‘Bi-Weekly' vs ''Semi-Monthly': What's the Difference?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on February 14, 2023

Hearing the terms ‘bi-weekly’ and ‘semi-monthly’ might sound confusing if you’ve never come across them before. So, what’s the difference between these phrases, and what do they mean exactly? We’ll cover all of this below and teach you how to pronounce both words, as well as use them in a sentence correctly.

In short, the difference between these two terms is:

  • ‘Bi-weekly’ means every other week.
  • ‘Semi-monthly’ means twice per month.

These terms sound like they’d mean the same thing, but the difference is slight.

‘Semi-Monthly’ vs. ‘Bi-Weekly’ Pay Explained

People often think these terms both mean the same thing, but they actually differ slightly in meaning.

For example:

  • ‘bi-weekly’ means every other week
  • ‘semi-monthly’ means twice a month.

You would think that since there are generally four weeks in every month, these would equal the same thing.

But they don’t. Let’s take a closer look at what they both mean in a bit more detail.

The Difference Between ‘Semi-Monthly’ and ‘Bi-Weekly’ Payroll 

The difference between ‘semi-monthly’ and ‘bi-weekly’ when it comes to payroll is that the number of checks you get is slightly different.

For example:

  • bi-weekly payroll frequency, you’ll get about 26 paychecks per year.
  • semi-monthly payroll, you’ll get 24 paychecks per year.

Also, with a bi-weekly pay schedule, your check amounts would be lower, but your paydays would be consistent. On the other hand, if you got paid semi-monthly, you’d get higher paycheck amounts and inconsistent paydays.

While they have slightly similar meanings, they don't sound the same, which means they can't be homophones.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Bi-Weekly’ and ‘Semi-Monthly’

Wondering what the dictionary says about these two phrases? Let’s take a look.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘bi-weekly’ as occurring every two weeks or occurring twice a week.

The same dictionary defines ‘semi-monthly’ as twice a month.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Bi-Weekly’ and ‘Semi-Monthly’

Are you wondering how to pronounce these two phrases? Here’s a short guide.

  • To pronounce ‘bi-weekly’ correctly, check out the phonetic spelling: BY-WEE-KLEE
  • To pronounce ‘semi-monthly’ correctly, check out the phonetic spelling: SEH-MY-MUHNTH-LEE

How to Use ‘Bi-Weekly’ and ‘Semi-Monthly’ in a Sentence

We’ve finally got the meaning and the pronunciation down. Now, let’s move on to seeing some sentence examples, starting with ‘bi-weekly.’

  • Join my bi-weekly email newsletter for promos and discounts no one else can get.
  • We have bi-weekly staff meetings that seem to drag on forever.
  • I just got a job, and I get paid bi-weekly. What should I wear on my first day?
  • There’s a bi-weekly meeting for the campus newspaper. Are you coming today?

Now, let’s see some examples of ‘semi-monthly.’

  • All right, let’s get our semi-monthly meeting started. We’ve got a lot to cover today.
  • We have a semi-monthly payroll schedule. Is that something you’re okay with?
  • I just joined this semi-monthly book club, and the meeting is next week, but I haven’t read the book yet.
  • This new web series I just started watching releases episodes semi-monthly.

Final Advice on ‘Bi-Weekly’ and ‘Semi-Monthly’

To recap, we learned that the difference between these two terms is:

  • ‘Bi-weekly’ means every other week.
  • ‘Semi-monthly’ means twice per month.

They sound like they’d mean the same thing, but there’s a bit of a difference.

If you ever get stuck on anything, you can always come back here for a quick refresher. We've also got a whole library of content on other confusing words and phrases you might see while learning the language. And it's yours for the reading. Go check it out.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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