‘Bi-Monthly’ vs ‘Semi-Monthly’: What’s the difference? A lot of words, especially when you are dealing with time, can be slightly confusing, given they have a variety of meanings. Learning how to deal with multiple definitions and alternatives can be the key to understanding and mastering these new words.
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The slightly troubling thing about these words is that in some cases, they differ, yet in some cases, they overlap, and this is because the word ‘Bi-Monthly’ has two definitions. The key to understanding this lies in the prefixes of these words.
The prefixes we are going to focus on today are ‘bi-’ and ‘semi-,’ which both come from Latin.
Some examples of words using this prefix are:
We can see how these prefixes obviously differ, but given that in some cases, “twice” and “half” may appear in the same whole, that these prefixes would overlap. In the case of ‘Bi-Monthly’ vs ‘Semi-Monthly’ the overlap comes from when ‘bi-’ stands for “twice” in the same month.
Now that we’ve gotten a more established feel for these two terms and how they both connect and are different, let’s get to know the words ‘Bi-Monthly’ vs ‘Semi-Monthly’ better individually.
According to Oxford Languages, ‘Bi-Monthly’ is an adjective that means:
As an adverb, ‘Bi-Monthly’ is a word that means:
And finally, as a noun, the word can also mean:
As we can see from the definition, using ‘Bi-Monthly’ to represent both “twice a month” and “every two months” is technically correct. 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, when using ‘Bi-Monthly’ in place of ‘Semi-Monthly,’ be sure that you’re specifically using the version that means “occurring every two.”
According to Oxford Languages, ‘Semi-Monthly’ is an adjective that means:
Remember that the prefix means “half” as well as “partially,” so ‘Semi-Monthly’ can refer to something that happens at the exact halfway point of a month, or at a random interval as long as the thing in question occurs twice within the month.
Understanding how to use words and knowing their definitions is just part of the battle, especially given we often use speech to communicate and make plans that involve scheduling.
Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Bi-Monthly’ as a guide:
Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Semi-Monthly’ as a guide:
With words that have multiple and overlapping definitions, some of the best ways to learn how to use them properly is by seeing them in real-world examples. Below you’ll find some sample sentences for you to look over and get a sense of the contexts that could possibly surround these words.
Learning to differentiate between two new words can be especially tricky when one of them has multiple meanings. It is also helpful to consider the effects of prefixes and how we can use them as clues to unlock a ton of new words.
Need a recap? Here’s a short overview of what was covered:
Want to master more scheduling words? Be sure to read and check out other confusing word articles that define and explain different sets of ambiguous timing words. The more you read up on these the better you’ll be at communicating and planning.