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[bahy-wurd] /ˈbaɪˌwɜrd/
a word or phrase associated with some person or thing; a characteristic expression, typical greeting, or the like.
a word or phrase used proverbially; common saying; proverb.
an object of general reproach, derision, scorn, etc.:
His crimes will make him a byword through the ages.
an epithet, often of scorn.
Origin of byword
before 1050; Middle English biworde, Old English biwyrde. See by1 (adj.), word
1. slogan, motto. 2. maxim, apothegm, aphorism, saw, adage. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for by-word
Historical Examples
  • The inactivity of our troops had long become a by-word among us.

  • He has now become a by-word as a hypocrite and a merciless self-seeker.

    Slain By The Doones R. D. Blackmore
  • The bishop had named him Isengrin, the by-word then for wolf.

  • Byron had a club foot in his mind, and so Byron is a by-word.

    The Green Carnation

    Robert Smythe Hichens
  • The word had been in use so frequently that it had become a by-word among the students.

    Hester's Counterpart Jean K. Baird
  • Be sure that a by-word so compact as that was not one old woman's invention.

    Change in the Village (AKA George Bourne) George Sturt
  • His honesty and loyalty were a by-word in the business district.

    Skinner's Dress Suit

    Henry Irving Dodge
  • "Mr. Gladstone's collars" are a by-word in the land; and Mr. Furniss made them.

    The History of "Punch"

    M. H. Spielmann
  • I shall not go; I can garnish his bed no longer; I should be a by-word among all the women of Troy.

    The Iliad Homer
  • I should return to Argos as a by-word, for the Achaeans will at once go home.

    The Iliad Homer
British Dictionary definitions for by-word


a person, place, or thing regarded as a perfect or proverbial example of something: their name is a byword for good service
an object of scorn or derision
a common saying; proverb
Word Origin
Old English bīwyrde; see by, word; compare Old High German pīwurti, from Latin prōverbium proverb
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-word



also by-word, Old English biword "proverb," formed on the model of Latin proverbium or Greek parabole. Meaning "something that has become proverbial" is from 1530s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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