Dictionary > English Dictionary > Definition, synonym and antonym of by
Meaning of by by Wiktionary Dictionary


    Alternative forms


    From Old English bī ( “being near” ) .


    • ( UK, US ) IPA: /baɪ/, X-SAMPA: /baI/
    • Rhymes: -aɪ
    • Homophone: bi, bye, buy



    1. Near or next to .
      The mailbox is by the bus stop .
    2. At some time before ( the given time ), or before the end of a given time interval .
      Be back by ten o'clock!
      We will send it by the first week of July .
    3. Indicates the actor in a clause with its verb in the passive voice Through the action or presence of .
      The matter was decided by the chairman .
      The boat was swamped by the water .
      He was protected by his body armour .
    4. Indicates the creator of a work Existing through the authorship etc of .
      There are many well-known plays by William Shakespeare
    5. Indicates the cause of a condition or event Through the action of, caused by, responsibility for; by dint of.
    6. Indicates a means Involving/using the means of .
      I avoided the guards by moving only when they weren't looking .
    7. Indicates a source of light ( medium emanating from hot sources )
      • 1945, Neva L. Boyd, Handbook of Recreational Games, 1975 Dover edition, ISBN 0486232042, page 16 [1]:
        Players: Can we get there by candlelight?
        Gatekeepers: Yes and back again .
      • 1960, Dr. Seuss, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish:
        By the light of the moon, / by the light of a star / they walked all night […]
    8. Indicates a rule followed Using the rules or logic of .
      I sorted the items by category .
    9. Indicates the amount of some progression With a change of .
      Our stock is up by ten percent .
    10. In the formulae X by X and by Xs, indicates a steady progression, one X after another .
      We went through the book page by page .
      We crawled forward by inches .
    11. Indicates a referenced source According to .
      He cheated by his own admission .
    12. Indicates an oath With the authority of .
      By Jove! I think she's got it!
      By all that is holy, I'll put an end to this .
    13. Used to separate dimensions when describing the size of something .
      It is easy to invert a 2 by 2 matrix .
      The room was about 4 foot by 6 foot .
      We used 10 by 20 by 30 cm bricks to build the wall."


    by ( not comparable )

    1. Along a path which runs by the speaker .
      I watched as it passed by .
    2. In the vicinity, near .
      There was a shepherd close by .
      The shop is hard by the High Street .
    3. To or at a place, as a residence or place of business .
      I'll stop by on my way home from work .
      We're right near the lifeguard station. Come by before you leave .
    4. Aside, away .
      The women spent much time after harvest putting jams by for winter and spring .

    Derived terms


    by ( not comparable )

    1. Out of the way, subsidiary .


    Derived terms


    by ( plural: bys )

    1. ( card games ) A pass



    1. Alternative spelling of bye .


    • frequency based on Project Gutenberg corpus">Most common English words before 1923: not · be · at · #21: by · on · her · which


    By Wiktionary ( 2011/11/25 13:09 UTC Version )


    From a Norse language


    By Wiktionary ( 2011/02/02 13:11 UTC Version )

    Alternative forms

    • by-, bye-

    Etymology 1

    From Middle English by ( “town” ), of North Germanic origin, from Old Norse bȳr ( “dwelling, town” ), from Proto-Germanic *būwiz ( “dwelling” ), from Proto-Indo-European *bhōw- ( “to dwell” ). Cognate with Danish by ( “town” ). More at bower .



    1. ( usually non-productive ) Prefix originally denoting a town or city
      bylaw, bypass

    Etymology 2

    Partly from a combining form of by ( “by, near, around” ), and partly continuing Middle English bi-, by-, from Old English bī- ( “by, near, around” ), from Proto-Germanic *bi ( “near” ), from Proto-Indo-European *obhi, *ebhi ( “by” ) .



    1. Prefix denoting nearness
    2. Prefix meaning secondary, incidental, or parallel to
      by-product, byform, by-path

Explanation of by by Wordnet Dictionary


    1. in reserve

    2. put something by for her old age
    3. so as to pass a given point

    Definition of by by GCIDE Dictionary


    1. By ( bī ), prep. [OE. bi, AS. bī, big, near to, by, of, from, after, according to; akin to OS. & OFries. bi, be, D. bij, OHG. bī, G. bei, Goth. bi, and perh. Gr. ἀμφί. E. prefix be- is orig. the same word. √203. See pref. Be-.]
      1. In the neighborhood of; near or next to; not far from; close to; along with; as, “come and sit by me”.

