bi·​lat·​er·​al | \ (ˌ)bī-ˈla-t(ə-)rəl How to pronounce bilateral (audio) \

Definition of bilateral

1 : affecting reciprocally two nations or parties a bilateral treaty a bilateral trade agreement
2 : having two sides dealing with a bilateral problem
3 biology
a : of, relating to, or affecting the right and left sides of the body or the right and left members of paired organs bilateral nephrectomy
b : having bilateral symmetry

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Other Words from bilateral

bilateralism \ (ˌ)bī-​ˈla-​t(ə-​)rə-​ˌli-​zəm How to pronounce bilateral (audio) \ noun
bilaterally adverb

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Since the prefix bi- means "two" in Latin, bilateral means essentially "two-sided". In the days when there were two superpowers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union regularly engaged in bilateral arms negotiations; such negotiations are much less common today. Sometimes bilateral refers to two sides of the same thing. A bilateral hip replacement, for instance, replaces both hip bones in the same operation. And bilateral symmetry (a term often used by biologists) refers to the fact that, in many organisms (such as humans), the left side is basically the mirror image of the right side.

Examples of bilateral in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Modi is set to address the U.N. General Assembly in person on Saturday, a day after a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden. Mallika Sen, ajc, 25 Sep. 2021 After delivering his remarks Tuesday morning, Mr. Biden will gather with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in New York and then return to the White House for a bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Kathryn Watson, CBS News, 21 Sep. 2021 Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hosts an enhanced honor cordon and bilateral meeting with Italian Minister of Defense Lorenzo Guerini at the Pentagon at 1:30 p.m. Rick Klein, ABC News, 3 Sep. 2021 The two will also hold a more formal bilateral meeting on Saturday, a White House spokesperson said. Natasha Bertrand, CNN, 11 Aug. 2021 Named after its mastermind, then representative Frank Wolf of Virginia, the Wolf Amendment prohibits NASA from using federal funds to engage in direct, bilateral cooperation with the Chinese government. Leonard David, Scientific American, 2 Aug. 2021 Meanwhile, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has altered Mexico's security strategy, scrambling bilateral cooperation. Arkansas Online, 30 July 2021 Meanwhile, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, has altered Mexico’s security strategy, scrambling bilateral cooperation., 29 July 2021 Monument Park, which marks the 49th parallel on the western edge of the peninsula, offers a bilateral meeting area. Los Angeles Times, 24 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bilateral.' 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 bilateral

1751, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for bilateral

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The first known use of bilateral was in 1751

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Last Updated

16 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Bilateral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for bilateral



English Language Learners Definition of bilateral

: involving two groups or countries


bi·​lat·​er·​al | \ (ˈ)bī-ˈlat-ə-rəl, -ˈla-trəl How to pronounce bilateral (audio) \

Medical Definition of bilateral

1 : of, relating to, or affecting the right and left sides of the body or the right and left members of paired organs bilateral nephrectomy bilateral tumors of the adrenal glands
2 : having bilateral symmetry

Other Words from bilateral

bilateralism \ -​ˌiz-​əm How to pronounce bilateral (audio) \ noun
bilaterality \ (ˈ)bī-​ˌlat-​ə-​ˈral-​ət-​ē, -​ˌla-​ˈtral-​ How to pronounce bilateral (audio) \ noun, plural bilateralities
bilaterally \ (ˈ)bī-​ˈlat-​ə-​rə-​lē, -​ˈla-​trə-​lē How to pronounce bilateral (audio) \ adverb


bi·​lat·​er·​al | \ ˌbī-ˈla-tə-rəl How to pronounce bilateral (audio) \

Legal Definition of bilateral

: affecting, obligating, or shared by both parties

Other Words from bilateral

bilaterally \ -​rə-​lē \ adverb


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