by and large


Definition of by and large 

: on the whole : in general

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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

From therapy to education and housing, the costs associated with a child’s care and development are significant—and, by and large, those costs are the responsibility of the child’s parents. WSJ, "Work With Special-Needs Families Underscores the Value of Planning," 22 Mar. 2018 America, by and large, for better or worse, pushes relentlessly ahead. Michael J. Mooney, Popular Mechanics, "Inside the Koch Brothers' Industrial Empire," 9 Oct. 2015 Naturalisation and citizenship were tightly restricted, often racially; but immigration, by and large, was not. The Economist, "America’s immigration system is broken," 28 June 2018 Politicians, contrary to prevailing wisdom, are not, by and large, dumb. Chris Cillizza, CNN, "2 names that explain why Republican politicians are afraid of criticizing Donald Trump," 12 June 2018 Gossip Girl, Big Little Lies, even The Real Housewives franchise: All these shows zero in on the catty behavior among its protagonists, who are, by and large, women. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "The Bold Type Is TV's Best Depiction of Female Friendship," 12 June 2018 There is precious little opportunity for the type of reinvention that salvaged Colón’s career; by and large, teams respond to an aging player’s struggles not with patience, but with a call to the minors, for a fresh arm or big bat. Robert O'connell, The Atlantic, "Bartolo Colón, One of the Last of His Kind," 4 June 2018 Surprises, by and large, almost never occur at soccer’s highest levels anymore. Grant Wahl,, "After Remarkable Rise, Mohamed Salah Shoulders Egypt's World Cup Hopes," 29 May 2018 Problem is, by and large, the public isn’t paying much attention to what the officials say, diminishing their influence over inflation expectations, according to a new paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Michael S. Derby, WSJ, "The Public’s Indifference Is Complicating Central Bank Efforts to Control Inflation Expectations," 12 July 2018

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.

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First Known Use of by and large

1707, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

18 Oct 2018

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The first known use of by and large was in 1707

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


to reject or criticize sharply

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