\ˈbī, before consonants also \

Definition of by 

(Entry 1 of 5)

1 : in proximity to : near standing by the window

2a : into the vicinity of and beyond : past went right by him

b : through or through the medium (see medium entry 1 sense 2) of : via enter by the door

c : in the direction of : toward sailed north by east

3a : during the course of studied by night

b : not later than be there by 2 p.m.

4a : through the agency (see agency sense 3) or instrumentality of a poem written by Keats death by firing squad taken by force happened by luck

b : born or begot of had two sons by his first wife one child by her second husband

c : sired or borne by having foals by champion race horses

5 : with the witness or sanction (see sanction entry 1 sense 4c) of swear by all that is holy

6a : in conformity with acted by the rules

b : according to called her by name sold by the pound

7 used as a function word in multiplication, in division, and in measurements divide a by bmultiply 10 by 4a room 15 feet by 20 feet

8a : with respect to a lawyer by profession

b : on behalf of did right by his children

9 : in or to the amount or extent of win by a nose

b chiefly Scotland : in comparison with : beside

10 used as a function word to indicate successive units or increments little by littlewalk two by two

11 : in the opinion of : from the point of view of OK by me

by the by or by the bye


\ˈbī \

Definition of by (Entry 2 of 5)

1 : past saw him go by

2a : at or to another's home stop by

b : close at hand : near lives close by

3 : aside, away


\ˈbī \
variants: or bye
plural byes\ˈbīz \

Definition of by (Entry 3 of 5)

: something of secondary importance : a side issue by the by

\ˈbī \
variants: or bye

Definition of by (Entry 4 of 5)

1 : being off the main route : side a by passage

2 : incidental by effects

\ˈbī \
variants: or bye

Definition of by (Entry 5 of 5)

used to express farewell often used with following now

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Synonyms for by

Synonyms: Preposition

through, via

Synonyms: Adverb

around, close, hard, in, near, nearby, nigh

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Examples of by in a Sentence


His wife was sitting by him. They have a house by the lake. The bus went right by him without stopping. Some friends stopped by our house for a chat. Why don't you come by my place later?


The bus went right by without stopping. We stood and applauded as the parade went by. Why don't you come by later?
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Back in the day, you’d be considered lucky to get a glimpse of them driving by. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "6 Things We Learned About Queen Elizabeth in Queen of the World," 2 Oct. 2018 After helping to hand out 15,000 condoms with her daughters, Laura Vega and her family found shade and watched spectacular floats continue to pass by. Michelle Baruchman, The Seattle Times, "Seattle’s Pride Parade goes ‘Beyond Borders’," 25 June 2018 Enjoy the nostalgia below, and remember to put your Tamagotchi under your desk before your teacher walks by. Kat Bein, Billboard, "RL Grime, Daya Relive '90s Childhoods in 'I Wanna Know' Music Video: Watch," 30 May 2018 Those include installing a sign on the north side of the building that would be visible to people driving past it on 4th Avenue, which would go along with sign to be installed on the south side for people passing by on 5th Avenue. Gregory Tejeda, Post-Tribune, "Gary OKs $282K to complete renovations of Hudson-Campbell Sports & Fitness Center," 17 May 2018 But if one of their regular customers is passing by and needs to use the restroom, many owners will say yes, out of goodwill. Joyce M. Rosenberg, USA TODAY, "Restrooms for customers only? In most cases, it's legal to enact such a policy," 14 May 2018 Alligators may lounge on the shoreline and dozens of birds pass by from kingfishers to osprey. Richard Tribou, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Explore Florida's DeSoto County: Taming the Peace River," 6 May 2018 Tennessee Titans: Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama: Although Titans also will be shopping for an edge rusher, a tight end, guard or even strong safety, Nick Saban’s tackle machine will be too good to pass by. Greg Cote, miamiherald, "Ready for a shock? Check out the pick for the Miami Dolphins | Miami Herald," 25 Apr. 2018 Later a visitor from the Bonn botanical garden stops by and is stunned to find more than 100 of these tiny water lilies flourishing at Kew. Richard Conniff, WSJ, "‘The Plant Messiah’ Review: The Miracle Worker," 13 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Gascoigne employees looked on from a safe distance near the entrance to the Ship Canal Trail, and passers-by and cyclists stopped to snap photos before detouring around the smoking fire to continue on the trail. Crystal Paul, The Seattle Times, "Four-alarm fire at lumber yard on Seattle’s Ship Canal still smoldering," 11 Nov. 2018 However, photos taken by passers-by show several F-22s in damaged hangars. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Hurricane Michael showed how woefully unprepared the military is for extreme weather," 15 Oct. 2018 Labor is the single-largest expense for hospitals, and the minute-by-minute accounting gave the hospital a precise look. Melanie Evans, WSJ, "What Does Knee Surgery Cost? Few Know, and That’s a Problem," 21 Aug. 2018 Pittsburgh rapper Jimmy Wopo was shot dead on Monday in a drive-by in his hometown that also wounded a second man, authorities said. Laignee Barron, Time, "Rapper Jimmy Wopo Shot Dead in Pittsburgh Drive-By," 20 June 2018 The Chick-fil-A in Frederick, Md. — located about 40 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. — shared photos on Facebook Thursday of a customer on a red riding lawn mower stopping by for some chicken. Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Fox News, "Maryland Chick-fil-A restaurant serves customer on riding lawn mower in drive-thru," 21 Sep. 2018 Police responded to the scene around 6 a.m. on July 28 after a passer-by saw the victim lying on the ground, Snell said. Heidi Groover, The Seattle Times, "Everett police seek public help identifying person of interest in shooting death of homeless man," 13 Sep. 2018 Netflix, of course, built its business on a by-mail DVD rental operation. Don Reisinger, Fortune, "Netflix Stock Price Could Hit $500, Analyst Says," 19 June 2018 Two new food trucks, one by started by a Qualitas cleaning lady, have sprouted up near the property because there wasn’t anywhere nearby for Qualitas staff and visitors to buy lunch. Lynn Brezosky, San Antonio Express-News, "Remote Texas algae farm grows a food for the future," 27 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

