Today I read a sentence: “The regime, now, may be able to live with quite a few more weeks of biweekly demonstrations.”
Although I understood ‘biweekly’ as ‘occurring every 2 weeks’, I decided to check this word in a dictionary (there was a probability, I thought, that ‘biweekly’ meant ‘lasting for 2 weeks’). And I found out that this word has 2 quite contradicting meanings:
- twice a week
- once in two weeks
After some brief research, I came to conclusion that ‘biweekly’ as ‘twice a week’ is mostly used in UK, and ‘once in two weeks’ meaning is the most common one.
So, I have a question to all natives: how do you use ‘biweekly’? Do you use this word at all, or use it’s synonyms to avoid ambiguity?
I would usually understand it as “happening twice in one week”. The same way “bi-annual” is twice a year. Though I did have to re-check, maybe because I just woke up : ?. But I if you have found a contradicting meaning (UK versus US English), then maybe there is more ambiguity in the term.
I would expect to hear it in more formal situations, at work, on the news.
“You won’t always need to attend the bi-weekly meetings…”
In normal everyday situations I think I would just say “twice a week”, or “twice-weekly”.
The use of this term is quite confusing. If I don’t think about it then bi-weekly to me means twice a week, bi-monthly twice a month, bi-annually twice a year etc…But then that is what semi-annually means. I don’t know, and when I hear the term I usually have to confirm what the person means.
It’s ambiguous and a term best avoided. ‘Twice a week’ and ‘fortnightly’ are much clearer. Although I don’t believe a fortnight is common currency in the US.
I was going to post a link, but discovered a third meaning: a bisexual support group in Sheffield.
Which adds a whole new dimension to your question.
Yes, it is as @randrews says in the first paragraph, even in one of my old OUP dictionaries (1963) ( and yes, I have several old dictionaries:)) : it is either occurring twice a week, or every two weeks. Journalists might do well to use ‘fortnightly’ and ‘twice a week’ for clarity’s sake.
As to the tri-contextual comment, I cannot comment. Who is doing what?
I wonder is there at least one word in all languages that does not have a second/third/forth meaning related to homosexuality/bisexuality…
I think the journalist used ‘biweekly’ intentionally,
Now, if demonstrations are held twice a week, he will say: ‘Look! It is exactly what I have predicted!’
And if it is only once every two weeks, he will say the same
It seems your journalist cannot lose!
In the context of the above sentence, however, my mind went immediately to “twice a week” because of the preceding words. If you are going to have “weeks of biweekly demonstrations”, then you would have ONE week of biweekly demonstrations to start things off. That’s not possible if the demonstrations are every two weeks.
If you meant to say that the demontrations happened every two weeks, you’d need to say that there were MONTHS or at least one month of biweekly demonstrations.
I’m feeling a bit analytical this morning!
I thought it meant “twice a week” because of other “bi” modifiers IE bisexual (two sexual preferences) . But rather late in life i found out it means once every 2 weeks. Makes no sense to me.
The confusing thing is that it can have both meanings. Makes no sense to me.
@dooo That’s the problem: ‘bi’ just means ‘two’. But two of what? Events or weeks? Hence the ambiguity.