• by and large
  • audio pronunciation
  • \BYE-und-LAHRJ\
  • DEFINITION

adverb

: on the whole : in general
  • EXAMPLES

The young actors stumbled over a few lines here and there, but by and large the play was a success.

"Each school may have its own rules about financial aid appeals or special circumstances reviews, but by and large the financial aid administrator, and not the admissions officer, is the gatekeeper to the funds." — From an article by Steve Rosen in the Kansas City Star, April 12, 2013

  • DID YOU KNOW?

"By and large" is originally a sailing term meaning "alternately close-hauled and not close-hauled." A ship that is sailing "close-hauled" is sailing as directly into the wind as possible (typically within about 45 degrees of the wind). The "by" part of the phrase means "close-hauled." (This "by" also appears in the term "full and by," meaning "sailing with all sails full and close to the wind as possible.") "Large," by contrast, refers to a point of sail in which the wind is hitting the boat "abaft the beam," or behind the boat's widest point. A 1669 example of a variant spelling of "by and large" gives us a sense of the range implied: "Thus you see the ship handled in fair weather and foul, by and learge" (S. Sturmy, Mariners Magazine). The suggestion of a wide range carries over into the term's "in general" sense.

Test Your Memory: What is the meaning of "troglodyte," our Word of the Day from May 6? The answer is …

  • MORE WORDS OF THE DAY

Visit our archives to see previous selections ยป

  • FEATURED ITEM FROM OUR STORE
  • PODCAST

Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP

  • SUBSCRIBE

Subscribe to the Word of the Day e-mail

Manage Your Account