JoJo’ Robar, if not by name then by description — that guy with the 200-watt smile and his three-wheeled bike who rode all over, collecting cans and friends. Bill Leukhardt, Courant Community, "Plainville Says Goodbye To JoJo," 13 June 2018 In the church’s library, retired religion scholar Herb Burhenn unpacks John 16 verse by verse as a dozen seniors seated around a long table listen and nod deferentially. G. Jeffrey Macdonald, The Christian Science Monitor, "Luther’s legacy: How people use the Bible today, 500 years after a monk sparked the Protestant Reformation," 30 Oct. 2017 Other prominent Israeli politicians and bodies preceded Mr. Netanyahu in condemning the violence in Charlottesville and the response of Mr. Trump, if not by name. Isabel Kershner, New York Times, "As Trump Offers Neo-Nazis Muted Criticism, Netanyahu Is Largely Silent," 18 Aug. 2017 Shipping the hefty-size goods that consumers buy from Costco in bulk could eat into profit margins that are already low for most household staples—particularly as carriers move to charge by dimension as well as weight. Paul Page, WSJ, "Today’s Top Supply Chain and Logistics News From WSJ," 6 Apr. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'by.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of by


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2b


1567, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1709, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for by


Middle English, preposition & adverb, from Old English, preposition, be, bī; akin to Old High German by, near, Latin ambi- on both sides, around, Greek amphi


see by entry 1


see by entry 1


see by entry 1


short for goodbye

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Dictionary Entries near by





by air



Statistics for by

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Time Traveler for by

The first known use of by was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for by

English Language Learners Definition of by

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: close to or next to (something or someone)

: up to and beyond (something or someone)

: at or to (someone's home)



English Language Learners Definition of by (Entry 2 of 2)

—used with put to describe something that is being kept or saved for a future use

: at or to someone's home

: close or near

\ \

Kids Definition of by

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : close to : near His dog stood by the door.

2 : so as to go on We went by the back road. I prefer to travel by bus.

3 : so as to go through The burglar left by the back window.

4 : so as to pass A policeman drove by the house.

5 : at sense 1, during I travel by night.

6 : no later than Be sure to leave by noon.

7 : with the use or help of She won by cheating.

8 : through the action of It was seen by the others.

9 : according to sense 1 Play by the rules.

10 : with respect to He is a lawyer by profession. She is a Canadian by birth.

11 : to the amount of The youngest runner won by a mile.

12 used to join two or more measurements a room 14 feet wide by 20 feet long or to join the numbers in a statement of multiplication or division Divide 8 by 4.



Kids Definition of by (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : near at hand Stand by.

2 : past entry 4 in days gone by We walked right by.

by and by

: after a while We left by and by.

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More from Merriam-Webster on by

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with by

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for by

Spanish Central: Translation of by

Nglish: Translation of by for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of by for Arabic Speakers

Comments on by

What made you want to look up by? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a nest or breeding place

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