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

Synonyms for byword Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for byword

Contemporary Examples of byword

Historical Examples of byword

  • 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.

British Dictionary definitions for byword



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

Word Origin for byword

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 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