Definition of biography in English:



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

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Hey, there are people writing novels and biographies using pictures as well as words.’
    • ‘He was also responsible for publishing Dorothy Wordsworth's diaries and wrote a ground-breaking biography of her.’
    • ‘This is what is said to have prompted Asan to write a biography of Achutha Menon, drawing on his close relationship with him.’
    • ‘He wrote a worthy biography of Red Smith and edited a book of columns by Smith.’
    • ‘Drummund, who was also a biographer for Billy Graham, wrote an excellent biography on Finney which deals with this.’
    • ‘She once toyed with writing a biography of Margaret Thatcher, the first time she's ever been interested in writing about a living person.’
    • ‘In The Name is not a Pilger biography but an account of Pilger's television work with which the journalist himself co-operated.’
    • ‘They are biographies, and writers should not have biographies written.’
    • ‘The result is a biography written wholly in the spirit of its subject.’
    • ‘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 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.’
    • ‘Was it possible to write the bestselling biography to match the box-office hit?’
    • ‘He also wrote several short biographies on early identities to be included in Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This might suggest the difficulty of writing the biography of someone who spent so much of his life recreating his life in fiction.’
    • ‘Brown even went on to write a biography of James Maxton.’
    • ‘A keen horsewoman, she was writing a biography of Captain Mark Phillips - he and Princess Anne were still married at the time.’
    • ‘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.’
    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’
      • ‘Much of the debate swung around definitions of biography and memoir.’
      • ‘To that end, Harlan concludes that Up From Slavery was more a work of fiction than biography.’
      • ‘There is now a considerable body of theoretical and discursive work on biography as an artistic form.’
      • ‘By taking on these sympathetic forms, literary biography can supply parallel narratives to those of novels.’
      • ‘It is closer to literary Criticism, than biography but without ever being boring.’
      • ‘If there is a slippage between fiction and biography in this text then how does this apply to the image?’
      • ‘Yet men dominate in this field also, even in fiction, poetry, literary biography.’
      • ‘Over the past 27 years, Norman Sherry has been pioneering a new literary genre: biography as ordeal.’
      • ‘He is the sort of phenomenon literary biography in its present form can only flatten.’
      • ‘Literary theory has recently held biography to be a literary construct, rather than a factual enterprise.’
      • ‘As a work of literary biography and analysis American Sympathy is compelling.’
      • ‘Greenblatt instead wants to write, and most consumers of literary biography want to read, a story extraordinary and uplifting.’
      • ‘Over half a century she published more than 20 novels, alongside works of poetry, criticism and biography.’
      • ‘Ireland, in short, has no monopoly on the use of memoir, fiction, biography or autobiography as a political tool.’
      • ‘Priced at six pence, they were colour coded: orange for fiction, green for crime, blue for biography.’
      • ‘It also has, for the first time, little essays on subjects such as biography, short stories, detective fiction and so on.’
      • ‘Who has ever said such connections are not the stuff of literary biography?’
      • ‘Autobiography and biography have provided more intimate insights into the lives of homosexual men.’
      • ‘One of the essays deals with the interesting question why biography is a genre that has been rarely well practised even in modern India.’
      • ‘Even European history of the period was an official or semi-official biography of the state.’
    2. 1.2 The course of a person's life.
      ‘although their individual biographies are different, both are motivated by a similar ambition’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’


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