“Birthday” vs. “Anniversary” – Difference Explained

A “birthday” and “anniversary” are both special occasions that many folks choose to celebrate. However, some people may be confused over what the difference between these celebrations is. This article will properly explain important information regarding “birthdays” and “anniversaries”.

What Is The Difference Between A “Birthday” And An “Anniversary”?

While “birthday” and “anniversary” are avid forms of celebration, they differ in their overall meaning. A “birthday”, acknowledges and celebrates the specific date of a person’s birth. An “anniversary”, can be used to commemorate a multitude of occasions on any specific date.

birthday vs anniversary

What Is A “Birthday”?

According to Cambridge Dictionary, a “birthday” is the day that is exactly a year or number of years after a person was born. So, we use “birthdays” to celebrate an individual’s date of birth, annually. “Birthdays” can be used to celebrate a person, an animal, or even a nation.

“Birthdays” are considered to be a very commonly celebrated occasion. While the terminology may differ between languages, across the globe, people see fit to show commemoration for an individual’s day of birth.

It’s also become common practice for people to acknowledge the “birthday” of their pets or the country in which they reside.

What Is An “Anniversary”?

According to Cambridge Dictionary, an “anniversary” is the day in which an important event happened in a previous year. Another annual and reoccurring celebration, we use “anniversaries” to commemorate important dates in our lives like weddings.

We use “anniversaries” to celebrate the most important dates in our lives, annually. While they’re commonly known as celebrations for the date of a wedding, “anniversaries” can be used to acknowledge the date you started your job, the date you graduated, etc.

Examples Of How To Use “Birthdays” In A Sentence

Here are some examples of how to use “birthdays” in a sentence:

  • Did you know that it is almost Alex’s birthday?
  • We need to plan a celebration for Adam’s birthday.
  • It’s mom’s birthday next week and we still haven’t bought her a gift!
  • What were you planning on purchasing him for his birthday gift?
  • Birthdays are just so much fun to celebrate!
  • What would you like for your birthday present this year?
  • Have you started to plan your birthday party yet?
  • I’ve been working hard to plan Cassie’s birthday party. I want it to be an amazing day.
  • Why is it that you don’t enjoy celebrating your birthday?
  • Hey, how old are you turning on your birthday this year?

Examples Of How To Use “Anniversary” In A Sentence

Here are some examples of how to use “anniversary” in a sentence:

  • It’s mom and dad’s twentieth wedding anniversary tomorrow.
  • What day is your wedding anniversary on?
  • It’s the anniversary of our first date today!
  • Today is the anniversary of the day we adopted our dog from the shelter.
  • It’s the anniversary of the day you first started working with us.
  • Congratulations on your fiftieth wedding anniversary!
  • What are the two of you planning on doing to celebrate your anniversary?
  • It’s a sad day, being the first anniversary of the day grandma passed away.
  • A dinner date is an excellent way to commemorate an anniversary.
  • Many folks enjoy giving gifts to their partners on their anniversary.

Are “Birthday” and “Anniversary” Antonyms?

For context purposes, an antonym is considered to be an opposing word, like good and bad. Therefore, “birthday” and “anniversary” are not antonyms because they are not opposites. The antonym of both, considering they are happy festivities, would be a day of mourning or a funeral.

Can You Say “Happy Anniversary” For “Birthday”?

Generally, when speaking in English, we do not say “happy anniversary” when wishing someone well on their “birthday”. We instead say, “happy birthday”, as we are acknowledging their specific date of birth and it is considered to be the best choice of wording.

By definition, an “anniversary” is used to commemorate something special that occurred in a previous year. So, from this definition, upon our birthdate, we have no recollection of earlier events. Therefore, to make things specific, we use “happy birthday”.

Considering a “birthday” is technically an “anniversary” of sorts, it’s not wrong for someone to say this. It’s merely not the preferred way of speaking. However, it’s unlikely someone would become upset by being wished a “happy anniversary”, on their “birthday”.

Why Do We Say “Happy Birthday” And Not “Happy Birth Anniversary”?

Simply put, as English speakers we say “happy birthday” over “happy birth anniversary”. It implies a specific celebration of the day someone was born, as opposed to a memorable historic event. “Anniversary”, is considered a broader term for an abundance of occasions.

Technically speaking, a person only has one birthday, being the day on which they were born. Each subsequent celebration would actually be an anniversary. However, conventionally speaking, a “birthday” has become the annual commemoration of the day you were born.

The known “happy birthday to you” song, was first written and produced in English, in the United States. For over a century, folks have sung this on “birthdays”, showcasing the staple saying “happy birthday”.

While saying “happy birth anniversary” would not necessarily be wrong, it’s not the proper or common way to address this celebration.

Is “Birthday” Or “Anniversary” Used The Most?

According to Google Ngram Viewer, “birthday” is used more often than “anniversary”.

birthday vs anniversary historical development

While “birthday” is presently used more often than “anniversary”, this was not always the case. “Birthday” only become the more predominantly used term in the mid to late 1990s. Before this, “anniversary” was far more commonly used.

From the 1800s to the mid-1990s, “anniversary” was used more often than “birthday”. One can assume that this is due to the fact that marriages were a much more common union in previous decades. Unfortunately, in present-day, divorce rates have become quite high in comparison.

At the same time, many folks no longer feel the need to get married. Some choose to stay as common law or civil partners. While some people opt not to celebrate occasions like “anniversaries”, considering they can be pricey.

In contrast, “birthdays” have also become more widely celebrated, especially in terms of pets and nations. While folks have always celebrated human “birthdays”, many now choose to show the same affection towards their pets. At the same time, many countries now have commemorative celebrations for their nation’s “birthdays”.

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