Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 05-10-2001, 05:28 PM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Posts: 438
Biweekly means once every two weeks.
Bimonthly means once every two months.
Biannually means twice a year.

I understand that "annually" is not the same as "yearly," and thus the departure, but:

The big bad dictionary gives the definition of biannual as: "twice a year; semiannual." How can these two words mean the same thing? Their prefixes have opposite meanings.

Something strange has happened here. Any help?
Old 05-10-2001, 05:47 PM
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,664
The correct usage would be "biennial."

Lexicographers make mistakes too.
"Questions are a burden to others. Answers are a prison for oneself."
-Number 2
Old 05-10-2001, 06:22 PM
Voodoo Adult (Slight Return)
Charter Member
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Charlotte, NC, USA
Posts: 25,076
Originally posted by chriszarate
How can these two words mean the same thing? Their prefixes have opposite meanings.
inflammable = flammable

Regardless of how the parsed-out morphemes should add up, if somebody is using "biannual" to mean "semiannual" then there's not much you can do about it. The simple fact of the matter is this: a lot more things happen twice a year than happen every two years, especially in nature.

I think the thought process is along these lines, though: if a bicycle is one thing with two parts, then biannual must mean one year divided into two parts. I personally try to avoid all such confusions by using the expression "twice a year."
Did you see that ludicrous display last night?
Old 05-10-2001, 06:31 PM
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: The Golden State
Posts: 10,565
According to the OED "Biannual" as an adjective means "half-yearly" and as a noun it has the same meaning as "Biennial", which means every two years.

"Semiannual" as both an adjective and a noun means "twice a year".

"Biennial" is a very old word dating back to the 17th century, but "biannual" didn't come around until late in the 18th century.

The state of California issues a publication called "Used Oil Recycling Rates". It is called "A Biannual Report". And it was released every two years. It is cataloged as "biennial."

A different office in the same state agency issued something titled "Biannual report on redemption and recycling rates"
It is cataloged as a "semiannual" and comes out every six months.

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 03:14 AM.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: [email protected]

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017
Best Topics: cop pigs pregnant puker sacre bleu definition wehrmacht heer jack in cards aaron rodgers uniform fasting pain expired clindamycin motor driven cycles tourneau return policy african scripts sheep rams cow infinite past valium and grapefruit can pills get stuck in your throat can i use campho phenique in my mouth dipping french fries in milkshake why aren't 2x4's 2x4 firefly vs cowboy bebop how to remove a screen window do cats like fish d&d evil classes best buy alarm system cars spectracide bug stop vs ortho home defense