1680s, "the histories of individual lives, as a branch of literature," probably from Medieval Latin biographia, from later Greek biographia "description of life" (which was not in classical Greek, bios alone being the word there for it), from Greek bios "life" (from PIE root *gwei- "to live") + graphia "record, account" (see -graphy).
Meaning "a history of someone's life" is from 1791. Meaning "life course of any living being" is from 1854. No one-word verb form has become common; biographise/biographize (1800), biography (1844), biograph (1849) have been tried.
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