December 5, 2007

Am I the only person who  is bothered by the fact that bimonthly has two remarkably different meanings?

First, we have the “every two months” application. I use the word in this sense when I am describing my yet-to-be-actualized newsletters.

Then we have the “twice a month” application. I use the word in this sense when I am talking about pay-day.

I’m a big fan of precise language. I like clear communication. When possible and appropriate, I am at efficiency in my communication.

Well, things like this really get in the way of that. It is possible for bimonthly things to happen four times as frequently as bimonthly things. That’s  just wrong!


Oh, Bimonthly… why can’t you be more like biannual. Why can’t you have a counterpart like biennial?



  1. It does have a counter part,

    semimonthly which means to occur twice a month.

  2. Yeah, it’s kind of tricky, because while semimonthly does mean the opposite of one meaning of bimonthly, it is still true and potentially problematic (though maybe it could be fun, too) that bimonthly can be its own opposite. And, to me, semimonthly isn’t nearly as mellifluous as bimonthly; though neither, to be honest, pleases my ear as much as biennial but I am always confusing it with biannual. Frankly, it’s kind of nice that “bimonthly”‘s confusion is self-contained and I don’t have to worry about misapplying it in its opposite sense. 😉

    So, does it bother you that flammable and inflammable are synonymous?

  3. I’ve always disliked the ambiguity of bimonthly. It makes me insecure in my word nerdery, like maybe I’m missing something I should know, or like I may mistake what someone means sometime when it’s really important, like thinking I’m going to get paid twice a month only to find out that I’m really getting paid every other month… But, since I don’t get paid at all, I guess it doesn’t matter much. Still, I like a word that means what it says, you know?

  4. plus, lets face it….. semi-monthly is just too many syllables…. my tongue has a tendency to trip when it has that many hurdles in one word….


  5. It’s true… there is semimonthly. But it not as widely used (at least not as much as I perceive biennial to be used). And, until semimonthly manages to completely eliminate the dual meaning of bimonthly, it is not doing it’s job.

    I suppose that there are still people who use biannual instead of biennial. But I snobbishly consider them to be wrong every time.

    Oh… and flammable and inflammable don’t bother me a bit. In fact, I rather enjoy them.

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