• synonyms


See more synonyms for ternary on Thesaurus.com
  1. consisting of or involving three; threefold; triple.
  2. third in order or rank.
  3. based on the number three.
  4. Chemistry.
    1. consisting of three different elements or groups.
    2. (formerly) consisting of three atoms.
  5. Mathematics. having three variables.
  6. Metallurgy. (of an alloy) having three principal constituents.
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noun, plural ter·na·ries.
  1. a group of three.
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Origin of ternary

1400–50; late Middle English < Latin ternārius made up of three. See tern2, -ary
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for ternary

threefold, treble, triple, trilateral, ternary, third, trinitarian, trine, trio, troika, triumvirate, triad, trinity, triplicity, triplet, triplicate, trilogy, trichotomy, trivium, ternion

Examples from the Web for ternary

Historical Examples of ternary

  • Ternary, and quaternary, consist of three and four elements.

    Elements of Chemistry,

    Antoine Lavoisier

  • But opinion is the ternary; for that rationally follows from comprehension.

  • At the last-mentioned point, the ternary salt with 8H2O is formed.

  • When two combinations are observed, they must be presumed to be a binary and a ternary.

    Heroes of Science

    M. M. Pattison Muir

  • Note the ternary movement of this song, and see Versification, p. lxxiii.

British Dictionary definitions for ternary


  1. consisting of three or groups of three
  2. maths
    1. (of a number system) to the base three
    2. involving or containing three variables
  3. (of an alloy, mixture, or chemical compound) having three different components or composed of three different elements
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noun plural -ries
  1. a group of three
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Word Origin for ternary

C14: from Latin ternārius, from ternī three each
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

Word Origin and History for ternary


early 15c., from Late Latin ternarius "consisting of three," from terni "three by three," from ter "thrice," which is related to tres "three" (see three).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

ternary in Medicine


  1. Composed of three or arranged in threes, as a chemical compound containing three elements.
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  1. A group of three.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.