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[boo k] /bʊk/
a handwritten or printed work of fiction or nonfiction, usually on sheets of paper fastened or bound together within covers.
a work of fiction or nonfiction in an electronic format:
Your child can listen to or read the book online.
See also e-book (def 1).
a number of sheets of blank or ruled paper bound together for writing, recording business transactions, etc.
a division of a literary work, especially one of the larger divisions.
the Book, the Bible.
Music. the text or libretto of an opera, operetta, or musical.
books, book of account.
Jazz. the total repertoire of a band.
a script or story for a play.
a record of bets, as on a horse race.
Cards. the number of basic tricks or cards that must be taken before any trick or card counts in the score.
a set or packet of tickets, checks, stamps, matches, etc., bound together like a book.
anything that serves for the recording of facts or events:
The petrified tree was a book of Nature.
Sports. a collection of facts and information about the usual playing habits, weaknesses, methods, etc., of an opposing team or player, especially in baseball:
The White Sox book on Mickey Mantle cautioned pitchers to keep the ball fast and high.
Stock Exchange.
  1. the customers served by each registered representative in a brokerage house.
  2. a loose-leaf binder kept by a specialist to record orders to buy and sell stock at specified prices.
a pile or package of leaves, as of tobacco.
Mineralogy. a thick block or crystal of mica.
a magazine: used especially in magazine publishing.
Slang. bookmaker (def 1).
the book.
  1. a set of rules, conventions, or standards:
    The solution was not according to the book but it served the purpose.
  2. the telephone book:
    I've looked him up, but he's not in the book.
verb (used with object)
to enter in a book or list; record; register.
to reserve or make a reservation for (a hotel room, passage on a ship, etc.):
We booked a table at our favorite restaurant.
to register or list (a person) for a place, transportation, appointment, etc.:
The travel agent booked us for next week's cruise.
to engage for one or more performances.
to enter an official charge against (an arrested suspect) on a police register.
to act as a bookmaker for (a bettor, bet, or sum of money):
The Philadelphia syndicate books 25 million dollars a year on horse racing.
verb (used without object)
to register one's name.
to engage a place, services, etc.
  1. to study hard, as a student before an exam:
    He left the party early to book.
  2. to leave; depart:
    I'm bored with this party, let's book.
  3. to work as a bookmaker:
    He started a restaurant with money he got from booking.
of or relating to a book or books:
the book department; a book salesman.
derived or learned from or based on books:
a book knowledge of sailing.
shown by a book of account:
The firm's book profit was $53,680.
Verb phrases
book in, to sign in, as at a job.
book out, to sign out, as at a job.
book up, to sell out in advance:
The hotel is booked up for the Christmas holidays.
bring to book, to call to account; bring to justice:
Someday he will be brought to book for his misdeeds.
by the book, according to the correct or established form; in the usual manner:
an unimaginative individual who does everything by the book.
close the books, to balance accounts at the end of an accounting period; settle accounts.
cook the books, Informal. cook1 (def 12)
in one's bad books, out of favor; disliked by someone:
He's in the boss's bad books.
in one's book, in one's personal judgment or opinion:
In my book, he's not to be trusted.
in one's good books, in favor; liked by someone.
like a book, completely; thoroughly:
She knew the area like a book.
make book,
  1. to accept or place the bets of others, as on horse races, especially as a business.
  2. to wager; bet:
    You can make book on it that he won't arrive in time.
off the books, done or performed for cash or without keeping full business records: especially as a way to avoid paying income tax, employment benefits, etc.:
Much of his work as a night watchman is done off the books.
one for the book / books, a noteworthy incident; something extraordinary:
The daring rescue was one for the book.
on the books, entered in a list or record:
He claims to have graduated from Harvard, but his name is not on the books.
throw the book at, Informal.
  1. to sentence (an offender, lawbreaker, etc.) to the maximum penalties for all charges against that person.
  2. to punish or chide severely.
without book,
  1. from memory.
  2. without authority:
    to punish without book.
write the book, to be the prototype, originator, leader, etc., of:
So far as investment banking is concerned, they wrote the book.
Origin of book
before 900; Middle English, Old English bōc; cognate with Dutch boek, Old Norse bōk, German Buch; akin to Gothic boka letter (of the alphabet) and not of known relation to beech, as is often assumed
Related forms
bookless, adjective
booklike, adjective
prebook, verb
rebook, verb
unbooked, adjective
25. reserve, schedule, bill, slate, program.
25. cancel. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for by the book


