Meaning of BY in English

I. |bī also especially bef cons bə preposition

Etymology: Middle English, preposition & adverb, from Old English be, bī, preposition, & bī, adverb, by, near; akin to Old High German bī by, near, Gothic bi by, about, at, Latin ambi-, amb- on both sides, around, Greek amphi around, Sanskrit abhi to, toward


a. : in proximity to : in the immediate neighborhood of — used of place or position:

(1) : at the side or edge of : near

the tree by the fence

a cottage by the sea

sat by him on the train

(2) : close to or on (one's person) : within easy reach of : about

kept the rabbit's foot by him day and night

b. : in the general region of

they commonly commanded both by sea and land — John & William Langhorne


a. : along , over , through

the family drove to the farm by the old highway

came from the garden by a path

entered the house by the back door

(1) : along the surface or through the medium of

went to Europe by water and returned by air

(2) : in passing along

was cozened by the way and lost all my money — Shakespeare


(1) now dialect : at or to the home of

am going by Grandma for a week

(2) : at or into (as another's house) on passing

he came by the house for a few minutes yesterday

c. : in the direction of : toward — used especially of points of the compass

sailed north by east

d. : into the presence of : close to

we are not to stay together but to come by him where he stands — Shakespeare

e. : into the vicinity of and beyond : past

drove rapidly by the church

went by him without saying a word


a. : during the course of : within the period of

worked by day and studied by night

b. archaic : for a specified period of time — used especially in the phrase by the space of

by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone — Acts 20:31 (Authorized Version)

c. : not later than (a specified time) : at or before

expected to arrive by two o'clock

ought to be here by now

d. dialect England : after

seventeen minutes by noon


a. : through the means or instrumentality of

put to death by the sword

a town taken by force

b. : through the direct agency of

put to death by the executioner

ordered by the captain to stand guard

a poem written by Keats

c. : through the medium of (an indirect or subordinate agent)

represented by his deputy

votes by proxy

d. : through the work or operation of (as natural agencies)

changes wrought by time

eaten away by corrosion

came to the right house by luck


(1) : born or begot of

had two sons by his first wife

children by her second husband

(2) in animal breeding : sired by

f. : in consequence of : as a result of : through

blunders of foreign policy by which Austria declined … from a great and stable power to a satellite — Hugh Seton-Watson

g. — used as a function word to indicate something that forms an accompanying setting or condition

ate by candlelight

or that constitutes a manner

began by criticizing the style of the poem

often with an added sense of means

the case went by default

5. : with the witness or sanction of : in the presence of — used especially in oaths

by heaven I'll know thy thoughts — Shakespeare

swear by all that is holy


a. : in conformity or harmony with (as a standard of action)

judged them by our customs

he plays by the rules

b. : according to — used especially with verbs of calling and naming

call him by whatever name you choose

c. : according to (as a unit of measurement)

sold beef by the pound

works by the hour

workers paid by the piece


a. : on behalf of — used especially to indicate direction of effort

did his duty by his country

did his best by his family

b. : on the basis of (as a distinction or classification) : in the matter of : with respect to

a Kansan by birth

a lawyer by profession


a. : in or to the amount or extent of — used in expressions involving comparison to indicate an amount or degree of excess or increase or of deficiency or decrease especially in space, time, quantity, or weight

won the race by two yards

missed the train by five minutes

carried his ward by 80 votes

lighter by six pounds

better by far

b. now chiefly Scotland : in comparison with : beside

was but as a fly by an eagle — Shakespeare

9. — used as a function word to indicate a succession of units or groups of the same class

they left the party two by two

the snow fell flake by flake

count by 5s to 100

he succeeded little by little


a. chiefly Scotland : in addition to : over and above : besides

few folks ken o' this place … there's just twa living by myself — Sir Walter Scott

b. now chiefly Scotland : outside the range or sphere of : beyond — often used in combination with an adjective or adverb

my father was a man of by -ordinary mildness — Margaret Oliphant


a. now chiefly Scotland : contrary to : despite

I could not deny him but was forced by myself to give — Samuel Pepys

b. obsolete : against

for I know nothing by myself — 1 Cor 4:4 (Authorized Version)


a. — used as a function word in multiplication to connect multiplicand and multiplier

multiply 15 by 12

b. — used as a function word to indicate two or more dimensions in measurements

a room 20 feet by 12

— compare x IV

13. : in the opinion of : from the point of view of

it's O.K. by me

- by oneself

- by the bye

II. |bī adverb

Etymology: Middle English, preposition & adverb


a. : near at hand : in the immediate neighborhood

they live close by

— often used in combination with a noun

others of the … by -sitters put various questions — Nathaniel Hawthorne

b. : at or to another's home

he stopped by for a few minutes yesterday

2. : to and beyond a point near at hand : past

the parade had gone by when I reached the corner

— often used in combination with a noun

each window has blinds to prevent the by -passers from looking in — Robert Southey


a. : off to one side : aside , away

put her sewing by when he came in

b. : in reserve for future use : in store

had laid enough by for his old age

4. archaic : over and above : besides

5. : in the past

in days gone by

III. adjective

or bye “

Etymology: Middle English by, from by, adverb

1. : aside especially in position or direction : out of the way : off the beaten track

the mule preferred the high road to the by one — Robert Southey

nothing can be more by and unfrequented — Samuel Richardson

— often used in combination with a noun

would slip into the next shop or by -passage to avoid them — John Dryden

2. : aside especially in purpose or importance : incidental , secondary

the by effect may be unfavorable — William Paley

too serious a work to be undertaken in a by way — John Ruskin

— often used in combination with a noun

the by- productions of a busy man — J.R.Lowell

3. chiefly Scotland : done with : past , over

IV. noun

or bye “

( plural byes )

: something of secondary importance : a side issue — now used chiefly in the phrase by the by


intransitive verb byed ; byed ; bying ; bys ˈbīz

Etymology: probably from by, adverb

: pass 12a(1)

VI. noun

( plural bys ˈbīz)

Etymology: probably from by, adverb

: a pass in certain card games (as bridge)


or bye

Etymology: by shortening

: good-bye — used interjectionally often with now

by now

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.