bi·​og·​ra·​phy | \ bī-ˈä-grə-fē 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


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

Her third book, an unauthorized biography of Estée Lauder didn't fare so well—it was released almost simultaneously with Lauder's own memoir which, along with a poor critical reception, significantly dampened sales. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "The True Story of Lee Israel and the Literary Forgeries in Can You Ever Forgive Me?," 12 Sep. 2018 The National Park Service doesn't try to hide Faneuil's slavery ties, mentioning it extensively in an online biography. Mark Pratt, The Christian Science Monitor, "Should slavery ties mean renaming of iconic Boston building?," 18 June 2018 The students recorded the interview with their family members and listened to it in class, took down notes and wrote an actual biography. Sergio Carmona, Jewish Journal, "Jewish day school students showcase their families through living museums," 6 June 2018 According to an online biography, Curley specializes in advising city councils and city staff on code enforcement, land use, water law and development agreements. David Hernandez,, "National City hires law firm to investigate councilman," 1 May 2018 Nokes furnishes lay and specialist readers with an extraordinarily readable and dependable biography. Special To The Oregonian,, "Biography restores Peter Burnett to front pages of West Coast history," 26 Apr. 2018 Coincidentally, Milliken is the author of an upcoming biography of late Cars bassist and vocalist Benjamin Orr. Michael Norman,, "Heart's Ann Wilson says she will induct The Moody Blues into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame," 27 Mar. 2018 Poniatowska also wrote an award-winning biography of her husband. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Guillermo Haro spotted supernovae and flare stars in the night sky," 21 Mar. 2018 One Republican strategist involved in the race said Lamb brings an impressive biography as a Marine veteran and former federal prosecutor and has run an extremely effective campaign. Sahil Kapur,, "Trump Faces Prospect of Embarrassing GOP Loss in Pennsylvania," 9 Mar. 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.

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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

20 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for biography

The first known use of biography was in 1665

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More Definitions for biography



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 \
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).


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