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[too-bahy-fawr, -fohr, -buh-] /ˈtu baɪˌfɔr, -ˌfoʊr, -bə-/
two units thick and four units wide, especially in inches.
Informal. lacking adequate space; cramped:
a small, two-by-four room.
Informal. unimportant; insignificant:
Theirs was a petty, two-by-four operation.
a timber measuring 2 by 4 inches (5 × 10 cm) in cross section, when untrimmed: equivalent to 1 5/8 by 3 5/8 inches (4.5 × 9 cm) when trimmed.
Origin of two-by-four
An Americanism dating back to 1880-85 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for two-by-four
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • At the third jump his hat flew off, disclosing the jagged end of a two-by-four.

    Chip, of the Flying U B. M. Bower
  • I say, Phil, should this two-by-four go in with the big side out, or the narrow?

    The Winning Touchdown

    Lester Chadwick
  • Thats what comes of blatting things in a two-by-four burg like this.

    The Bail Jumper Robert J. C. Stead
  • There isn't much room for the Triangle in a two-by-four shack.

    The Prairie Wife Arthur Stringer
  • The top is made out of a piece of two-by-four with bevelled mortises cut in two sides of each end as in Fig. 10.

    The Boy Craftsman A. Neely Hall
  • This platform should be fastened to the first, with the end which has not been battened secured to the two-by-four at C.

    The Boy Craftsman A. Neely Hall
  • Using the two-by-four as a fulcrum, he began levering the door upward and outward.

  • And time after time Stud brought the two-by-four crashing down between the maddened animal's eyes.

    Plowing On Sunday Sterling North
  • Zircon had found a piece of two-by-four lumber about eight feet long, and he was swinging it like a flail.

    The Caves of Fear John Blaine
British Dictionary definitions for two-by-four


a length of untrimmed timber with a cross section that measures 2 inches by 4 inches
a trimmed timber joist with a cross section that measures 11/2 inches by 31/2 inches
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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Slang definitions & phrases for two-by-four



Small; insignificant; inferior; two-bit: We stopped at a two-by-four hotelnearthetracks (entryform1896+,variant1930s+)

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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