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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 byword
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I've heard him say 'All's well' over and over again; 'twas a kind of byword with him.

    Kent Knowles: Quahaug Joseph C. Lincoln
  • We have heard of your good fortune on the seas—how your luck has passed into a byword.

    Captain Blood Rafael Sabatini
  • In this respect we are a byword among the peoples of the world.

    England and Germany Emile Joseph Dillon
  • "Go to beat the Dutch" became a byword which has persisted to this day.

  • They will hunt him out of the village, they will refuse him food, they will make him a byword, a scorn.

    The Soul of a People H. Fielding
  • The mistake you made in my name came to be a joke and byword after I went home.

    Janet of the Dunes

    Harriet T. Comstock
British Dictionary definitions for byword


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 byword

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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