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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


See more synonyms for byword on Thesaurus.com
1. slogan, motto. 2. maxim, apothegm, aphorism, saw, adage.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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