People Are Confused About What “Biweekly” Actually Means

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“Let’s schedule a biweekly call to discuss the bimonthly reports on the biannual review project.”

It’s the stuff of workplace nightmares: your boss asks you to schedule a “biweekly” call, and you’re left wondering, is that twice a week or once every two weeks?

If you’re stumped, you’re in good company. Let’s try to clear this up. Famous last words…

The Great Biweekly Conundrum

According to the dictionary wizards at Merriam-Webster, “biweekly” means both “twice per week” and “once every two weeks.” Yes, you read that right. It’s both.

“Biweekly and bimonthly each have a pair of meanings that are unhelpfully at odds with one another,” Merriam-Webster confirms. “Those meanings exist, and we cannot ignore them.”

Just because a term has two meanings doesn’t mean both are used equally.

Grammarly notes that most native American English speakers use “biweekly” to mean twice a week, but even context doesn’t always make it clear.

As a Brit, I must point out we already have a delightful term that could help: fortnightly. It means once every two weeks.

If only this term gained more traction across the pond, everyone’s blood pressure might drop a bit. However, it hasn’t caught on, leaving many stuck in biweekly bewilderment.

The Bimonthly Bungle

It gets worse. “Bimonthly” can mean both twice a month and once every two months. Imagine workers being paid on the same two Fridays each month.

Half might say they’re paid biweekly, the other half bimonthly. Headache, anyone?

When we talk about years, the confusion theoretically ends: “biannual” means twice a year, while “biennial” means once every two years.

But even these terms are often mixed up. It seems referring to two of anything is tricky business.

The root of this mess is the prefix “bi-,” which from Latin has meanings including “two, having two, twice, double, doubly, twofold, once every two.” The ambiguity is, sadly, built in.

How to Navigate the Confusion

If you’re not ready to adopt “fortnightly,” the best way to avoid confusion is to spell it out. Say “twice a week” or “every two weeks” instead of using “biweekly.”

“English is sometimes simply obstreperous,” Merriam-Webster reminds us. So next time your boss makes that dreaded request, bite the bullet and ask for clarification.

And if this confusion plagues you often, maybe schedule a reminder to check this article. Biweekly or bimonthly – whichever works!


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