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See more synonyms for byword on Thesaurus.com
  1. a word or phrase associated with some person or thing; a characteristic expression, typical greeting, or the like.
  2. a word or phrase used proverbially; common saying; proverb.
  3. an object of general reproach, derision, scorn, etc.: His crimes will make him a byword through the ages.
  4. an epithet, often of scorn.
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Origin of byword

before 1050; Middle English biworde, Old English biwyrde. See by1 (adj.), word


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for by-word

Historical Examples

  • The inactivity of our troops had long become a by-word among us.

    The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido

    Henry Keppel

  • 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.

British Dictionary definitions for by-word


  1. a person, place, or thing regarded as a perfect or proverbial example of somethingtheir name is a byword for good service
  2. an object of scorn or derision
  3. a common saying; proverb
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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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper