Definition of by in English:

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Pronunciation: /bʌɪ/


1Identifying the agent performing an action:
1.1After a passive verb: the door was opened by my cousin Annie damage caused by fire
through the agency of, by means of, under the aegis of, using, utilizing, employing, with the help of, with the aid of, as a result of, because of, by dint of, by way of, by virtue of, via, through
1.2After a noun denoting an action: a clear decision by the electorate years of hard fund-raising work by local people
1.3Identifying the author of a text, idea, or work of art: a book by Ernest Hemingway
2 [often with verbal noun] Indicating the means of achieving something: malaria can be controlled by attacking the parasite they substantiate their opinions by the use of precise textual reference they plan to provide further working capital by means of borrowing
2.1Indicating a term to which an interpretation is to be assigned: what is meant by ‘fair’?
2.2Indicating a name according to which a person is known: she mostly calls me by my last name
2.3Indicating the means of transport selected for a journey: the cost of travelling by bus I travelled to Folkestone by rail
2.4Indicating the other parent of someone’s child or children: Richard is his son by his third wife
2.5Indicating the sire of a pedigree animal, especially a horse: a black filly by Goldfuerst
2.6(Followed by a noun without a determiner) in various phrases indicating how something happens: I heard by chance that she has married again Anderson, by contrast, rejects this view she ate by candlelight
3Indicating the amount or size of a margin: the shot missed her by miles the raising of VAT by 2.5%
3.1Indicating a quantity or amount: billing is by the minute the drunken yobbos who turned up by the cartload
3.2In phrases indicating something happening repeatedly or progressively, typically with repetition of a unit of time: colours changing minute by minute the risk becomes worse by the day
3.3Identifying a parameter: a breakdown of employment figures by age and occupation
3.4Expressing multiplication, especially in dimensions: a map measuring 400 by 600 mm she multiplied it by 89
4Indicating a deadline or the end of a particular time period: I’ve got to do this report by Monday by now Kelly needed extensive physiotherapy
no later than, in good time for, at, before
5Indicating location of a physical object beside a place or object: remains were discovered by the roadside the pram was by the dresser
next to, beside, next door to, alongside, by/at the side of, abreast of, adjacent to, cheek by jowl with, side by side with;
near, close to, hard by, nearest to, neighbouring, adjoining, abutting, bordering, overlooking;
connected to, connecting with, contiguous with, attached to
5.1Past and beyond: I drove by our house
past, in front of, beyond
6Indicating the period in which something happens: this animal always hunts by night
7Concerning; according to: anything you do is all right by me she had done her duty by him
according to, with, as far as … is concerned, concerning
8Used in mild oaths: it was the least he could do, by God I swear by Almighty God


So as to go past: a car flashed by on the other side of the road he let only a moment go by
past, on, along, beyond

noun (plural byes)

variant spelling of bye1.



by and by

Before long; eventually.
eventually, ultimately, finally, in the end, as time goes on/by, one day, some day, sooner or later, in time, in a while, after a bit, in the long run, in the fullness of time, at a later time, at a later date, at length, at a future time/date, at some point in the future, in the future, in time to come, in due course

by the by (or bye)

Incidentally: where’s Hector, by the by?

by hokey

NZ informal An exclamation used for emphasis or to express emotions such as surprise, anger, or distress: by hokey, it will have been worth it
More example sentences
  • By hokey, we mean to hold this government accountable one way or the other.
  • We'll surely all die of skin cancer in the years to come, but by hokey, it will have been worth it.
  • By hokey, she gives an excellent analysis of his article in this morning's Post.

by and large

On the whole; everything considered: mammals have, by and large, bigger brains than reptiles
Originally in nautical use, describing the handling of a ship both to the wind and off it
largely, mostly, mainly, to a large extent, to a great extent, to a great degree, on the whole, chiefly, generally, in general, predominantly, substantially, primarily, overall, for the most part, in the main, principally, in great measure, preponderantly, first and foremost, for all intents and purposes, basically;
usually, typically, commonly
on the whole, generally, in general, altogether, all things considered, all in all, taking everything into consideration, for the most part, in the main, as a rule, overall, usually, normally, ordinarily, almost always, customarily, habitually, typically, mainly, mostly, basically, chiefly, predominantly, principally, substantially;
on average, in most cases, on balance, to all intents and purposes

by oneself

1Alone: she lives in the apartment by herself
alone, all alone, on one's own, in a solitary state, singly, separately, solitarily, unaccompanied, companionless, partnerless, unattended, unescorted, unchaperoned, solo
informal by one's lonesome
British informal on one's tod, on one's lonesome, on one's jack, on one's Jack Jones
2Unaided: the patient often learns to undress by himself
unaided, unassisted, without help, without assistance, by one's own efforts, under one's own steam, independently, single-handed(ly), solo, on one's own, alone, all alone, off one's own bat, on one's own initiative

by way of

see way.


Old English , bi, be, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch bij and German bei.

Words that rhyme with by

ally, Altai, apply, assai, awry, ay, aye, Baha'i, belie, bi, Bligh, buy, bye, bye-bye, chi, Chiangmai, Ciskei, comply, cry, Cy, Dai, defy, deny, Di, die, do-or-die, dry, Dubai, dye, espy, eye, fie, fly, forbye, fry, Frye, goodbye (US goodby), guy, hereby, hi, hie, high, I, imply, I-spy, July, kai, lie, lye, Mackay, misapply, my, nearby, nigh, Nye, outfly, passer-by, phi, pi, pie, ply, pry, psi, Qinghai, rai, rely, rocaille, rye, scry, serai, shanghai, shy, sigh, sky, Skye, sky-high, sly, spin-dry, spry, spy, sty, Sukhotai, supply, Tai, Thai, thereby, thigh, thy, tie, Transkei, try, tumble-dry, underlie, Versailles, Vi, vie, whereby, why, wry, Wye, xi, Xingtai, Yantai

For editors and proofreaders

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