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What Do Bimonthly and Semimonthly Mean?

We discuss bimonthly vs semimonthly. Here is the quick run down:

  • Bimonthly refers to something that occurs twice a month or every two months.
  • Semimonthly means twice a month.

Now on to the nitty-gritty:

Periodical adjectives can be some of the most simple or confusing words in English. Some, such as yearly, monthly, or daily, their meaning is a straightforward explanation of time. Others, such as bimonthly and semimonthly offer more challenges, and can be quite confusing to remember. 

Have no fear; today we will discuss what these two terms mean, how they originated, and how you can use them in your writing!

What Does Bimonthly Mean? 

Bimonthly refers to something that occurs twice a month or every two months. Bimonthly is an adjective or an adverb, which is why it can cause so much confusion. Bimonthlies is a common form of the word that describes periodicals in the United States. 

Bimonthly describes pay periods, paychecks, salaries, etc. Most hourly employees will have their paydays dictated on a biweekly payroll. The ambiguity of bimonthly/biweekly means that having a biweekly pay schedule may dictate different payroll frequencies based on where you work. 

In terms of its origins, bimonthly comes from the Latin prefix bi-, which means twice, double, or two. Thus, with bimonthly, you should remember that it means two times a month or every two months. 

To help you remember, you can think of the word bicycle, which also uses bi- as a prefix to denote two wheels. 

What Does Semimonthly Mean? 

Semimonthly means twice a month, and it does not have the double meaning that bimonthly has. Semimonthly is an adjective that originates from the prefix semi-, meaning half, twice, or partly

In contrast to biweekly or bimonthly, semimonthly only means that something occurs twice a month, or every two weeks. Thus, hourly workers who are under semimonthly pay will all have their wages paid out on the same payroll schedule. In other words, there is no ambiguity within the phrase. 

Semimonthly acts as a singular noun, and semimonthlies acts as a plural noun to refer to periodicals. In American English, semimonthly often takes the hyphenated form of semi-monthly. Take note though, most style guides and dictionaries, such as the Oxford English Dictionary don’t recognize this spelling. 

Using Bimonthly and Semimonthly to Describe Pay Periods 

Bimonthly and semimonthly describe different pay frequencies or number of paychecks that someone will receive within a month. Since bimonthly has a lack of consistency in its meaning, it can both refer to someone receiving a paycheck twice a month, or every two months. 

When used weekly, the biweekly has the same confusing applications, however, most companies agree that it means every two weeks. If your employer claims to process payroll biweekly, it means that their payment schedule occurs every two weeks. 

Semimonthly pay occurs twice a month. It is essentially the same as a bi-weekly payroll. If you are being paid on a semi-monthly basis, your payment frequency occurs every two weeks. 

Interestingly enough, federal pay laws dictate that employers must stick with the same day on each pay period, meaning that you will have consistency with your annual pay. If your monthly paycheck amount is sent to you on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month, your employer must follow the same semi-monthly schedule throughout the whole year. 

Different payroll providers will have different ways of naming their schedules. Most employers work with bi-weekly pay or on a semi-monthly pay schedule, which means that you will be paid every two weeks! 

Examples Using Bimonthly and Semimonthly 

The columnists of Catholic Truth, the bimonthly voice of hardline Scottish Papism, spluttered with indignation when the cardinal was warmly received at Presbyterian gatherings. – The Economist. 

The publishing operation produces books, pamphlets, and periodicals, including the bimonthly Unity Magazine and the Daily Word, which are available in both print and online formats. – Encyclopedia Britannica. 

The lead-based makeup used by the Egyptians had antibacterial properties that helped prevent infections common at the time, according to a report published Friday in Analytical Chemistry, a semimonthly journal of the American Chemical Society. – The New York Times. 

The Watch Tower Society publishes millions of books, tracts, recordings, and periodicals, chief among which are a semimonthly magazine, the Watchtower, and its companion publication, Awake!, which are translated into more than 80 languages. – Encyclopedia Britannica.

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By Ryan Fisher

Ryan holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and specializes in proofreading, editing, and content writing with an emphasis on business communication.

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