      By foundation or by shady rivulet

      He sought them both. Milton.

      2. On; along; in traversing. Compare 5.

      Long labors both by sea and land he bore. Dryden.

      By land, by water, they renew the charge. Pope.

      3. Near to, while passing; hence, from one to the other side of; past; as, “to go by a church”.

      4. Used in specifying adjacent dimensions; as, “a cabin twenty feet by forty”.

      5. Against. [Obs.] Tyndale [1. Cor. iv. 4].

      6. With, as means, way, process, etc.; through means of; with aid of; through; through the act or agency of; as, “a city is destroyed by fire”; profit is made by commerce; to take by force.

      To the meaning of by, as denoting means or agency, belong, more or less closely, most of the following uses of the word: It points out the author and producer; as, “Waverley”, a novel by Sir W.Scott; a statue by Canova; a sonata by Beethoven. In an oath or adjuration, it indicates the being or thing appealed to as sanction; as, I affirm to you by all that is sacred; he swears by his faith as a Christian; no, by Heaven. According to; by direction, authority, or example of; after; -- in such phrases as, it appears by his account; ten o'clock by my watch; to live by rule; a model to build by. At the rate of; according to the ratio or proportion of; in the measure or quantity of; as, to sell cloth by the yard, milk by the quart, eggs by the dozen, meat by the pound; to board by the year. In comparison, it denotes the measure of excess or deficiency; when anything is increased or diminished, it indicates the measure of increase or diminution; as, larger by a half; older by five years; to lesse
      n by a third. It expresses continuance or duration; during the course of; within the period of; as, by day, by night. As soon as; not later than; near or at; -- used in expressions of time; as, by this time the sun had risen; he will be here by two o'clock.

      In boxing the compass, by indicates a pint nearer to, or towards, the next cardinal point; as, north by east, i.e., a point towards the east from the north; northeast by east, i.e., on point nearer the east than northeast is.

      ☞ With is used instead of by before the instrument with which anything is done; as, to beat one with a stick; the board was fastened by the carpenter with nails. But there are many words which may be regarded as means or processes, or, figuratively, as instruments; and whether with or by shall be used with them is a matter of arbitrary, and often, of unsettled usage; as, to a reduce a town by famine; to consume stubble with fire; he gained his purpose by flattery; he entertained them with a story; he distressed us with or by a recital of his sufferings. see With.

      By all means, most assuredly; without fail; certainly. -- By and by. Close together ( of place ). [Obs.] “Two yonge knightes liggyng [lying] by and by.” Chaucer. Immediately; at once. [Obs.] “When . . . persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.” Matt. xiii. 21. Presently; pretty soon; before long. In this phrase, by seems to be used in the sense of nearness in time, and to be repeated for the sake of emphasis, and thus to be equivalent to “soon, and soon,” that is instantly; hence, -- less emphatically, -- pretty soon, presently. -- By one's self, with only one's self near; alone; solitary.- By the bye. See under Bye. -- By the head ( Naut. ), having the bows lower than the stern; -- said of a vessel when her head is lower in the water than her stern. If her stern is lower, she is by the stern. -- By the lee, the situation of a vessel, going free, when she has fallen off so much as to bring the wind round her stern, and to take her sails aback on the other side. -- By the
      run, to let go by the run, to let go altogether, instead of slacking off. -- By the way, by the bye; -- used to introduce an incidental or secondary remark or subject. -Day by day, One by one, Piece by piece, etc., each day, each one, each piece, etc., by itself singly or separately; each severally. -- To come by, to get possession of; to obtain. -- To do by, to treat, to behave toward. -- To set by, to value, to esteem. -- To stand by, to aid, to support.

      ☞ The common phrase good-by is equivalent to farewell, and would be better written good-bye, as it is a corruption of God be with you ( b'w'ye ).

    2. By ( bī ), adv.
      1. Near; in the neighborhood; present; as, “there was no person by at the time”.

      2. Passing near; going past; past; beyond; as, “the procession has gone by; a bird flew by”.

      3. Aside; as, “to lay by; to put by”.

    3. By ( bī ), a. Out of the common path; aside; -- used in composition, giving the meaning of something aside, secondary, or incidental, or collateral matter, a thing private or avoiding notice; as, “by-line, by-place, by-play, by-street”. It was formerly more freely used in composition than it is now; as, “by-business, by-concernment, by-design, by-interest, etc.”