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 Your biography talks about being a kid and watching Pixar films. John Benson, cleveland, 14 June 2021 Proust’s rats were an oddly recherché literary reference for a mass-market pop biography—but that, of course, was rather the point. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 13 June 2021 Fallone has been an associate professor at Marquette University Law School since 1992, specializing in constitutional law and immigration law, securities regulation and white collar crime, according to his biography page. Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9 June 2021 But Adams also has an undeniably compelling biography. New York Times, 8 June 2021 This biography focuses more on making the case for Harlan’s greatness than harping on the occasional inconsistency or shortcoming. Seth Stern, The Christian Science Monitor, 8 June 2021 According to Sonia Purnell’s biography, Just Boris, his body parts were said to have been stuffed in a tree. Tom Mctague, The Atlantic, 7 June 2021 To read Su’s reporting, visit her biography page on Los Angeles Times, 2 June 2021 This folk-hero biography is about Annie Wilkins, who rode her horse across the country in the 1950s. Washington Post, 27 May 2021

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

17 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Biography.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jun. 2021.

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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 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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