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Biannual vs. biennial Login/Join
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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In a meeting today, one of our board members discussed having a conference every two years. She kept calling it a biannual conference, while I thought to myself, "she really means biennial." Then I looked it up in my AHD and on dictionary.com. My dictionary only gave the definition of "twice yearly" or "semi-annually". However, some of the sites on dictionary.com said either twice yearly or every two years. Now--that isn't very precise is it? How do you use them?

By the way, this board member said, "Irregardless of whether we do the conference annually or biannually....." Grrrr! Mad
 
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Kalleh, you are right! The online dictionaries are very confusing. So I pulled out my "trusty, never dusty, Webster's" which states:

biannual ~ Occurring twice a year; semiannual.

biennial ~ Occuring every second year.

So, there you have it! She was wrong, and you were right! And you can tell her I said so! Razz
 
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The prefix bi- is problematic since in some words it means “occurring twice in a specified period of time” while in others in means “occurring once in two periods. In other words it can have either meaning (bimonthly, 1: occurring every two months or 2: occurring twice a month : SEMIMONTHLY; biweekly, 1 : occurring twice a week or 2: occurring every two weeks : FORTNIGHTLY - M-W)

Bill Bryson, in his excellent book, Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words (Broadway Books, 2002, previously published as Penguin Dictionary of Troublesome Words and Phrases by Penguin UK) says:

Bimonthly, biweekly. and similar designations are almost always ambiguous. It is far better to say ‘every two months,’ ‘twice a month,’ etc., as appropriate.”

Tinman
 
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I wonder if the word purists would even find a distinction with semi-annual versus biannual. After all "semi" means half so semi-annual should mean every 6 months. Yet, biannual really only means twice a year. For example, I visit my dentist semi-annually (each July and December), but biannually I am in touch with my friend who lives in France. The latter example may refer to visits in June and August.
 
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revising a thread...

In a recent QT column, someone asked about the "biweekly" definition because of Dictionary.com. We have talked about "biannual" before. QT, with authority, said, "'Biweekly' is every two weeks. 'Semiweekly' is twice a week."

I don't think he is correct in that. In fact, I think more people say "biweekly" to mean twice a week than every two weeks. What would you say? I am thinking of e-mailing him about our thoughts.
 
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Usage Note: Bimonthly and
biweekly
mean “once every two months” and “once every two weeks.” For “twice a month” and “twice a week,” the words semimonthly and semiweekly should be used. Since there is a great deal of confusion over the distinction, a writer is well advised to substitute expressions like
every two months
or twice a month where possible. However, each noun form has only one sense in the publishing world. Thus, a bimonthly is published every two months, and a biweekly every two weeks.


Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

Of course, you could go British on us and use fortnightly.

Tinman
 
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Interesting that you should mention "fortnightly," Tinman. I have been reading a lot of research reports lately, as I am preparing a systematic review. Many of these are from England. The last one I read talked about meeting "fortnightly" with the subjects, for a total of 15 meetings in a year. Roll Eyes
 
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" meeting "fortnightly" with the subjects, for a total of 15 meetings in a year"


huh? How often is that, then? I'm confused!


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~Dalai Lama
 
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They don't meet the other 22 weeks? It's an intercaldendary period, I guess. Wink
 
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Presumably this is some college research. Dunno about over there, but college vacations here would leave only about 30 weeks available for working.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Oh, I am so embarrassed. Red Face I checked again, and arnie is right. They had said "academic calendar year." Sorry!
 
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