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

Motschenbacher-Hammer, according to her biography in the book, is a Master fourth-degree black belt in Taekwondo, and a first Kyu Shorin-Ryu/Shotokan Japanese karate. Danelle Landis, The Seattle Times, "Ketchikan author discusses new fantasy novel," 30 Mar. 2019 The revelation comes courtesy of royal biographer Angela Levin who wrote in her biography Harry Conversations with the Prince that Diana thought her youngest son had the perfect natural disposition to be king. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Princess Diana Thought Prince Harry Would Have Made a Great King," 16 Mar. 2019 Schmidt’s biography listed him as a military veteran, instructor and law enforcement adviser. Youssef Rddad, The Seattle Times, "Officials ID Minneapolis cops involved in fatal shooting," 26 June 2018 This dark omen epitomises the ghoulish detail in Jonathan Miller’s biography. The Economist, "A new book explores the myths and reality of Rodrigo Duterte’s life," 21 June 2018 The team has posted the regiment roster and soldier’s biographies online, in searchable form, on the project’s website. Jonathan M. Pitts,, "Newly acquired letters illuminate the lives of Maryland's 'Old Line' soldiers," 23 Apr. 2018 Washington Bureau chief Susan Page’s biography of Barbara Bush, The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty, is being published by Twelve next spring. Susan Page, USA TODAY, "Barbara Bush, former first lady and matriarch of Bush family, dies at 92," 17 Apr. 2018 But Hargrove’s biography, at times, paints a different man. Joseph Bien-kahn, Outside Online, "Can We Ever Understand the Mind of a Stormchaser?," 30 Mar. 2018 Morris first read about Gershwin's national anthem in a biography on the composer. Adesuwa Agbonile, sacbee, "Is it time for another national anthem? New competition lets Americans try to write one," 3 July 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

14 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for biography

The first known use of biography was in 1665

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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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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).


having no equal

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