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

On a lively and not-at-all precious tour, a docent explained how Melville struggled to write and how his wife Elizabeth, often described in biographies (mostly by men) as cold and unforgiving, was an important defender of his work. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "New England museums to visit this summer and fall," 4 July 2018 Joseph McCarthy, Biography, film and conversation: Tuesday, July 10, at 1 p.m. The biography blends film of actual history and re-enactment. Courant Community, "Community News For The Windsor Edition," 2 July 2018 Right now, as the world celebrates the 100th year since his birth, aspects of the Bernstein story are found in more than two dozen biographies, photo books, collections of essays, and memoirs of and by him. Peter Dobrin,, "Leonard Bernstein's daughter tells Philly: My dad would love 'Hamilton' and be 'a little jealous'," 28 June 2018 Lynch is currently promoting his memoir/biography, Room to Dream. Kimberly Nordyke, The Hollywood Reporter, "David Lynch Backtracks After Saying Trump "Could Go Down as One of the Greatest Presidents"," 26 June 2018 Cookbooks abound -- as do art, crafts and hobby books, biographies, and many wonderful children's books -- at the 25th annual sale April 18-21 sponsored by The Medina County Branch of the American Association of University Women. 'sam' Boyer/special To,, "Volunteers will spread out across the area to help others: Whit & Whimsey," 13 Apr. 2018 According to his biography, Kavanaugh worked with Starr from 1994 to 1997, and was the co-author of the Starr Report, which detailed President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky and laid out the case for his impeachment. Aimee Ortiz,, "Five points of interest about Judge Brett Kavanaugh," 10 July 2018 The daughter of an English actress and an American economist, Fox was born in New York but moved every year of her childhood, according to her biography on WME Speakers, a division of WME talent agency. Sam Dangremond, Town & Country, "Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Says He Couldn't Be Happier for His Son to Marry Former CIA Officer Amaryllis Fox," 26 June 2018 Before joining the tour full time, Johnson raced with the Outlaws occasionally, making his first start in 1998 and collecting his first victory in 2003, according to his biography on the series' website. Dave Kallmann, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "World of Outlaws star hospitalized after serious crash at Beaver Dam Raceway," 24 June 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

1 Sep 2018

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).


alleviating pain or harshness

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