a number of printed or written pages bound together along one edge and usually protected by thick paper or stiff pasteboard covers See also hardback, paperback
  1. a written work or composition, such as a novel, technical manual, or dictionary
  2. (as modifier): the book trade, book reviews
  3. (in combination): bookseller, bookshop, bookshelf, bookrack
a number of blank or ruled sheets of paper bound together, used to record lessons, keep accounts, etc
(pl) a record of the transactions of a business or society
the script of a play or the libretto of an opera, musical, etc
a major division of a written composition, as of a long novel or of the Bible
a number of tickets, sheets, stamps, etc, fastened together along one edge
(bookmaking) a record of the bets made on a horse race or other event
(in card games) the number of tricks that must be taken by a side or player before any trick has a scoring value: in bridge, six of the 13 tricks form the book
strict or rigid regulations, rules, or standards (esp in the phrases according to the book, by the book)
a source of knowledge or authority: the book of life
a telephone directory (in the phrase in the book)
(sometimes capital) the book, the Bible
an open book, a person or subject that is thoroughly understood
a closed book, a person or subject that is unknown or beyond comprehension: chemistry is a closed book to him
bring to book, to reprimand or require (someone) to give an explanation of his conduct
close the book on, to bring to a definite end: we have closed the book on apartheid
(accounting) close the books, to balance accounts in order to prepare a statement or report
(informal) cook the books, to make fraudulent alterations to business or other accounts
in my book, according to my view of things
in someone's bad books, regarded by someone with disfavour
in someone's good books, regarded by someone with favour
keep the books, to keep written records of the finances of a business or other enterprise
on the books
  1. enrolled as a member
  2. registered or recorded
read someone like a book, to understand a person, or his motives, character, etc, thoroughly and clearly
throw the book at
  1. to charge with every relevant offence
  2. to inflict the most severe punishment on
to reserve (a place, passage, etc) or engage the services of (a performer, driver, etc) in advance: to book a flight, to book a band
(transitive) to take the name and address of (a person guilty of a minor offence) with a view to bringing a prosecution: he was booked for ignoring a traffic signal
(transitive) (of a football referee) to take the name of (a player) who grossly infringes the rules while playing, two such acts resulting in the player's dismissal from the field
(transitive) (archaic) to record in a book
Word Origin
Old English bōc; related to Old Norse bōk, Old High German buoh book, Gothic bōka letter; see beech (the bark of which was used as a writing surface)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for by the book



Old English boc "book, writing, written document," traditionally from Proto-Germanic *bokiz "beech" (cf. German Buch "book" Buche "beech;" see beech), the notion being of beechwood tablets on which runes were inscribed, but it may be from the tree itself (people still carve initials in them). The Old English word originally meant any written document. Latin and Sanskrit also have words for "writing" that are based on tree names ("birch" and "ash," respectively). Meaning "libretto of an opera" is from 1768. A betting book is from 1856.



Old English bocian "to grant or assign by charter," from book (n.). Meaning "to enter into a book, record" is early 13c. Meaning "to enter for a seat or place, issue (railway) tickets" is from 1841; "to engage a performer as a guest" is from 1872. Related: Booked; booking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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by the book in Culture

by the book definition

According to established rules: “The inspector will be visiting the factory today, so let's make sure we do everything by the book.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for by the book

by the book

adverb phrase

According to correct procedures; as one should under regulations, law, contract, etc: He said there would be no more corner cutting, we'd do everything strictly by the book (1840s+)



  1. bookie (1860s+ Gambling)
  2. A bookie's function and place of business: Joey keeps a book (1860s+ Gambling)
  3. The daily logbook of a police station (1840s+ Police)


  1. Make Book
  2. To charge someone with a crime or misdemeanor at a police station: They took the bum in and booked him for vagrancy (1840s+ Police)
  3. To engage or reserve in advance: They booked eight readings in three days for the visiting poet/ Book me a table for six (1820s+)
  4. hit the books
  5. To run or depart, esp rapidly: And the couple booked off into the sunset for their honeymoon (1980s+ Students)

Related Terms

by the book, crack a book, hit the books, in someone's bad books, little black book, one for the book, pound the books, read someone like a book, stroke book, take a page from someone's book, throw the book at someone, wish book, write the book

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with by the book

by the book

Strictly according to the rules, as in Our trip leader is going by the book, allowing us to wander off only for short periods . Shakespeare already used the term figuratively in Romeo and Juliet (1:5): “You kiss by the book.” Also see by the numbers
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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