Meaning of by in English:


Pronunciation /bʌɪ/

See synonyms for by

Translate by into Spanish


  • 1Identifying the agent performing an action.

    by means of, by use of, by virtue of, on account of, as a result of, as a consequence of, owing to, by reason of, on grounds of, on the strength of, due to, thanks to, by, via
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    1. 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
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    2. 1.2After a noun denoting an action.
      ‘a clear decision by the electorate’
      • ‘years of hard fund-raising work by local people’
    3. 1.3Identifying the author of a text, idea, or work of art.
      • ‘a book by Ernest Hemingway’
  • 2often 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’
    1. 2.1Indicating a term to which an interpretation is to be assigned.
      • ‘what is meant by ‘fair’?’
    2. 2.2Indicating a name according to which a person is known.
      • ‘she mostly calls me by my last name’
    3. 2.3Indicating the means of transport selected for a journey.
      ‘the cost of travelling by bus’
      • ‘I travelled to Folkestone by rail’
    4. 2.4Indicating the other parent of someone's child or children.
      • ‘Richard is his son by his third wife’
    5. 2.5Indicating the sire of a pedigree animal, especially a horse.
      • ‘a black filly by Goldfuerst’
    6. 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%’
    1. 3.1Indicating a quantity or amount.
      ‘billing is by the minute’
      • ‘the drunken yobbos who turned up by the cartload’
    2. 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. 3.3Identifying a parameter.
      • ‘a breakdown of employment figures by age and occupation’
    4. 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
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  • 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, at the side of, by the side of, abreast of, adjacent to, cheek by jowl with, side by side with
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    1. 5.1Past and beyond.
      • ‘I drove by our house’
      past, in front of, beyond
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  • 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
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  • 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
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nounplural noun byes

variant spelling of bye


    by and by
    • Before long; eventually.

    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.

    by hokey
    New Zealand informal
    • An exclamation used for emphasis or to express emotions such as surprise, anger, or distress.

      • ‘by hokey, it will have been worth it’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It's not big or fancy but, by hokey, it's fun.’
      • ‘The film never happened, but by hokey it's a great yarn.’
    by oneself
    • 1Alone.

      • ‘she lives in the apartment by herself’
    • 2Unaided.

      • ‘the patient often learns to undress by himself’
    by the by
    • Incidentally.

      • ‘where's Hector, by the by?’


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