[too-bahy-fawr, -fohr, -buh-]


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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for two-by-four

Contemporary Examples of two-by-four

Historical Examples of two-by-four

  • At the third jump his hat flew off, disclosing the jagged end of a two-by-four.

  • 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

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 1 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 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