1978) is no one’s idea of a wild ride. J.c. Hallman, The New Republic, "When Mr. Sloan Went to Washington," 11 June 2020 Another copy of the manuscript exists in the Scribner Archive, at Princeton University, and came with the papers of Carlos Baker, who wrote a major biography of my grandfather. Deborah Treisman, The New Yorker, "Ernest Hemingway’s Grandson on an Unpublished Story from the Author’s Archive," 1 June 2020 Besides being the first full-length biography of the intellectual father of the gay liberation movement, Cervini’s work provides a wealth of fascinating new details about the movement before the Stonewall riots of 1969. Washington Post, "How a stubborn ex-federal employee launched the gay rights movement," 12 June 2020 As Alec MacGillis recounts in his biography, The Cynic, McConnell even met his wealthy wife, Elaine Chao, the daughter of a shipping magnate, while fundraising in 1987. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "Mitch McConnell Is No Genius," 10 June 2020 Wheeler wrote a biography of legendary catcher Mike Piazza and Blue Yonder: Kentucky, The United State of Basketball about University of Kentucky basketball. James Weber,, "Author, former Cincinnati Enquirer sportswriter Lonnie Wheeler died at age 68," 10 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for biography

Time Traveler

The first known use of biography was in 1665

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Statistics for biography

Last Updated

28 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Biography.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for biography


How to pronounce biography (audio)

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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