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Anniversary vs. Birthday — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on October 11, 2023
An anniversary marks a significant event's yearly recurrence. A birthday celebrates the annual return of a person's day of birth.
Anniversary vs. Birthday — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Anniversary and Birthday


Key Differences

An anniversary is traditionally understood as the yearly recurrence of a significant event or moment in history. This can be anything from a marriage to the founding of a company. It commemorates a past event, marking its passage through time. On the contrary, a birthday specifically represents the annual return of the date of a person's birth. It celebrates the age of an individual and the passage of their life year by year.
When we think of anniversaries, we often consider them in the context of relationships. Many couples celebrate the date they first met, got engaged, or were married. Each year, this date returns and they may mark it with celebrations or gifts. A birthday, however, is individualistic (unless considering twins or multiple births). It's a celebration of life, growth, and personal achievements.
Interestingly, while an anniversary can mark both happy and somber occasions (such as remembering the date of a historical event), birthdays are generally seen in a positive light, emphasizing joy, gratitude, and reflection. Anniversaries can thus be broader in scope, whereas birthdays remain focused on individual persons and their life journey.
From a linguistic perspective, the word anniversary comes from the Latin “anniversarius,” which means "returning yearly," emphasizing the cyclical nature of the event. Birthday, on the other hand, straightforwardly combines "birth" and "day," signifying the day someone was born.

Comparison Chart


Yearly recurrence of a significant event.
Annual return of a person's day of birth.


Often related to relationships, events, or milestones.
Pertains specifically to an individual's life.


Can be both celebratory or commemorative.
Generally celebratory.


Derived from Latin “anniversarius,” meaning "returning yearly."
Combination of "birth" and "day."

General Celebration

Often marked by reflection, commemoration, or celebration.
Celebrated with joy, gratitude, and reflection on personal achievements.

Compare with Definitions


The yearly recurrence of a past event.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.


The annual celebration of a person's day of birth.
Today is my 30th birthday!


A milestone achieved in intervals of years.
The company is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.


A date marking a person's age increment.
Her birthday is on June 15th, and she'll be turning 21.


A commemorative moment marked yearly.
The town holds an event on the anniversary of its founding.


An individual's personal milestone marked yearly.
His birthday party was a grand affair with all his friends and family.


A date that celebrates a past significant occasion.
Our wedding anniversary is next week.


The day a person was born, celebrated annually.
Every birthday, he takes a moment to reflect on the past year.


An anniversary is the date on which an event took place or an institution was founded in a previous year, and may also refer to the commemoration or celebration of that event. For example, the first event is the initial occurrence or, if planned, the inaugural of the event.


A yearly reminder of one's life journey and growth.
On her birthday, she felt grateful for all her experiences.


The date on which an event took place or an institution was founded in a previous year
The 75th anniversary of the RAF
The 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain


A birthday is the anniversary of the birth of a person, or figuratively of an institution. Birthdays of people are celebrated in numerous cultures, often with birthday gifts, birthday cards, a birthday party, or a rite of passage.


The annually recurring date of a past event, as of personal or historical importance
A wedding anniversary.
The anniversary of the founding of Rome.


The anniversary of the day on which a person was born, typically treated as an occasion for celebration and the giving of gifts
His twenty-ninth birthday
A birthday cake


A date that follows a certain event by a specified amount of time
His six-month anniversary of quitting smoking.


The day of one's birth.


An event at which an anniversary is celebrated.


The anniversary of one's birth.


A day that is an exact number of years (to the day) since a given significant event occurred. Often preceded by an ordinal number indicating the number of years.
Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the war.


The anniversary of the day on which someone is born.
When's your birthday? Mine's on April 1.


(especially) Such a day that commemorates a wedding.
We are celebrating our tenth anniversary today.


The anniversary of the day on which something is created.


A day subsequent in time to a given event by some significant period other than a year (especially as prefixed by the amount of time in question).


The date on which someone is born or something is created, more commonly called birthdate or date of birth.


Returning with the year, at a stated time; annual; yearly; as, an anniversary feast.


A birthday party.
I'd like to invite you all to my birthday.


The annual return of the day on which any notable event took place, or is wont to be celebrated; as, the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.


To celebrate one's birthday.


The day on which Mass is said yearly for the soul of a deceased person; the commemoration of some sacred event, as the dedication of a church or the consecration of a pope.


The day in which any person is born; day of origin or commencement.
Those barbarous ages past, succeeded nextThe birthday of invention.


The celebration which takes place on an anniversary day.


The day of the month in which a person was born, in whatever succeeding year it may recur; the anniversary of one's birth.
This is my birthday; as this very dayWas Cassius born.


The date on which an event occurred in some previous year (or the celebration of it)


Of or pertaining to the day of birth, or its anniversary; as, birthday gifts or festivities.


A cyclical return of a particular date marking an event.
The anniversary of the historic treaty is observed solemnly.


An anniversary of the day on which a person was born (or the celebration of it)


The date on which a person was born

Common Curiosities

Can an anniversary mark a sad event?

Yes, anniversaries can commemorate both joyous and somber events.

Do all cultures celebrate birthdays?

While many do, the way birthdays are celebrated can vary across cultures.

Can companies have anniversaries?

Yes, companies often celebrate anniversaries marking their years in business.

Is it customary to give gifts on a birthday?

In many cultures, yes. Gifts are a way to celebrate and show appreciation.

Is a birthday always about age?

Primarily, yes. It marks the yearly passage of an individual's life.

How is the word "anniversary" used in sentences?

It often denotes the yearly return of a date, e.g., "It's their silver wedding anniversary."

Can pets have birthdays?

Yes, many people celebrate the birthdays of their pets.

Is an anniversary always yearly?

Typically, yes. Though events can be remembered at other intervals, "anniversary" implies a yearly recurrence.

Why are certain birthday milestones more significant?

Cultural, societal, or personal values might emphasize certain ages as major life milestones.

Can the word "anniversary" be used outside romantic contexts?

Absolutely, it can mark any significant past event's yearly recurrence.

How do people typically feel about significant anniversaries?

Feelings can vary, from joy and nostalgia to reflection and remembrance, depending on the event.

What is a half-birthday?

It's a playful way to mark the midpoint between two birthdays, six months from the actual date.

Do anniversaries always involve celebrations?

Not always. Some anniversaries might be observed with reflection or remembrance.

What's a common way to celebrate a birthday?

Parties, cakes, gifts, and spending time with loved ones are common.

Can the term "anniversary" be used for monthly recurrences?

While traditionally yearly, some use "monthiversary" for monthly occurrences, but it's less formal.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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