'Bi-Monthly' Meaning: How Long is 'Bi-Monthly'?

By Katie Moore, updated on August 20, 2023

‘Bi-Monthly’ Meaning: How long is ‘Bi-Monthly’? Some words have multiple definitions, both of which are correct, but must be used in different occasions. While this makes sense and is true for many English words, it causes confusion when the context is unclear. This article will help you clear up the confusion of the word ‘Bi-Monthly.’ 

In a rush? Here’s a quick preview of what’s to come: 

  • ‘Bi-Monthly’ is a word that means occurring both twice a month and every two months. 

Definition of ‘Bi-Monthly’: What Does it Mean? 

Before diving into the word’s ambiguity, let’s make sure we understand its meaning first. According to Oxford Languages, ‘Bi-Monthly’ is an adjective that means: 

  • Done, produced, or occurring twice a month or every two months
    • “A bi-monthly newsletter.”

As an adverb, the word also means: 

  • Twice a month or every two months
    • “The magazine appears bi-monthly.”

And as a noun, the word specifically means: 

  • A periodical produced twice a month or every two months

If we notice the specific definition, we see that both “every two months” and “twice a month” are correct. So, when using the word, you may be using the correct definition yet still causing confusion if others aren’t on board with you. And while definitions are important, they aren’t helping us clarify ambiguity, so let’s further investigate and break down the word ‘Bi-Monthly.’

Origin of ‘Bi-Monthly’: Where Does it Come From? 

It feels safe to assume that in the context of time, we are familiar with the word “month.” So the key to understanding the word ‘Bi-Monthly’ begins with understanding its prefix. 

  • For context, a prefix is a letter or set of letters added to the beginning of a word, and this addition changes the word’s meaning. We use this to manipulate words in order to clarify our meaning. 

In the case of ‘Bi-Monthly, ’ the prefix is obviously ‘bi-.’ ‘Bi- comes from Latin, and is both a root and prefix that can mean “two,” “twice,” and “both.”

Here are a few other examples of words with the prefix ‘bi-’:

  • Bi-Weekly: occurring twice a week or every two weeks
  • Biplane: a plane with two sets of wings stacked above each other
  • Bisexual: someone who is attracted to both genders 
  • Bilingual: someone who speaks two languages fluently
  • Binoculars: a set of long-range eyeglasses with two lenses

As you can see, these words are rather clear in their use of the word two or twice, with the exception of ‘Bi-Weekly,’ which poses the same problem as ‘Bi-Monthly.’ So why is time so confusing? 

  • The confusion arises from the fact that in the case of telling time or identifying periods of time, the prefix ‘bi-’ can mean both “occurring twice in” and “occurring every two.”

So, even though you’ll be technically correct in using ‘Bi-Monthly’ to represent both something that happens every two months and twice a month, the key to others understanding you will lie in your use of context. 

How to Use ‘Bi-Monthly’ in a Sentence

When learning any new word, it is important to master using them in a real-world scenario to ensure you feel confident in your knowledge beyond just definitions. But with words like ‘Bi-Monthly’ it is especially important to be able to use the word in context so that others know which version of the word you are using. Below you’ll find some sample sentences using both definitions so you can see how they work in a typical setting. After reading the sentences, feel free to try writing some of your own for extra practice. 

‘Bi-Monthly’ Example Sentences

“Every two months”

  • The students receive their grades bi-monthly so they can see their regular progress over time, and have two months to make improvements. 
  • She goes to the chiropractor for bi-monthly appointments, and she swears the last few days of the second month are the worst. 
  • He couldn’t believe it was time for another bi-monthly sale, which meant it was already July, even though it felt like May was yesterday. 

“Twice a month”

  • The employees receive their paychecks bi-monthly, once on the 14th and once on the 28th. 
  • To save money, she tries to only go to the grocery store bi-monthly and stretch her ingredients to make meals for the full two weeks. 
  • He has to do bi-monthly chemotherapy sessions, meaning he has to block out two Mondays per month to go to the treatment center. 

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Bi-Monthly’

While context and definitions are huge, you also need to be able to say the word ‘Bi-Monthly’ properly. Nobody will understand you regardless of if you’re using the word correctly if your pronunciation isn’t just as clear. Let’s make sure you are all set for saying this word aloud and using it in a conversation or presentation. 

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Bi-Monthly’ as a guide: 

  • ‘By-muh-nth-lee’ (with the ‘o’ being a more relaxed sound as in “stunt”)

Alternatives to the Word ‘Bi-Monthly’ 

As important as they are, sometimes context clues can only get you so far, and people will still need you to clarify which version of ‘Bi-Monthly’ you are using. The last thing we want is any scheduling confusion or time period misunderstandings, so let’s look at the word’s definition to find some built-in solutions. 

Let’s start with the version using ‘two.’ For maximum clarity, you can simply say “every two months” which means exactly the same as ‘Bi-Monthly’. Since we know that this definition signifies that things don’t occur every time, we can also use the phrase “every other month,” which implies that there is a two-month period being discussed. Finally, we can directly reference the months that are in question or the dates within the months that are being highlighted. 

For the version using ‘twice,’ one option is to say “twice per month” or the more casual and colloquial “twice a month.”

  • Another way to say this option is by saying semi-monthly.” This option might provide more clarity, but to avoid confusion, we won’t discuss it further here, but you can read more about it in other articles.

Final Advice on the Meaning of ‘Bi-Monthly’

Navigating ambiguous words can be especially frustrating, given they rely so heavily on context. You may have mastered the definitions and pronunciation, but others may still confuse your meaning given the scenario surrounding your use of the word. In moments like this, it’s important to be patient and remember the alternatives you were given that may help with clarity. Yet, we encourage you not to just jump straight to these alternatives so you can practice using new words to their full effect. 

Want a recap? Here’s a quick review of what was covered: 

  • ‘Bi-’ is a prefix that means ‘two,’ ‘twice,’ and ‘both.’
  • The word ‘Bi-Monthly’ is an adjective that means both “occurring twice a month” and “occurring every two months.”

Want to make sure you have a handle on the ambiguities of time? Be sure to check out other confusing word articles to unlock more useful prefixes and alternatives. Remember that context clues are your friend and can be most helpful in learning how to use new words properly.

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Written By:
Katie Moore
Katie is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she worked as a writer and editor for the school paper while studying linguistics and journalism. She loves helping others find their voice in writing and making their work the strongest it can be. Katie also loves learning and speaking other languages and wants to help make writing accessible for everyone.

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