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

By Katie Moore, updated on August 18, 2023

Bi-Weekly Meaning: How long is Bi-Weekly? There are some ambiguities that come with describing periods of time in the English language that make knowing how long a period is rather confusing. Allow us to clarify how long a ‘Bi-Weekly’ means. 

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

  • Bi-Weekly is an adjective that means every two weeks. 

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

The tricky thing about this word is that it actually has two meanings, and that is where the confusion often lies. Let’s define this word first and then dive into how to tell the meanings apart. 

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Bi-Weekly’ is an adjective that means: 

  • Done, produced, or occurring every two weeks or twice a week
    • “A bi-weekly bulletin.”

As a noun, ‘Bi-Weekly’ can also mean: 

  • A periodical that appears every two weeks or twice a week
    • “An English-language bi-weekly.”

Phrases with 'Bi-Weekly'

  • Bi-weekly meeting
  • Checking in bi-weekly
  • Bi-weekly appointment
  • Bi-weekly rehearsal

As we can see, the definitions do nothing to clarify which version of the word — either every two weeks or twice a week — is correct, and that is because technically, they both are. So how do we know which is which? Let’s take a look at the background and origin of the word to understand it further

Origin of ‘Bi-Weekly’: Where Does the Word Come From?

In order to know what ‘Bi-Weekly’ means, you must first understand where it comes from. To do that, we first have to know what a prefix is. 

  • A prefix is a letter or set of letters that get added onto the beginning of a word, or word root that changes the original meaning of the word. 

The word ‘Bi-Weekly’ very obviously includes the prefix ‘bi-’ which is a Latin root and prefix meaning “two,” “twice,” and in some cases “both.”

Some examples of other words with this prefix include: 

  • Bisexual: being attracted to two genders
  • Bicycle: a vehicle with two wheels
  • Bilateral: having two sides
  • Biracial: belonging to two racial groups or ethnicities
  • Biannual: every two years or twice a year

All of these words are rather straightforward.

  • The confusion with the word ‘Bi-Weekly’ however, comes from the fact that the prefix ‘bi-’ can mean both “occurring every two” and “occurring twice in.”

So, while it is technically correct to say ‘Bi-Weekly’ when referring to something that happens both twice a week and every two weeks, you won’t necessarily be speaking as clearly as possible unless the people around you know the context. 

How to Use ‘Bi-Weekly’ in a Sentence

So now we know the origin of the word as well as the meaning, but we are still working on how to clarify confusion. The key here is going to be context because that will give us a better idea of which definition is being used. Below you’ll find some example sentences using both definitions of  ‘Bi-Weekly’ so you can see how they might function. 

‘Bi-Weekly’ Example Sentences

"Every two weeks”

  • The family gets their house cleaned bi-weekly because that’s the recommended time frame for getting sheets cleaned, so the cleaners come in every other Thursday. 
  • The team members must submit bi-weekly reports, which means they end up doing 26 reports throughout the year. 
  • To prepare for the bodybuilding competition, he does bi-weekly weigh-ins every other Friday to make sure he is on target. 

"Twice a week”

  • Some face washes have harsher chemicals, so they are recommended to only be used bi-weekly, meaning two times a week, to avoid damaging the skin. 
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays are her favorite days because she gets to attend her bi-weekly dance lessons. 
  • During the off-season, the team only practices bi-weekly, once during the week and once during the weekend, to get some extra rest in. 

Alternatives to the Word ‘Bi-Weekly’

Despite the usefulness of context, you may still need to clarify which version of the word ‘Bi-Weekly’ you are using. While this can be frustrating, it may prevent confusion while communicating and help avoid any scheduling mishaps. Thankfully, the definition of ‘Bi-Weekly’ provides us with some built-in alternatives. 

  • Using the meaning ‘two,’ you can say “every two weeks” in place of ‘Bi-Weekly’.
  • You could also say “every other week,” which implies that the weeks alternate.
  • Finally, you can use the specific day of the week — let’s use Monday, for example — and say “every two Mondays” or “every other Monday.”

Using the meaning ‘twice’ you can substitute ‘Bi-Weekly’ for “twice per week.” You could also say the more colloquial “twice-a-week” or “twice weekly,” which means the same thing. 

  • Note that another way to say “twice per week” is by using the phrase ‘semi-weekly’ which you can read more about in other articles. 

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Bi-Weekly’

Regardless of whether you’re using a longer substitution or the word ‘Bi-Weekly’ itself, it’s important to know how to actually say the word. Pronouncing words correctly is just as important in clarifying your meaning as context, so we want to make sure you have the tools to say ‘Bi-Weekly’ in a proper manner

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

  • ‘By-week-lee’ (with a tall ‘i’ as in “sigh” and the ‘ee’ and ‘-y’ being pronounced the same)

Final Advice on the Meaning of ‘Bi-Weekly’

The English language relies heavily on prefixes to indicate our meaning and expand the vocabulary we already know how to use. While they are great for enhancing words, they can lead to some confusion, especially in the case of periods of time. 

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

  • Prefixes are sets of letters added to the beginning of a word to change its meaning.
  • ‘Bi-’ is a Latin prefix that can mean ‘two,’ ‘twice,’ and ‘both,’ which affects the word ‘Bi-Weekly’ because, 
  • ‘Bi-Weekly’ can mean both “twice per week” as well as “every two weeks.”

Be sure to check out other articles on time, and read up on other confusing words that may have their own ambiguities. Be careful with context, and you’ll be a vocabulary expert in no time.

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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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