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From Late Latin bīnārius (consisting of two), from Latin bīnī (two-by-two, pair). By surface analysis, bin- +‎ -ary.



Examples (mutually exclusive states)

binary (comparative more binary, superlative most binary)

  1. Being in one of two mutually exclusive states.
    Binary states are often represented as 1 and 0 in computer science.
    • 2013 May 11, “The climate of Tibet: Pole-land”, in The Economist[1], volume 407, number 8835, page 80:
      Of all the transitions brought about on the Earth’s surface by temperature change, the melting of ice into water is the starkest. It is binary. And for the land beneath, the air above and the life around, it changes everything.
    • 2015, Aaron Sorkin, Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs, spoken by Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen):
      It's not binary. You can be decent and gifted at the same time.
  2. (logic) Concerning logic whose subject matter concerns binary states.
    Synonym: Boolean
  3. (arithmetic, computing) Concerning numbers and calculations using the binary number system.
    Synonym: base-2
  4. Having two equally important parts; related to something with two parts.
    Synonyms: dyadic, double, twin; see also Thesaurus:dual
    Two ingredients are combined in a binary poison.
    A binary statistical distribution has only two categories.
  5. (mathematics, programming, computer engineering) Of an operation, function, procedure, or logic gate, taking exactly two operands, arguments, parameters, or inputs; having domain of dimension 2.
    Division of reals is a binary operation.
  6. (computing) Of data, consisting coded values (e.g. machine code) not interpretable as plain or ASCII text (e.g. source code).
    Antonym: plain text
    He downloaded the binary distribution for Linux, then burned it to DVD.
  7. (comparable) Focusing on two mutually exclusive conditions.
    He has a very binary understanding of gender.


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binary (countable and uncountable, plural binaries)

  1. A state in which only two values are possible, in which something must have one value or the other.
    • 2012, Li-Hsiang Lisa Rosenlee, Confucianism and Women: A Philosophical Interpretation, →ISBN, page 51:
      The correlation between warmth and cold is an internal one where the existence of one depends on and is defined by the other. Hence, the yin-yang binary as a correlative binary of light-shade or warmth-cold [...]
    • 2012, Scott L. Baugh, Latino American Cinema, →ISBN:
      The “in” versus “out” of this sociological model certainly carries to the admittedly simplistic binary of “good” versus “bad” of stereotypes in fictional works and the scholarly approaches to them.
    • 2015, Summer Glassie, “"Embraced eternity lately?": Mislabeling and subversion of sexuality labels through the Asari in the Mass Effect trilogy”, in Matthew Wysocki, Evan W. Lauteria, editors, Rated M for Mature: Sex and Sexuality in Video Games[2] (Media Studes / Game Studies), Bloomsbury Publishing, →ISBN, →LCCN, →OCLC, page 162:
      As an “all-female” humanoid species not bound to the traditional forms of mating, in that they reproduce through a form of telepathic parthenogenesis, the design of the Asari collapses boundaries of sex and sexuality. The Asari are a species rendered as Other, even in comparison to the various beings populating the gameworld. Characters recognize and struggle against prejudice and limited understanding of Asari customs, culture, and practices. These gameworld features allow for a space where awareness and exploration of sexualities outside of the heterosexual binary can take place.
  2. (mathematics, computing, uncountable) The bijective base-2 numeral system, which uses only the digits 0 and 1.
    Synonym: base 2
    • 1987, Robert W. McBeth, J. Robert Ferguson, IBM Assembler: An Intuitive Approach, John Wiley, page 5:
      As our initial exposure to the base 10 number system consisted of learning how to count, it also makes sense that we might begin by learning how to count in binary.
  3. (computing) Synonym of binary file; a file consisting of data other than human-readable text.
    Antonyms: non-binary, text file
    • 2018, Dennis Andriesse, Practical Binary Analysis [] , No Starch Press, →ISBN, page 31:
      Now that you have a high-level idea of what binaries look like and how they work, you're ready to dive into a real binary format.
  4. (astronomy) Synonym of binary asteroid.
  5. (astronomy) Synonym of binary planet.
  6. (astronomy) Synonym of binary star.
    Synonym: double star
    • 2010, Nader Haghighipour, editor, Planets in Binary Star Systems, Springer Science & Business Media, →ISBN, page 109:
      As discussed in Section 5.1, the study of the properties of planets in binaries and the search for differences between the characteristics of these objects and those of planets orbiting single stars, is crucial to the understanding of the role of binarity in planet formation and evolution.



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