by and large


Definition of by and large

: on the whole : in general

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Examples of by and large in a Sentence

by and large, that information is accurate
Recent Examples on the Web And by and large there was very little notable change in the vote choice of religious groups between 2016 and 2020 – in fact, for most faiths, support for Trump ticked up slightly. Ryan Burge, The Conversation, "Trump's support among religious groups held in 2020 vote...," 8 Apr. 2021 But the raucous partying was also, by and large, nonviolent, city officials say. New York Times, "Miami Beach Opened Up and the Revelers Flocked In. Then Came the Crackdown.," 24 Mar. 2021 The piped in fake crowd noise was, by and large, annoying. Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle, "How the coronavirus gave sports a much-needed dose of perspective," 11 Mar. 2021 But, by and large, AI is designed to do tasks and things that people do. Jared Council, WSJ, "AI’s Impact on Businesses—and Jobs," 8 Mar. 2021 But by and large, the rectangular phone will stay familiar, safe, and maybe a little boring. Julian Chokkattu, Wired, "The Future of Phone Design: Flexible Screens That Roll Up," 13 Jan. 2021 His family was comfortable and, by and large, accomplished. Joan Acocella, The New Yorker, "Graham Greene’s Dark Heart," 15 Mar. 2021 In other words, meteorologists, by and large, are more focused on tracking tornadoes, hurricanes, and storms that threaten people’s lives. Molly Longman,, "What Does It Really Mean When There’s A 20% Chance Of Rain? It’s Complicated," 15 Mar. 2021 The basics of the plot are, by and large, the same. K. Austin Collins, Rolling Stone, "‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’: It’s Bigger, Longer, and Better Than the Original," 15 Mar. 2021

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

See More

First Known Use of by and large

1707, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about by and large

Time Traveler for by and large

Time Traveler

The first known use of by and large was in 1707

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about by and large

Statistics for by and large

Last Updated

11 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“By and large.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on by and large

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


Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!