by and large


: on the whole : in general

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 as 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 Bryan has, by and large, steered clear of the Nashville machine, and the prescribed route to today’s country stardom. Jeff Gage, Rolling Stone, 6 Sep. 2023 This is not, by and large, debt that parents assumed to send their kids to college. Jon Marcus, USA TODAY, 2 Sep. 2023 But by and large, the virus still primarily affects the respiratory system. Cathy Cassata, Health, 29 Aug. 2023 Its participants, by and large, share a progressive outlook; conservative Catholics, evangelicals and Muslims — among others — have not embraced the movement. David Crary, Chicago Tribune, 14 Aug. 2023 British pundits by and large attributed the jeering and eruption of applause prompted by some of Althea’s errors to a long-standing British sporting tradition of backing the underdog or simply enthusiasm for players close to their hearts. Sally H. Jacobs, Town & Country, 15 Aug. 2023 The early intervention program is a federal program that's operated at the state level, so families, by and large, don't pay. Brittany Truong, Journal Sentinel, 11 Aug. 2023 Video From The New Yorker The Pass: Unrest on a Private Beach This may not be surprising, considering that air pollution is, by and large, a slow and invisible killer, and many corporations profit from the continued burning of fossil fuels. Dhruv Khullar, The New Yorker, 25 June 2023 Special counsels, by and large, just have the powers of a U.S. attorney. ABC News, 13 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'by and large.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1707, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of by and large was in 1707


Dictionary Entries Near by and large

Cite this Entry

“By and large.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition

by and large

: on the whole : in general

More from Merriam-Webster on by and large

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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