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

This is the profile of an ambitious man as well as an employment biography typical of a Klan leader, moving from skilled working class to management. Longreads, "Oregon’s Racist Past," 12 July 2018 Based on the biography My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots, by John Guy, the film will star Gemma Chan as Bess of Hardwick, a confidant of Elizabeth's, in addition to Ronan and Robbie. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Margot Robbie is unrecognizable as Queen Elizabeth I.," 11 July 2018 Hunter's biography was turned into a documentary, which received critical acclaim. Sasha Savitsky, Fox News, "'Damn Yankees!' star Tab Hunter dead at 86," 10 July 2018 Alan conducted research for the play, reading books and biographies about the abolition movement, and visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. Henry J. Morgan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Colgate 'Underground Railroad' production is part play, part escape room, part golf course," 6 July 2018 With everything from biographies and contact information to lookbooks and shoppable links, Industrie Africa hosts brands hailing from 23 countries, covering ready-to-wear, accessories, footwear and jewellery. Georgia Murray,, "Where To Find The Coolest African Designers Online," 28 June 2018 Most have the same policy views — more money for education, a $15 minimum wage, legalized marijuana — but differ in personality, biography and style. Erin Cox,, "Primary 101: A newcomer's guide to today's election in Maryland," 26 June 2018 Starting in the 1950s, Hall published more than 50 books, from poetry and drama to biography and memoirs, and edited a pair of influential anthologies. Hillel Italie,, "Prolific, painfully candid ex-poet laureate Donald Hall dies," 24 June 2018 According to the Ashlee Vance’s 2015 biography of the tech entrepreneur, Musk copied the text of the letter and pasted into a Word document, and checked the size of the file. Marina Koren, The Atlantic, "Elon Musk’s Long Obsession With Sabotage," 19 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

13 Oct 2018

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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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