Biannual and Biennial

Aren’t these two words confusing? Bi— means two, but which one refers to twice a year and which one means every two years? Here’s the scoop:

BIANNUAL means something that happens twice in one year: We change our clocks biannually.

BIENNIAL means an act that occurs once in every two years: United States congress members are up for re-election biennially.

I think these definitions are ones you just have to memorize. If you can think of a helpful trick, let me know.



Filed under All things having to do with the English language

4 responses to “Biannual and Biennial

  1. Hi, Judy. I enjoy your definitions. That biannual and biennial always make me stop and think. Also, farther and further. I’m sure these are misused a lot.


  2. Margaret, thanks for your comment. If you put either “further” or “farther” in the search box on my blog, you’ll get the post I wrote on that several years ago.


  3. A(nnual) comes first in the alphabet, so that’s when it occurs within one year. E(nnial) comes after A, so it occurs in a longer span of time. E for Every two. Or at least that’s how my brain works. It’s whacky!

    Also, when I see “biennial,” I think “centennial,” which reminds me that it’s every x amount of years! Thanks always for the great tips!


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