by and by, in a short time; before long; presently: The clouds will disappear by and by.
    by and large, in general; on the whole: By and large, there is much to be said for the new system.
    by the by. bye1(def 6).

Origin of by

before 900; Middle English; Old English bī; cognate with Dutch bij, Old High German (German bei), Gothic bi. See be-

Synonym study

11. By, through, with indicate agency or means of getting something done or accomplished. By is regularly used to denote the agent (person or force) in passive constructions: It is done by many; destroyed by fire. It also indicates means: Send it by airmail. With denotes the instrument (usually consciously) employed by an agent: He cut it with the scissors. Through designates particularly immediate agency or instrumentality or reason or motive: through outside aid; to yield through fear; wounded through carelessness. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for by and large

by and large


in general; on the whole

Word Origin for by and large

C17: originally nautical (meaning: to the wind and off it)




used to indicate the agent after a passive verbseeds eaten by the birds
used to indicate the person responsible for a creative workthis song is by Schubert
via; throughenter by the back door
followed by a gerund to indicate a means usedhe frightened her by hiding behind the door
beside; next to; neara tree by the house
passing the position of; pasthe drove by the old cottage
not later than; beforereturn the books by Tuesday
used to indicate extent, after a comparativeit is hotter by five degrees than it was yesterday
(esp in oaths) invoking the name ofI swear by all the gods
multiplied byfour by three equals twelve
(in habitual sentences) during the passing of (esp in the phrases by day, by night)
placed between measurements of the various dimensions of somethinga plank fourteen inches by seven


nearthe house is close by
away; asidehe put some money by each week for savings
passing a point near something; pasthe drove by
Scot past; over and done withthat's a' by now
Scot aside; behind oneyou must put that by you

noun plural byes

a variant spelling of bye 1

Word Origin for by

Old English bī; related to Gothic bi, Old High German , Sanskrit abhi to, towards



the internet domain name for

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

Word Origin and History for by and large



Old English be- (unstressed) or bi (stressed) "near, in, by, during, about," from Proto-Germanic *bi "around, about" (cf. Old Saxon and Old Frisian bi "by near," Middle Dutch bie, Dutch bij, German bei "by, at, near," Gothic bi "about"), from *umbi (cognate with second element in PIE *ambhi "around," cf. Sanskrit abhi "toward, to," Greek amphi- "around, about;" see ambi-).

Originally an adverbial particle of place, in which sense it is retained in place names (Whitby, Grimsby, etc.). Elliptical use for "secondary course" (opposed to main; e.g. byway, also cf. by-blow "illegitimate child," 1590s) was in Old English. This also is the sense of the second by in the phrase by the by (1610s). By the way literally means "in passing by" (mid-14c.); used figuratively to introduce a tangential observation by 1540s.

Phrase by and by (early 14c.) originally meant "one by one," modern sense is from 1520s. By and large (1660s) originally was nautical, "sailing to the wind and off it," hence "in one direction then another."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with by and large

by and large

For the most part, generally speaking, as in By and large the novel was a success. This expression originated in 17th-century seamanship, where it referred to sailing into the wind and then off it, which made it easier to steer. By the early 1700s the term had been broadened to mean “in one direction and another,” whence its present meaning of “in general.” For a synonym, see for the most part.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.