How Do You Pronounce “Binary”?

According to Merriam-Webster, there are two ways to pronounce binary:

  1. “bye’ nuh ree” (rhymes with “winery”)
  2. “bye’ nairy” (flows like the words “bye Mary”)

I use the second pronunciation, as do most people I’ve heard say the word. But as it turns out, according to someone I contacted at Merriam-Webster, the first pronunciation is more popular. In fact, the second pronunciation has been added to the dictionary only in the last 20 years or so.

Here’s an example of the first pronunciation, from an exchange in the movie “Star Wars IV: A New Hope”:

Uncle Owen:

“What I really need is a droid who understands the binary language of moisture vaporators.”


“Vaporators! Sir, my first job was programming binary load lifters, very similar to your vaporators in most respects.”

So how do you pronounce binary — (1) “bye’ nuh ree”, like Uncle Owen and C-3PO, or (2) “bye’ nairy”, like me? Please let us know in the comments.



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