[ bahy-ling-gwuhl or, Canadian, -ling-gyoo-uhl ]
/ baɪˈlɪŋ gwəl or, Canadian, -ˈlɪŋ gyu əl /
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able to speak two languages with the facility of a native speaker.
spoken, written, or containing similar information in two different languages: a bilingual dictionary; Public notices at the embassy are bilingual.
of, involving, or using two languages: a bilingual community; bilingual schools.
a bilingual person.
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Origin of bilingual

1835–45; <Latin bilingu(is) (bi-bi-1 + lingu-, stem of lingua tongue + -is adj. suffix) + -al1


bi·lin·gual·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does bilingual mean?

Bilingual is most commonly used to describe someone who can speak or understand two languages, especially with some level of fluency.

It can also be used to describe things that involve or that are written or spoken in two languages, as in These instructions are bilingual—they’re written in English and Spanish.

The similar terms trilingual and multilingual are used in the same way, with trilingual indicating three languages and multilingual indicating more than two and especially several languages.

The ability to speak two languages or the use of two languages is called bilingualism.

Example: Being bilingual is a great advantage for many job seekers.

Where does bilingual come from?

The first records of the word bilingual come from the 1830s. It’s composed of bi-, meaning “two,” and lingual, which means “pertaining to languages.” Lingual shares a root with other language-related words, like linguistics and linguaphile.

Some people who are bilingual may be masters of both of the languages they speak. But a person might be described—or describe themselves—as bilingual even if they’re not fluent in the second language. Some people may be bilingual when they learn a language in addition to their native language, but some people may be bilingual due to having two native languages.

Countries are often described as bilingual when they have two official or widely used languages. Canada is often called a bilingual country since both English and French are widely spoken in certain places, though of course many other languages are spoken there, including many different Indigenous languages.

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How is bilingual used in real life?

Bilingual is most commonly used to describe people who speak two languages, but it’s also commonly used to describe other things written in or involving two languages.  

Try using bilingual!

Is bilingual used correctly in the following sentence?

“In some places, the street signs are bilingual since there are two widely spoken languages.”

How to use bilingual in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for bilingual

/ (baɪˈlɪŋɡwəl) /

able to speak two languages, esp with fluency
written or expressed in two languages
a bilingual person

Derived forms of bilingual

bilingualism, nounbilingually, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012