Definition of biography in English:



  • 1An account of someone's life written by someone else.

    • ‘A keen horsewoman, she was writing a biography of Captain Mark Phillips - he and Princess Anne were still married at the time.’
    • ‘Was it possible to write the bestselling biography to match the box-office hit?’
    • ‘He was also responsible for publishing Dorothy Wordsworth's diaries and wrote a ground-breaking biography of her.’
    • ‘Brown even went on to write a biography of James Maxton.’
    • ‘She once toyed with writing a biography of Margaret Thatcher, the first time she's ever been interested in writing about a living person.’
    • ‘He wrote a worthy biography of Red Smith and edited a book of columns by Smith.’
    • ‘In The Name is not a Pilger biography but an account of Pilger's television work with which the journalist himself co-operated.’
    • ‘This might suggest the difficulty of writing the biography of someone who spent so much of his life recreating his life in fiction.’
    • ‘They are biographies, and writers should not have biographies written.’
    • ‘This is what is said to have prompted Asan to write a biography of Achutha Menon, drawing on his close relationship with him.’
    • ‘Hey, there are people writing novels and biographies using pictures as well as words.’
    • ‘I can't help but feel that if you could write a biography of Pepys with only side references to the diary it'd work a lot better.’
    • ‘When I went on to write the biography of Charles, true to his character, he gave me complete freedom of access to friends and documents.’
    • ‘He also wrote several short biographies on early identities to be included in Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.’
    • ‘The result is a biography written wholly in the spirit of its subject.’
    • ‘Lee said it wasn't his decision to sack Bell and if anything is written otherwise in the biography, which is due out in the autumn, he will take legal action.’
    • ‘Drummund, who was also a biographer for Billy Graham, wrote an excellent biography on Finney which deals with this.’
    • ‘It is not easy to write a biography about a person who is known to be reticent and the problem gets compounded when the attempt is not authorised.’
    • ‘I think I may write a non-linear biography starting from now and going in both directions at once.’
    • ‘My brother Marvin and I once wrote a biography of the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.’
    life story, life history, life, memoir, profile, account
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1mass noun Biographies considered as a literary genre.
      ‘the basic difference of approach to autobiography and biography’
      • ‘Greenblatt instead wants to write, and most consumers of literary biography want to read, a story extraordinary and uplifting.’
      • ‘Literary theory has recently held biography to be a literary construct, rather than a factual enterprise.’
      • ‘Yet men dominate in this field also, even in fiction, poetry, literary biography.’
      • ‘Ireland, in short, has no monopoly on the use of memoir, fiction, biography or autobiography as a political tool.’
      • ‘There is now a considerable body of theoretical and discursive work on biography as an artistic form.’
      • ‘Autobiography and biography have provided more intimate insights into the lives of homosexual men.’
      • ‘Much of the debate swung around definitions of biography and memoir.’
      • ‘Who has ever said such connections are not the stuff of literary biography?’
      • ‘Over the past 27 years, Norman Sherry has been pioneering a new literary genre: biography as ordeal.’
      • ‘To that end, Harlan concludes that Up From Slavery was more a work of fiction than biography.’
      • ‘If there is a slippage between fiction and biography in this text then how does this apply to the image?’
      • ‘Even European history of the period was an official or semi-official biography of the state.’
      • ‘It is closer to literary Criticism, than biography but without ever being boring.’
      • ‘He is the sort of phenomenon literary biography in its present form can only flatten.’
      • ‘As a work of literary biography and analysis American Sympathy is compelling.’
      • ‘It also has, for the first time, little essays on subjects such as biography, short stories, detective fiction and so on.’
      • ‘By taking on these sympathetic forms, literary biography can supply parallel narratives to those of novels.’
      • ‘Priced at six pence, they were colour coded: orange for fiction, green for crime, blue for biography.’
      • ‘Over half a century she published more than 20 novels, alongside works of poetry, criticism and biography.’
      • ‘One of the essays deals with the interesting question why biography is a genre that has been rarely well practised even in modern India.’
    2. 1.2 The course of a person's life.
      ‘although their individual biographies are different, both are motivated by a similar ambition’
      • ‘Over the centuries, Laozi's life took on elements of the mythological hero's biography.’
      • ‘This essay intersperses Simpson's own autobiographical knowledge of Warren and the other actors in the events of Warren's biography into his discussion of Warren's self-imposed exile from the South.’
      • ‘The major events of Woodman's biography have clearly marked her artistic growth.’
      • ‘It exposes the paradox that Plath's texts cannot be read through biography and cannot be read apart from it.’
      • ‘Some knowledge of Shapiro's biography is open to any reader in the dedication.’


Late 17th century: from French biographie or modern Latin biographia, from medieval Greek, from bios ‘life’ + -graphia ‘writing’.